Comic of the Week: Justice League Dark #13 is a great microcosm of what makes this series work

Justice League Dark #13 is out now.

By d. emerson eddy — Spinning out of the Justice League: No Justice weekly series and event last summer that redefined crucial elements of the DC Universe's cosmogony and fundamental forces, Justice League Dark has for the past year or so explored DC’s magical corners. Sometimes delicately, sometimes with a giant hammer smashing it to bits in order to forge something new. The series has wonderfully been navigating the connective tissue of the characters filling out DC's “sophisticated suspense” of '80s, the Shadowpact explorations of the '00s, and the weirdness beyond, while building upon a new foundation for whatever comes next. Justice League Dark #13 does this beautifully in microcosm.

The series just finished a large, dimension-spanning arc dealing with the Lords of Order attempting to destroy magic before everything could be corrupted by the Otherkind and worse, to try to maintain a kind of bizarre sense of “order”. This issue is the breather after the massive, huge events, dealing with fallout for Kent Nelson and John Constantine, as well as what we learned. This issue is split into three parts. The first two chapters delve into Kent and John's origins and past, before looking toward the future. The third is a tie-in to the broader “Year of the Villain” event unfolding across the DC Universe. Writer James Tynion IV again adroitly manages bringing DC history back into the present, recontextualizing past events with new information. John Constantine's current status in particular paints him in an entirely new, more tragic light, even when you can understand Zatanna's point of view.

Mark Buckingham and Mick Gray handle the line art for the first chapter, featuring Kent Nelson and his original meeting with Nabu becoming Doctor Fate. It's a treat seeing Buckingham's pencils in anything, with his approach to page layouts and panel compositions, with some interesting choices for transitions too, but doubly so seeing him revisit Doctor Fate after almost 30 years. Daniel Sampere and Juan Albarran provide the line art for the next two chapters, evoking a familiar darkness that we're accustomed to from the usual art on this series. There's an incredible recreation of Zatarra's death and of John Constantine's Newcastle period. What I do find somewhat odd, though, is that Buckingham didn't illustrate this chapter instead, as he inked the original encounter back in Hellblazer #11.

Adriano Lucas and Rob Leigh provide a visual consistency across the three chapters with their colors and letters respectively. There's a nice slide for the colors from light to dark from the beginning of the book through to the end that helps give the impression of the gravity and darkness of the events shifting. There's a bright, hopefulness in Kent's early optimism that has changed entirely to a dark, foreboding storm when we get Luthor's offer at the end. I also quite like the white lettering on grey narration boxes that Leigh provides.

Overall, this issue serves as a bit of reflection and a pivot towards what fresh hells may come, providing a decent jumping-on point for new readers and a satisfying character study for the long-term audience. Tynion, Buckingham, Sampere, Gray, Albarran, Lucas, and Leigh give us another solid entry in the growth of DC's magical canon.

Justice League Dark #13
James Tynion IV
Pencillers: Mark Buckingham, Daniel Sampere
Inkers: Mick Gray, Juan Albarran
Colorist: Adriano Lucas
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

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d. emerson eddy is a student and writer of things. He fell in love with comics during Moore, Bissette, & Totleben's run on Swamp Thing and it has been a torrid affair ever since. His madness typically manifests itself on Twitter @93418.