Review: Justice League Dark Vol. 3: The Witching War trade paperback (DC Comics)


I wonder about the number of writers who've written lengthy runs for both Detective Comics and Batman, and specifically those who've "graduated" from Detective to Batman (not sure if Chuck Dixon fits this bill). Of course Detective wasn't always Batman's ancillary title, especially not way back in the beginning, but of late Detective has played second fiddle and writing on it hasn't always guaranteed a shot at the big time. Thinking about it further, Scott Snyder is one; I'm not sure the ten issues for Batman: The Black Mirror necessarily counts as a Detective "run," but assuredly Detective got him the shot at Batman.

Which is to say, it occurs to me that Justice League Dark Vol. 3: The Witching War writer James Tynion has accomplished something few have, and deservedly — his Detective run was great and I'm eager to see what he does on the main stage. Furthermore, whereas my initial conception of Tynion — as writer of backups on Snyder's Batman and the short-lived Batman spin-off series Talon, among others — was as one of DC Comics' pinch-hit writers, a sidekick and not a lead, that idea's going to have to change now that he's writing Batman (and following Tom King, no less!).

So it's hard to be too bummed about Tynion leaving Justice League Dark with this volume given that he's going on to Batman (and also I've liked what incoming writer Ram V has done on this title before, especially with Swamp Thing, and it looks like there's a Swamp Thing-centric story coming up). As well, it feels like Tynion's leaving at just the right time; Witching War is good, but I'm not sure it's the strongest volume of this run, and the repetitive elements perhaps hint at a dearth of ideas. That being the case, I'm happy for Tynion's run to stop here, call it a win, and look forward to Batman on the way.

[Review contains spoilers]

Witching War is, to an extent, Justice League Dark's answer to the "Justice/Doom War" taking place over in Snyder's Justice League title. Here we have an "Injustice League Dark," gathered over the last volume, lashing out against Wonder Woman's magic League. That works for me, and I don't even find the duplication too reductive; as in Jeff Lemire's New 52 Justice League Dark, I find a much more palatable approach to DC's supernatural characters is to treat them as supernatural superheroes who fight supernatural villains than to take things too far into the fantasy genre. Tynion offers new villainous, even gory, takes on some of the bad guys here, including Solomon Grundy and Klarion the Witch Boy, that set them up nicely for a new era.

As with all the DC titles these days, Witching War ties in to "Year of the Villain." Given that Dark is Justice League's closest cousin, its "Year of the Villain" material ought to be pretty good; in practice, it's tertiary but effective, which is maybe the most you can ask for. The ubiquitous "Doom sigil" is forgotten almost as quickly as it arrives, but its arrival at the end of a particularly harrowing issue is a good cliffhanger, and Alvaro Martinez Bueno draws that sequence well (as he does almost all of the book).

This is perhaps less than fair, but I might hold Witching War in slightly higher esteem if Tynion had used something other than "war" in the title. It is again a fine "Challenge of the Super Friends" kind of story, but to suggest the characters are going to war, I expect a little more than the Justice League Dark fighting their way out of the Hall of Justice basement for most of the book. As just another volume in Tynion's Dark run, I might have found this volume entertaining if inconsequential; as Tynion's final volume, and with "war" in the title, Witching War comes off small, especially as compared to the big bangs of Wonder Woman and Justice League Dark: The Witching Hour and so on.

Understandably, as a culmination of Tynion's stories so far, he revisits a variety of familiar scenarios, from Zatara's prophecy about the death of magic to Hecate's moonscape dimension to the compulsory appearance of the creepy Upside-Down Man. But all of it felt rather too familiar, without Tynion even getting to tie up some of these threads (not reaching the point where the Otherkind return must particularly sting). We've seen Diana knock around the Collective Unconscious before, we've seen her be possessed, we've seen the Upside-Down Man be creepy, even Diana and Circe's conflict is a bit played out. About the only thing that surprised me — and I forget if we already knew this — is that the dragon bones that Diana's been keeping in the Dark's headquarters is Drakul Karfang from twenty years ago's JLA: A League of One painted graphic novel by Christopher Moeller. Otherwise everything unfolded about as expected here, and that's less than I would have hoped for Tynion's final issues.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Justice League Dark Vol. 3: The Witching War



It still bears repeating that James Tynion has twice now offered up great DC team books, first with Detective Comics and now with Justice League Dark. Batman is of course notably not a team book, but it seems like Tynion's going to translate his skills to building a sense of community on the title, especially a villain community. If I had one other regret for Tynion's Justice League Dark, it's that it didn't so much focus individual arcs on individual members like Detective did — Man-Bat seems sorely underserved here and all the Zatanna storylines deserve tying up. Anyway, Justice League Dark Vol. 3: The Witching War can still go toe-to-toe with much else on the stands and I'm hoping Ram V will pick up right where Tynion left off.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Comments ( 2 )

  1. Always down to read more Tynion. Just finished his detective run. Much better than King's Batman. Probably gonna trade in my hardcovers for that upcoming omnibus. On that note looking forward to those spring solicits. Must be about that time


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