The New 52 has been such a mixed bag that it's almost a relief to find a book that I can actually enjoy. For every Aquaman and Batman, there's three or four books that are just unbearable to read.
Justice League Dark doesn't neatly fit into either category, although it is starting to trending upwards. This series exists in the strange realm between the reconstructed DCU and the murkier parts of the Vertigo line back when superheroes were still welcome there.
As in the previous four issues, the "Justice League Dark" non-team team have been trying to overcome an insanely powerful Enchantress, who is flooding the world with magical duplicates of herself while searching for June Moone, her human self who has somehow become separated from her. And at the moment, June's only protector is Boston Brand aka Deadman.
Writer Peter Milligan seems to be finding his way on this title, as several characters are starting to stand out with strong and entertaining moments. The story still seems a little unnaturally extended, but the assorted cast members are finally becoming aware of each other and attempting to do something about the crisis.
The primary focus is on Madame Xanadu, as she narrates the madness unfolding around the world as she seeks out medication to dull the pain of her visions. Xanadu's visions are also pretty unnerving, particularly the half splash of a shopping mall overrun by duplicates of June Moone and the Enchantress who are in the process of scalping their victims in their search for the real June. The only thing that gets in the way of the horror of the moment is that Milligan over-describes the events that we can clearly see for ourselves.
Of the heroines, Zatanna comes off the best in her new persona, which seems to be a little tougher than her previous DC incarnation. Regardless, her first attempt to take down Enchantress does not end in her favor. Dawn is also apparently sticking around in this book through her Brightest Day connection with Deadman. I missed issues 2 and 3 of Justice League Dark, so I didn't get to see Dawn being attacked by the shadow creature that Xanadu describes. However, Dawn's roughed-up face and blood-splattered costume suggest that she barely got out alive. That gives Dawn a simultaneously strong and vulnerable look.
There's also a fun scene between Constantine and Dawn that seems to deliberately invoke a famous moment from Watchmen. However, the character I like the most in this book is June Moone herself. Not Enchantress or her doubles, just the regular June Moone. Under Milligan's pen, June seems believably terrified by the unfolding events; which seem destined to claim her life if not her soul.
Mikel Janin's art in this book is also very impressive, particularly on the second page splash of Deadman attempting to possess a duplicate of Enchantress and his subsequent gory escape on the following page. Janin's style kind of reminds me of the early Adam Hughes work on Justice League International. The faces are well drawn and distinctive and there's a crisp clarity to the art. There's never a point where you have to wonder what you're looking at. Janin also pulls off the previously mentioned horrific scenes that threaten to drive Madame Xanadu insane.
The minor downside to this issue is that Shade The Changing Man still isn't very interesting and that the entire cast still hasn't come together after a full four issues. But at least Deadman and Constantine act like and resemble their classic counterparts.
Justice League Dark still isn't a perfect book and the pacing could really some work. But compared to some of the other New 52 titles, this was a much needed respite. Also, that cover by Ryan Sook is very impressive. Just had to add that.
Crave Online Rating: 7/10