Review: Justice League Dark Vol. 1: The Last Age of Magic trade paperback (DC Comics)

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There are aspects of James Tynion's Detective Comics that I thought were very, very good, and it's a significant thing that his Justice League Dark Vol. 1: The Last Age of Magic is already starting to look like it might be even better.

The six-chapter book feels exceptionally full — there is three-part super-team origin, two-part fleshing out of past continuity, and a one-off anthology of four horror vignettes; combine that with the five issues of the Wonder Woman/Justice League Dark "Witching Hour" crossover that take place in the middle of this volume, and Tynion's already got almost a year of Dark material done in half a year's time. And like its predecessors, Shadowpact and the first Justice League Dark, Tynion's got this book full of DC's magic denizens well beyond just the core team.

Again, Dark is a lot of fun, a great place for Tynion to have landed, and I'm excited for more.

[Review contains spoilers]

I might otherwise balk at a first trade that's three issues main story, three issues side plot, were it not again for the fact that there's also Wonder Woman and Justice League Dark: The Witching Hour. And there's a lot happening — I faulted Scott Snyder's Justice League for going straight from hyped up No Justice to hyped up The Totality, but Tynion's, I think, is better rooted in character such that it doesn't feel quite so frenetic. And Last Age and Witching Hour work well together — the villains are not quite the same, but related, and the threat defeated in Last Age factors heavily into the conclusion of Witching Hour.

To the question of whether Witching Hour can be set aside and Magic read all the way through (the book collects #1-3, skips Witching Hour tie-in #4, and finishes with #5-7), I'd advise against it. The main story of issues #5-6 turns away from Witching Hour, but the first pages of #5 spoil the end of the crossover almost immediately, and issue #7 is very much tied up in how Witching Hour ended. Get both books and read them interspersed, would be my suggestion.

Again, Justice League Dark is just good from the start. It is Zatanna and Wonder Woman, John Constantine, Detective Chimp, a delightfully weird Man-Bat, and Swamp Thing right off the bat, plus Klarion, Zauriel, Phantom Stranger, Deadman, and Andrew "I, Vampire" Bennett all in the background. Tynion brings forth some strong horror, too, an often-tough thing to do in superhero comics, with heavy lifting by artist Alvaro Martinez Bueno. And Tynion keeps things at this level throughout, with good use of Doctor Fate's many incarnations and a startling scene of one of the heroes melting to goo.

Given continuities, it would have been easy for Tynion to specifically build this Justice League Dark on the legacy of the past New 52 one (which gets a nod in Witching Hour) but leave aside the Infinite Crisis-era Shadowpact, only marginally in continuity. The inclusion of Detective Chimp was a good indication that wouldn't be the case, however, and in issues #5-6, Tynion takes up a Shadowpact-centered conflict — that Detective Chimp failed to protect former teammate Nightmaster's realm of Myrra after Nightmaster's death, and has instead cursed another teammate, Blue Devil, to do so for him.

Some of this swords and sorcery-type material wouldn't usually be my cup of tea, but it's hardly traditional fantasy with Wonder Woman, Zatanna, and Man-Bat in tow, and intercut with Constantine, Swamp Thing, and Phantom Stranger battling the rogue Fate. Further, again, Tynion keeps things well grounded in character; that both Chimp and Wonder Woman refer to Blue Devil as "Dan" is a nice touch, evoking these characters actual long relationships and subtly reminding us, for instance, that once upon a time Wonder Woman and Blue Devil served on a Justice League together.

The book ends with a "Tales of the Otherkind" issue, with Man-Bat playing the role of Crypt-Keeper to introduce short tales of the League Dark's new enemies. These stories are a double threat; first, they're genuinely scary from the outset — I'm not sure I knew that Tynion had these horror chops, but apparently he does. Second, one story prominently uses Andrew Bennett, and another, Frankenstein and his SHADE Creature Commandos. That checks all the boxes — wide use of the DCU's magic characters and actual horror, and I'm put in mind of the equally successful Sinestro Corps War that put similar spotlight on its bad guys.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Justice League Dark Vol. 1: The Last Age of Magic

Of the post-Dark Nights: Metal Justice League titles, then, Justice League Dark Vol. 1: The Last Age of Magic is clearly the winner. James Tynion proves his Detective Comics work wasn't a fluke, and DC would do well to keep him on team books essentially forever. I'm excited for the next Justice League Dark volume in October, which is fitting timing. The end of this book has Constantine sending Zatanna to "find Mordru," which is brilliant; I can't decide if I'd be more excited for Tynion to find some way to tie this into Legion of Super-Heroes or to Demon Knights.

[Includes original and variant covers, character designs and sketches]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Justice League Dark Vol. 1: The Last Age of Magic
Author Rating
4.5 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 1 )

  1. After that review I'm really tempted to pick up this collection. Tynion's Detective run was amazing & this makes me really excited that he is still writing team books for DC.


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