Review: Justice League Dark Vol. 2: Lords of Order trade paperback (DC Comics)


Though James Tynion's Justice League Dark isn't blessed to shape the entire DC Universe in the manner of Scott Snyder's Justice League, it continues to demonstrate itself as the stronger of the two books. To say that Dark is more character-focused while League is more event-focused is a misnomer, because indeed it more often feels like the world could end any moment — and horribly — in Dark than in League proper.

What Tynion demonstrates here — building on the skills displayed with Detective Comics — is how to tell a team story with both epic scope and small character moments, and also a healthy dose of horror. That's tough to do. Justice League Dark Vol. 2: Lords of Order upholds and improves on the legacies of the Justice League Dark and Shadowpact that came before.

[Review contains spoilers]

Among the first things I'd note is that the titular five-part "Lords of Order" story is wonderfully complicated, initially splitting the Dark team between Wonder Woman and Zatanna, Man-Bat, and Detective Chimp and Swamp Thing. These threads slowly come together, though not too obviously, and the story feels expansive not in the least because of the volume of cameos abounding — Deadman, Etrigan the Demon, John Constantine, Blue Devil, and more. Tynion's Detective Comics artist Alvaro Martinez Bueno reminds of Don Kramer, and the way in which Tynion uses DC lore and esoteric characters and team dynamics is deserving of some of the highest praise, that it puts one in mind of Geoff Johns and Don Kramer's JSA in its heyday.

I think it's hard to do truly scary comics with mainstream superhero characters, but Tynion achieves it, with characters just this side of paranoid and a fine sense of dream overlaying everything. One strength is that Tynion uses both torture and gore to his narrative benefit; the evil Otherkind become all the more frightening after instances like, in an early scene, Tynion has a werewolf pitifully beg for his life before the Upside-Down Man squashes his head. (Not to mention that the Otherkind grotesqueries are the weirdest-looking things since Johns' early Sinestro Corps). Mordru's torturing of Wonder Woman and Zatanna is equally hard to stomach (and narratively well done); it's not often that a writer can convincingly put Wonder Woman in this type of situation, but Tynion succeeds.

Lords of Order is ambitious, too. Tynion goes so far as to reinterpret the death of Giovanni Zatara from Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, a really heady rejiggering of over thirty years of established lore. On one hand, some of the drama between Constantine and Zatanna feels repetitive (from the former Justice League Dark, from the New 52 Constantine series) — not to mention that Tynion tells Constantine's Newcastle story again for the umpteenth time. On the other hand, Tynion's retcons of these well-known events is so gutsy as to be absolutely riveting as Zatara's "secret plan" plays out.

Not to mention, in the Justice League Dark Annual #1 included here, Tynion and writer Ram V tell a straight-up Swamp Thing story also in the style of Alan Moore; Swamp Thing gets a nudge from John Constantine and then largely stands back to bear witness to the unraveling of a scientist and his wife dealing with the death of their son — until, in the end, Swamp Thing has to step forward to corral the horror unleashed.

The Swamp Thing "frame" makes the story feel a bit like Tales from the Crypt or some of Moore and/or Stephen Bissette's Swamp Thing stories toward the end of Moore's run. That's really impressive, to make Justice League Dark the site for so many beloved DC properties that can't be found right now anywhere else — and then it all ties in to Snyder's Justice League's "Year of the Villain," to boot. Guillem March delivers icy, understated art in the annual that reminds that the artist has a range beyond titillation; everyone's delivering their best here.

Toward the end of "Lords of Order," there's a parallel sequence that I really liked — Diana, in the present, making a hard choice about the future of magic, while in flashback, Tynion shows her proposal for and creation of the Justice League Dark, which we hadn't seen explicitly before. Here, we see Diana particularly convincing Batman as to why she should lead the Dark and the manners in which her life has and has not coincided with the magical aspects of the DC Universe. It's a reminder that Tynion writes a cogent Wonder Woman, neither unerring nor unflappable but confident, experienced, and decisive. I was not enamored with Wonder Woman Vol. 1: The Just War, the start of G. Willow Wilson's run, which I felt portrayed Diana as more of a beginning superhero. Wilson is soon to depart Wonder Woman, to be replaced by Steve Orlando, who himself has already penned some good Wonder Woman stories, but a couple volumes in to Justice League Dark, I'd be pleased if Tynion got a shot at that title, too.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Justice League Dark Vol. 2: Lords of Order

Things seem to come to a head next volume, with the Justice League Dark up against their own Injustice League. In JSA parlance, with Wonder Woman and Justice League Dark: The Witching Hour being just behind this, I guess we might call Justice League Dark Vol. 2: Lords of Order a "down" (resting) trade, though it hardly feels like it. James Tynion's on a roll and I hope this book continues for a while; certainly I hope that "Doom War" or whatnot doesn't derail or fundamentally change this title the way crossover events sometimes do.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Justice League Dark Vol. 2: Lords of Order
Author Rating
4.5 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 2 )

  1. You've done it again CE, another title I was on the fence about and doubting its "importance" has now become a must read.
    I now know the first trades of this title are on my Christmas list for the family.
    I'll remind to use your link so you get the much deserved referral.

    1. Always nice to hear -- thanks! Let me know what you think of the books.


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