Review by Frank Plowright
In the Dark is a graphic novel ripe with potential. It reunites Peter Milligan with Shade the Changing Man, still a highlight in his stellar writing career, and furthermore includes several other characters well suited to his perversely creative imagination. Illustrating whatever Milligan conceives is Mikel Janín, also blessed with a phenomenal imagination, in his case combined with a technical ability resulting in stunning action pages. Plus Madame Xanadu’s looked into the future, so she must know the omens are good.
Janín certainly is. He varies his style slightly character by character, so darker moments feature more black ink, while the superheroes of the regular Justice League are kept bright and simple, and he comes up with intricate designs for the magical effects around the cast. The colours of Ulises Ariola play a big part in these looking convincing.
Justice League Dark unites some of DC’s magical characters, and Milligan’s view of them is a bunch of fractured personalities, none truly attached to the real world. In his hands John Constantine is the most tethered of them, while the likes of Enchantress, the primary threat, Madame Xanadu, Zatanna and Shade drift in and out of reality as we know it. Deadman is the same, but would give almost anything to restore his life in preference to possessing the bodies of others. Milligan jumps straight in with Deadman, addressing the question of the temptations open to a spirit who takes control of other bodies, and that’s among other content possibly more suited to the Veritgo line where most of the cast last featured than what was marketed as a standard DC title.
Mystery is paramount. We know that the Enchantress, an ancient mystical force, has been separated from her stabilising human anchor, the tragic June Moone, but not why or how. She desires a reunion, and the result of her untethered thrashing around is magical disasters around the USA. Milligan works his main story to an interesting conclusion, then provides a logical reason for such disparate personalities to remain united, although he ignores the idea of the Justice League title. Everything’s okay, but doesn’t really grab. It’s a bunch of largely self-centred people shouting at each other while the desperation escalates, and it’s ultimately solved by someone who’s random rather than part of the ongoing team. The art counts for a lot, and remember, Madame Xanadu looked into the future, so maybe the game will be raised in The Books of Magic.