The two recent issues of Justice League Dark have fleshed out a story where the House of Mystery and the House of Secrets conspire to use the supernatural League for their own ends and the whole process ends up throwing the team out of space and out of time, scattered in different directions and quite aimless as such things are measured. I quite like this new arc since with it writer DeMatteis is able to develop the team even more and bring them all together with some returning former members. Quite exciting really.
Unlike Justice League Dark #35, the new issue focuses on a different set of characters as we follow their own adventures at the end of time and space, a time where the Earth has been left as a useless, lifeless rock for uncountable years, and a space where the entire planet is nothing more than a very loose collection of floating rocks. Quite an interesting setting for the specific members of the team featured here to go up against one of their direst enemies. Fairly good story combined with fairly good art means that this issue is another winner.
It might not be so clear from the artwork, by Guillem March and Tomeu Morey, but the big villain in this episode is none other than sorcerer Felix Faust, any enemy of the team who was responsible only last year for imprisoning them all in the Thaumaton Project as part of the Forever Evil: Blight storyline. Now, he seems to have received an upgrade of sorts, and it is quite terrifying indeed, to face a supreme sorcerer as Faust while he seems to have upgraded himself with a new body and even greater powers.
The great thing about this issue is that it is one that focuses as much on the villain as it does on the heroes. We get to see how Andrew Bennett, Swamp Thing, Frankenstein and Nightmare Nurse function together, a team-up that we haven’t seen yet on this series. While we touch base with Zatanna very briefly, the story focuses mainly on the characters already mentioned and we see how they all complement each other, while also magnifying each other’s weaknesses. That’s where DeMatteis really is brilliant. Since taking the reins of these series he has done some incredible things and this new arc just continues things along the same wavelength.
What surprised me really though was how well he has characterized Felix Faust, whom I’ve always seen as a crazy nutjob who just blunders on with his escapades. There’s a great amount of nuance to him here and I enjoyed that. Not often that you get to see this amount of depth into a villain, especially not someone like Faust who has been largely ignored in the New 52. And his interactions with the four members of the supernatural League really help to bring out the core of his character.
The team itself is nicely balanced. There are some interesting differences between all of them and DeMatteis plays on these differences one by one to show their mettle in the face of a foe as terrifying as Faust. And believe me, he really is pretty terrifying in this issue. Super creepy too. I loved Nightmare Nurse and Frankenstein the best here, not that I needed more reasons than I already have. They got some of the best moments in the entire issue, and that was good, though Swamp Thing and Andrew weren’t too behind either.
A bit of the pacing is off-track in the second half, where things get a little too… pitying and self-recriminating and all, but on the whole, good stuff.
Andres Guinaldo is the penciller here, with Walden Wong on inks, Chris Sotomayor on colours and Dezi Sienty on the letters. On the whole, I rather like the artwork, especially when it comes to Faust and the monstrosity that he has become, but Nightmare Nurse seems to have gotten the wrong end of the deal methinks since her appearance is totally off here, as it is for Zatanna as well, surprising considering how she was in Justice League Dark #35. And the action scenes with Faust, well those are something else entirely as it turns out.
This arc seems to be headed in a good direction and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.