“Justice League Dark” #22 gets devoured by the massive “Trinity War” and buckles under the weight — but what book wouldn’t? Jeff Lemire and Mikel Janin do their level best to turn in a decent book that fulfills its cog-in-the-massive-wheel requirements, and artwise, Janin mostly succeeds, but Lemire’s job is just too much to ask of any book or writer.
As always, it’s hard to blame a writer caught up in whatever company wide event is going on. Lemire does his best with what he is given — unfortunately, what he is given is the task of jamming almost all of the DCU into a sinlge book filled with bickering characters. And it’s not even the really deeply held beliefs arguing we’re getting over in Rick Remender’s “Uncanny Avengers” (which hinge on differences in fundamentally held ideologies and such). Instead, it’s just bickering because, “Boy, won’t it be cool to see so-and-so face off against so-and-so.” Yawn.
There’s almost nothing of substance, here. The debates feel 100% plot driven rather than character, and so that’s where the wheels start to come off. A character’s beliefs should drive their reaction to whatever plot is foisted upon them, but this doesn’t feel like a book about beliefs; it feels like a book about convenience. Wonder Woman doesn’t appear to be she’s doing what she believes in, it feels like she’s just trying to save Superman — and maybe those are the same thing, but her conviction is painfully thin — and thus impossible to believe or support.
Some characters come off better than others, and Lemire naturally does better with characters he’s more familiar with (Frankenstein, Zatanna, Madame Xanadu and Constantine) as one would expect in any crossover situation. Other characters, like Amanda Waller, Martian Manhunter, Superman, Batman and the aforementioned Wonder Woman, just don’t feel or sound like themselves.
It’s unfortunate, because as a fan you want to love seeing all of these A-listers together on the same page, but actually seeing it is a good reminder why comics don’t regularly give us this sort of story (and why events and crossovers so frequently suck). There’s no time to connect to anything or anyone. It becomes hard to care, and things get bogged down quickly because it’s just too much to do and to many characters to maneuver in such a small space. In fact, a lot of characters never even get used as anything more than background props — when characters like Green Lantern, Catwoman, and Aquaman don’t even have one line of dialogue (and I think Hawkman and Flash get exactly one line, each) you know your book is at its character limit.
If there’s one superpower left standing at the end of “Justice League Dark” #22 it’s Mikel Janin. He has consistently impressed since debuting with the title nearly two years ago, not because he emerged onto JLDark as the best artist around, but because he has improved so dramatically with every single issue. Now, in “Justice League Dark” #22 he does nearly the impossible and draws just about every single major character in the DCU perfectly (with an exceptional assist by colorist Jeromy Cox). This is practically an impossible feat, packed as the issue is with too many characters, too much arguing and too little plot, and yet Janin finds ways to feature individual characters throughout the book, and delivers a gorgeous final splash page. Janin delivers emotion and real character depth where other artists might give up (since the script gives so little), and he finds beautiful moments to shine, like a scene facing off the two teams in the House of Mystery or another spread of a faltering Superman. It should also be said that Janin does such a fantastic job with Wonder Woman that he should clearly be the front runner for that title should it need a new fill-in.
This issue does expand to include a couple extra pages. I guess those pages, plus the massive number of characters on the board, are supposed to justify the extra price, but for this fan, it doesn’t even come close. Give me my old “Justice League Dark” trying hard to be the best book it can, for my regular price, and featuring my small, underused cast members, anytime.