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Tag Archive: Justice League Dark


JLD animated movie

Warner Bros. confirmed that Justice League Dark would be its next animated movie project this weekend at its panel at San Diego Comic-Con.  Now a behind-the-scenes feature included on the home release of Batman: The Killing Joke is online, and not only confirms Justice League Dark is the next animated movie coming from the DC Expanded Universe, but that it’s pretty far along in production.  Fans of NBC’s short-lived, Constantine television series will be happy to hear series lead Matt Ryan will voice the character in the animated movie.

Unfortunately DC did not choose to base the designs or stories on Mikel Janin’s gorgeous run on the Justice League Dark New 52 comic book series, except for the updated look for Zatanna.  Batman will be a key feature of the movie, along with JLD members John Constantine, Swamp Thing, Zatanna, and Deadman.  The movie will also feature Etrigan and Black Orchid.

In addition to Matt Ryan reprising his role as Constantine (from his series and on CW’s Arrow), Nicholas Turturro (Burn Notice, White Collar) will voice Deadman, Camilla Luddington (Grey’s Anatomy) will voice Zatanna, prolific voice actor Ray Chase plays Etrigan, and Jason O’Mara (Complications, Life on Mars, The Closer, Terra Nova, Band of Brothers, Monarch of the Glen) is Batman.

Justice league Dark

Wonder Woman, Superman, and Green Lantern will have cameo appearances in the movie.

Check out this behind the scenes look at Justice League Dark:

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Justice League Dark cover art issue 6 Mikel Janin

The last vestiges of The New 52 seem to be fleeting in light of DC Comics’ Rebirth superhero universe reset.  Back in 2011 we at borg.com were reading and reviewing every monthly from the New 52 we could get our hands on.  One of the most compelling and creative of those series was Justice League Dark, a further spin-off from the likes of Justice League of America, Justice League Europe, Justice League International, Justice League and JLA.

Justice League Dark was, as the title suggests, a darker band of superpowered characters from the DCU.  Spanish artist Mikel Janin was tasked with re-imagining the look of these characters, and he pulled it off brilliantly.  We interviewed Mikel about the new look here at borg.com back in March 2012.  The JLD included Zatanna, Constantine, Deadman, Shade, Madame Xanadu, Swamp Thing, and the Enchantress, and more as they would emerge throughout the series’ short 40 issue run.

Justice League Dark interior art

Guillermo del Toro had been involved for a few years with a live action version of the JLD that never seemed to spring away from the development stage.  Now because of a feature listing on the Blu-ray from Batman: The Killing Joke, an animated version is likely further along than had been previously disclosed by DC.

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Constantine playing with fire

He is a key character in DC Comics Justice League Dark for a reason.  Stress on the word “dark”.  He’s Constantine–John Constantine–possibly the least likely character to emerge from the pages of the DCU and make it to the small screen.  Yet NBC has pulled out all the stops lately with promotions to get new viewers to check out this new series following Grimm on Friday nights beginning tomorrow.

We’ve collected all the promotional videos here for Constantine so you can judge for yourself whether this new series is one for you.  He’s been summed up as “A man struggling with his faith is haunted by the sins of his past but is suddenly thrust into the role of defending humanity from the gathering forces of darkness.”  And there’s plenty of horror and gore, as revealed in the recent previews released.  Will the suspense grab and retain viewers in this onslaught of DC Comics-based TV shows?

Constantine screencap

Unlike CW’s successful DCU spin-off TV series Arrow and the new series Flash and Gotham, don’t expect to see lots of familiar genre actors in this series, but plenty of new faces.  Star Matt Ryan has shown up before in Criminal Minds-Suspect Behavior as well as stints on Vikings, Torchwood, The Tudors, and one of our faves, the Brit film Layer Cake.  And you might recognize Angelica Celaya from her role on the (recently prematurely cancelled!) Dallas.  Lost fans will recognize Harold Perrineau here who played Michael on that series.

After the break, check out all the promotional trailers and previews for Constantine:

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JLA 1 cover by Finch courtesy of DC Entertainment

Review by C.J. Bunce

It was way back in August that we first previewed the very first images of the new Justice League of America here at borg.com.  DC Comics has had a big month with big changes–first we reviewed Jeff Lemire beginning a new Green Arrow story in the monthly series, then we were introduced last week to Tatsu, a new recruit in a new Justice League whose superhero name is that of her sword, Katana.  And if you’re not keeping up we chatted a few days ago about DC Comics’ two trade editions available for the plain ol’ Justice League of the New 52.  And that’s not even getting into the cancelled Justice League International monthly title and the awesome Justice League Dark we’ve raved about here earlier.

Today DC Comics put the America back in the Justice League.  Sure, the Justice League (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg)–the League with all the egos–will continue as a monthly series, but the rest of the original JLA superheroes we all know and love are back in their own separate league.  They may not be the World’s Finest but writer Geoff Johns and artist David Finch have launched a new story, “World’s Most Dangerous.”  And if Issue #1 is any indication I think we’re in for a better league with the new JLA.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It really comes down to one thing.  Is the art of Ryan Sook, the superb cover artist for series like Justice League Dark, good enough to cause you to spend $7.99 for an 80-page comic book?  Let’s come back to that.

As you may know, Vertigo is an imprint of DC Comics, known for stories targeted at mature readers, including elements of stepped up violence, sexuality, horror and just plain controversial subjects not easily absorbed by the mainstream audience.  Mystery in Space is a classic comic book series beginning in the 1950s, known for great sci-fi stories including stories featuring Adam Strange.  Suspense and intrigue were key to the original series, and they often had the feel of Twilight Zone stories.

Along with titles like G.I. Combat and Worlds Finest, DC has been making the best of grabbing readers through a little bit of nostalgia, and the title and classic cover of the one-shot anthology Mystery in Space #1, in the style of the original 1950s series, is step one in reeling new readers in.  As with short story anthologies, the challenge is whether a writer can really put together a narrative with a beginning, middle and end that can be compelling, exciting, and original, in just a few pages.

The new Mystery in Space is good.  Good enough that it leaves the reader wanting more.  Sure, not every entry in an anthology will be great or even good.  That’s the beauty of an anthology–if it’s good there will be something for everyone.  But there is no reason DC cannot continue churning out anthologies like this of classic themed sci-fi stories.

The book starts out with a bang, and the first story “Verbinksy Doesn’t Appreciate It” is a great story about a cyborg with an unwanted cybernetic arm and a classic storytelling session among typical guys in a bar.  Written by Duane Swierczynski and illustrated by Ramon Bachs, the story blends alien abduction and The Matrix.   Smart and dark, at 8 pages, Bachs conveys panic and emotion nicely.

Green Arrow: Year One and Adam Strange writer Andy Diggle joined forced with artist Davide Gianfelice on “Transmission.”  Billions of lives are at stake in a Star Trek Voyager “Year of Hell” throwback, with a female ambassador taking on a computer that rules all like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Quick plot movement and a satisfying resolution highlight this as one of the best stories in the set, although it ends off the mark a bit.  I’d love to see more books drawn by Bachs and Gianfelice.  Gianfelice’s giant star map room is evocative of Data’s star room in Star Trek Generations.

Writer/artist Ming Doyle serves double duty on “Asleep to See You,” an account of two women pulled apart by time and space.  At one level the life and times of a flight attendant of the future, it packs a surprising amount of emotion and delivers a classic Twilight Zone resolution of the happy ever after variety.  A simple story, written in a simple style, Doyle proves you don’t need a lot of blatant sci-fi elements to have a successful sci-fi story.

Probably the weakest of the anthology is Ann Nocenti’s “Here Nor There,” which spends too much time with clever dialogue and not enough time with character development.  Fred Harper’s unique style didn’t work for me, at least tied up with this story.  Not awful, just one to read and then move on.

“The Elgort” is a story more fantasy than sci-fi, and I really liked the adventure story by writer Nnedi Okorafor and artist Michael Kaluta.  Like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, it follows a girl flying across a strange land with varying levels of beastie threats.  A little Avatar and a little Predator, this story has a cool feel and interesting voice.

Writer Steve Orlando provides a cool glimpse at a coming of age story for centaurs in some far away place in “Breeching.”  Artist Francesco Trifogli illustrates a tale reflecting a culture not unlike Mr. Spock’s Vulcan race, struggling with the question “am I a man, or am I a horse?”  Not a lot of resolution but themes of loyalty and conformity are well-played here.

Probably the most controversial of the bunch, “Contact High” covers a love triangle among three astronauts on a space mission, and the inevitable result when idle minds in tight quarters erupt against each other.  A psychological mini-drama, Robert Rodi and Sebastian Fiumara tell their story effectively, with Fiumara’s art and need special effects renderings the better part of the team-up.

Kevin McCarthy and Kyle Baker’s “The Dream Pool” is full of action but the over-wordy story and big-eyed girl art put this at the bottom of the anthology.  There’s probably a good story here but it feels like the creators would have been served by fleshing out the story and art better–it seems a bit rushed.

Sweeping colors, simple concepts and epic level weirdness puts Mike and Laura Allred’s “Alpha Meets Omega” among the best of Mystery in Space.   Amazingly they deal, again in only a few pages, with the most heavy of concepts in a refreshing way, that will leave readers hopeful in the face of loss.

“Verbinksy Doesn’t Appreciate It” and “Alpha Meets Omega” really perfectly bookend the anthology, illustrating some good editing thoughts went into this compilation.

So, back to the first question: Is the art of Ryan Sook good enough to cause you to spend $7.99 for an 80-page comic book? 

The answer is yes, as I hesitated before buying this issue, but Sook’s awesome blending of fantasy and science fiction with this seventeenth century Valkyrie with archaic or steampunk tools painting a star map inside the hull of her spacecraft, pushed me over the edge.  Luckily what resides inside the covers does not disappoint.

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

I’ve gotten in and out of reading comic books several times in my life.  I couldn’t tell you where the comic book store was when I lived in Columbia, MO.  I found one when I lived in Delaware.  There wasn’t one for miles when I lived in the mountains (but I found a baseball card shop).  I knew of and visited at least six comic book stores when I lived in Kansas City and I visit about the same number in Los Angeles.  I’ve visited them when I’ve made brief stops in London, England and Austin, Texas.  I had subscriptions to several Marvel titles when I was in junior high and didn’t have to worry about getting my parents to take me to the comic store.  One day a comic would arrive in my mailbox covered in the plain brown paper wrapping that I would later associate closely with either comics or porn.

A map of comic book stores across the U.S.

Still, every walk into a store is like a step into a colorful, inedible candy shop and I start to wonder, what I’m going to take home in my brown paper bag.  I like recommendations quite a bit when I look for new things (and that’s why on Free Comic Book Day as I went to a few of my favorite stores, I picked up All-Star Western and Justice League Dark) but since my time in Kansas City, my main focus for when I look on the shelves of whichever store I find myself in, is new material by past favorite authors.  That’s why on Free Comic Book Day I also picked up Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, who has entertained me in several stories like Pride of Baghdad, Runaways and Y: The Last Man.  Saga looks to be a great start to another captivating yarn as I ripped through both issues I bought as I curled up to relax on Sunday night.

However, I must ask myself, is using the past a logical way to pursue entertainment?  Are past performances indicative of future returns, unlike financial instruments?  How can you tell when to jump off the creative train of a favorite author?

This reminds me of a game a friend and I play every now again based on the Fellini movie, 8 1/2.  The film deals with the creative process and my friend and I used it as a jumping off point to analyze the careers of creative people by asking, “Does X have eight unarguable classics to their name?”

It’s tougher than you think.  To be able to create eight works of art is an accomplishment in and of itself, and to make eight super-duper terrific things, well, that’s a rarefied air.  Of course, everyone has a different opinion of what a “classic” is, but we generally know that Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark are both Steven Spielberg classics, where War of the Worlds and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull don’t come close to reaching the same height.  Even though I’m not a huge Spielberg fan, he gets to eight relatively easily as you could add E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan and Catch Me if You Can to Jaws and Raiders and you get seven, though there are a few flaws, but I quibble.  Finding an eighth movie among The Color Purple, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Munich and Jurassic Park should be easy.  George Lucas on the other hand, I think he’s lucky to get two.  I suppose I’m saying that at this point, going to see a Spielberg film may be a bit more of a question mark than it was in the 90s, but if you gave me a choice between Spielberg and Lucas right now, there’s no question I would choose to see a Spielberg film.

Looking at my favorite movies over the past few years, Midnight in Paris has reinvigorated my belief in Woody Allen and I’m more likely to see his next film.  The quality of Marvel’s movies Thor, Captain America and The Avengers makes me more likely to go see non-sequels put out by Marvel Studios.  (Iron Man 2 still leaves a poor taste in my mouth. That’s what I get for licking the screen).  True Grit cemented my love of the Coen brothers, which I had before the movie as I’ve seen every one of their films.

My point?  If you like the creative work of a person, you’ll probably like their other work.  Looking at my bookshelf filled with several novels from Kurt Vonnegut, quite a few selections from Alan Moore and most every film by Wes Anderson, I probably didn’t need to do much thinking about it.  Still, it’s nice to come to that conclusion and know that when I roll into a comic store, I can find some Brian Michael Bendis, some Matt Fraction, some J. Michael Straczynski, some Neil Gaiman, some Jason, some Craig Thompson, some Daniel Clowes, some Kurt Busiek or many others and be happy when I get home, turn on the lamp and snuggle beneath my covers.  Plus, there’s always a chance I can stumble onto many more authors in the future through sheer luck, the recommendations of friends or the recommendations of the people I meet while wandering the aisles at my local comic book stores.

One of the newest comic book artists to break-out from the pack with the DC Comics New 52 re-launch is Mikel Janin.  Mikel has updated the look and style of several familiar characters in the new series, Justice League Dark, featuring Zatanna, Deadman, Constantine, Shade, Madame Xanadu, and the Enchantress (all shown above).  With the series’ current issue #6, Mikel saw the release of his first published cover, and where some covers feature a separate penciler, inker and colorist, Mikel did it all for this cover.  His past DC Comics work includes the 2011 JLA 80-Page Giant and Flashpoint: Deadman and the Flying Graysons.  Mikel has created illustrations based on J.R.R Tolkien books that have been exhibited throughout Europe.  He also created the graphic novel “Les aventures d’Antonin Phylifandre” for Éditions Akileos, among other works.  We’re happy to welcome Mikel to borg.com.

Mikel, are you from Spain originally?  How accessible were comic books to you growing up and what did you read as a kid?

Mikel: Hi Chris.  Yes, I was born in Spain, and it’s where I live.  Comic books have been part of my childhood since always.  Actually, I learned to read with comic-books of Mortadelo, a very popular Spanish character.  As a kid I remember Tintin and Astérix books, then I was an avid reader of American comic-books: Spider-Man, Secret Wars, X-Men, Teen Titans and Conan were my favorite books.  I discovered later the European graphic novels, and became a fan of Hugo Pratt, Manara, Vittorio Giardino, Moebius…

Mikel's interior art for the 2011 JLA 80-Page Giant includes some trick arrow work by Green Arrow.

Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?  Was there any specific turning point in launching your career to where you are today?

Mikel: When I was a child it was sure for me that I wanted to be comic artist.  But I studied Architecture and formed a Studio in 2000.  Things were well in Architecture until 2009, when I finally left it.  I never stopped drawing and I even had some gigs for Akiléos (in France) and was published by Heavy Metal Magazine in the USA, and I was part of a Lord of the Rings based exhibition too.  In 2009 I started an active career in comics, and in 2011 I got my first gig at DC Comics.

What artists have influenced your style?  

Mikel: Too many!  Ibáñez, José Ortiz, Bernet, Manara, Moebius, Giardino, Pratt, Buscema, Kirby, Byrne…

Mikel's first DC Comics cover, an image slightly modifying Zatanna's original new look from a print Mikel offered in a limited edition at NYCC last year.

I understand you are currently working digitally.  What are the pros and cons of using that medium?

Mikel: Yes, I work almost 100% digitally. I come from Architecture, as I said, and computers were my main tool to think, design and draw buildings, so it’s a natural step using the same tools to think, design and draw comic-books!  The pros are you don’t need to buy supplies, you don’t have accidental ink drops or paper broken and so, you don’t have to scan pages and you always can have a safe copy of your work if you have mistakes.  It allows much more experimenting, too, because you aren’t afraid of ruining the page because of it.  The cons are you don’t have an actual original page to offer to collectors, but this is not enough to keep me off of digital.

In the States, for a long time it was viewed that you need to live in New York City or Los Angeles to break into any kind of publishing.  This has of course changed as technologies have changed.  Are there any challenges of working so far from your current publisher?

Mikel: It’s a very confortable way to work.  You work at home, so you don’t expend money in transport or even phone.  An internet connection is enough.  But this means you rarely interact with other people in the business, except by e-mail. Seeing the faces and hearing the voices is important too, for us human beings, so I try to go to conventions and say hello and shake hands with editors, publishers and other artists.  It’s a need.

In addition to the slate of Justice League Dark characters, Mikel has drawn the New 52 updated versions of Cyborg, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman into his series.

Are there any creators you particularly would like to work with someday?

Mikel: Yes! I’m very happy so far, because I had the chance of drawing scripts from so talented guys like Peter Milligan, J.T. Krul and Adam Glass.  And I’m currently working with Jeff Lemire, whose Animal Man I’m very much in love.  But of course I’d love to work with lots of creators, like Ed Brubaker, Gail Simone, Scott Snyder or Geoff Johns, to say a few.

What is the local reaction to your work and your exclusive contract with DC Comics?  In the States the New 52 has been big news this year, appearing in the press even outside the comics industry and traditional fan base.  Has there been a similar reaction back home?

Mikel: Yes, fans in Spain are excited too.  I think many of them are skeptical about the relaunch, but there’s a lot of buzz and excitement.  The New 52 will be here in May, so let’s see how they take it!  I’m happy with the reaction to my work and my exclusive contract too.

With Justice League Dark how did you approach the creation of new looks for characters, in particular the new look for Zatanna and her new costume?

Mikel: My first designs were the classical look for them, just minor tweaks. Then editors told me that they were looking for something new, and they wanted Zatanna to be more sexy, between Catwoman and Emma Frost, so I came with the corset and fishnets in her arms and they liked it a lot.  We decided to play with corsets, jackets, leather pants and fishnets, with variations from issue to issue.  The idea is it’s not a costume.  She has her costume for stage, as a work uniform, but these are her clothes.  See, you don’t have your McDonalds shirt when you’re going to save the world!

You attended the New York Comic Con this year.  What was your reaction to NYCC? Did you get to meet any creators who you personally are a fan of?

Mikel: It was HUGE.  I was so happy, it was a dream for me.  Being in the DC offices, saying hello to people that I just knew for the comic blogs was so satisfying.  Everyone there was so kind!  I had the chance to meet J.T. Krul and Adam Glass, my first writers in DC, and my friends and talented artists Mahmud Asrar, Yildiray Cinar, Joe Prado, Rafa Sandoval, and my old buddies Vicente Cifuentes, Pepe Caldelas or Will Ortego.

What should we keep an eye out for in future issues of Justice League Dark?

Mikel: It has already been announced that Jeff Lemire is taking writing duties since issue #9, with new characters joining the League and lots of action and magic all around!  I’ve read what Jeff has for next issues and I’m super-excited about it, so JLDark fans should definitely follow us in this new run!

Thanks for chatting with us today, Mikel!  Follow Mikel as a featured illustrator at DC Comics website, at his own website www.MikelJanin.com, at his blog, and on Facebook and Twitter!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg

   

The big news for the week in comicdom is DC Comics’ confirmation yesterday that it will cancel 6 of its 52 regular series after Issue #8, after a lot of speculation over the past several weeks that DC would trim off some of its low selling titles.  DC has offered very little by way of explanation other than low sales, and it released the names of the six titles unceremoniously at the end of its press release touting the addition of 6 replacement titles.  Unfortunately three of the exiting titles were part of DC’s effort to diversify characters and its audience.  As to the new titles, there is some good news, some indifference, and some… seriously?

The best news, of course, is that the very best of the New 52 titles are continuing, including All Star Western, Aquaman, Batgirl, Batwoman, Captain Atom, Justice League Dark, Savage Hawkman, and Wonder Woman.  And a character who I thought deserved her own regular title is now getting one.

The departing titles are:

Blackhawks – Blackhawks are an elite force of military specialists equipped with the latest in cutting-edge hardware and vehicles.  Their mission: Kill the bad guys before they kill us.

Hawk and Dove – The living avatars of war and peace root out the hidden forces who look to plunge the country into a deadly civil war.  Dove made an appearance in Justice League Dark as a pretty good character.

Men of War – The attempt to bring Sergeant Rock to the 21st century just didn’t get the expected readership.

Mister Terrific – One of the departing titles featuring a black character.  Though he has no super powers, Mister Terrific has a brilliant mind and an aptitude for science which he used to create the T-Mask, which renders him invisible to technology, the T-Spheres, which have several functions including holographic projection, generating electric charges and granting limited flight.

O.M.A.C. – Kevin Kho has become an unwilling participant in a war between Checkmate and Brother Eye as he is transformed into the One Machine Army Corp known as O.M.A.C.

Static Shock – A young justice title, focusing on a black teenager who was meant to be a modern, updated Spider-man for the DC universe.

DC Comics Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras stated that the characters in these titles will continue to be appear in the New 52 universe titles.

So the biggest disappointment of the new “second wave” on New 52 titles?  A TWELFTH Bat-title: BATMAN: INCORPORATED.  Really? If you’re not keeping track, we already had Batman, Detective Comics, The Dark Knight, Batwing, Batman and Robin, Batgirl, Batwoman, Knightwing, Catwoman, Birds of Prey, and Red Hood and the Outlaws.  No criticism intended of some of these titles (like the exceptional Batgirl and Batwoman), but there is only so many Bat-stories one can keep track of each month.   Ok, it was pretty clear Grant Morrison was going to come back with this title this year, so it isn’t a great surprise.  Still…

The cool news is a revamped classic title, WORLDS’ FINEST, known for its Batman and Superman team-ups, now with the apostrophe moved from where it was in World’s Finest, as it appears to have intentionally moved to account for the multiple Earths in the DCU.  The part we like is Huntress, just wrapping up her limited series, she will be a lead character sharing the storyline with Power Girl.  Written by Paul Levitz with shared art duties for George Perez and Kevin Maguire. DC is marketing this one as Stranded on our world from a parallel reality, Huntress and Power Girl struggle to find their way back to Earth 2.  Which brings us to the third new title:

EARTH 2.  Written by James Robinson with art by Nicola Scott.   This one could be fun, as there’s an unlimited number of change-ups that can be done with the parallel universe concept in the DCU.  The greatest heroes on a parallel Earth, the Justice Society combats threats that will set them on a collision course with other worlds.

A big surprise for me is the reboot of DIAL H.  Originally a classic series called Dial “H” for Hero, and rebooted only a few years back (2003) in a great series called just H.E.R.O., I think I have read all the back issues on this one and always liked the concept.  If it is like the original, you have a dial like the alethiometer in The Golden Compass, which is used by Joe Citizen, often changing hands, to allow you to be the hero you want to be as circumstances require.  It’s a little like Quantum Leap or Dollhouse, where you get to change everything with each new installment.  This will be written by comics newbie China Miéville with art by Mateus Santoluoco.

And the war concept must not be dead, despite killing the Men of War title, as it will be replaced with the classic title, G.I. COMBAT.   This will be a war series with three ongoing separate stories, written and drawn by three separate creative teams.

Finally the sixth new title to be added is THE RAVAGERS – Written by Howard Mackie with art by Ian Churchill. This is a Teen Titans and Superboy spinoff where four superpowered teens on the run fight against the organization that wants to turn them into supervillains.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

   

Earlier this year, and even from time to time over the past several years, commenters have criticized the comics publishing industry for its lack of female creators.  As with the lack of women creators in a lot of industries, the criticisms have credence.  You have to look very hard at comic conventions to find a female comic artist from a major publisher, for example.  But more and more female writers seem to be coming to the fore every month.  In the meantime, what is flourishing in DC Comics’ New 52 are female superhero characters.  In the past few weeks we reviewed here both the first issues of the new Wonder Woman series and the past two months of the Batgirl title.  Wonder Woman’s story is brilliantly drawn in the realm of the Greek gods and goddesses, as she is on her path to becoming a key leader of the Justice League.  Batgirl’s story bridges a lot of territory–she is a superhero with a rich past in the DCU: as daughter to Batman’s main partner in fighting crime, Commissioner Gordon, as former crime fighter in a wheelchair and member of the Birds of Prey, under the guise Oracle, she also covers the younger side of hero work and the trials of being at the beginning of a heroine’s career.

But Wonder Woman and Batgirl just scratch the surface of the arsenal of women crimefighters across the DCU.  In stark contrast to Batgirl, but equally as interesting and engaging, is the darker, tough and gritty world of Batwoman.  There is no hiding Batwoman’s role in the DCU–she is Kate Kane, a lesbian who was kicked out of the military because of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  When we met her again in Issue #1 of the re-launched title she was trying to mentor sidekick, Bette aka Flamebird, but in Issue #2 Batman warns Kate that she is endangering Bette and she as kicks her out of the sidekick business in Issue #3.  Writers W. Haden Blackman and J.H. Williams III walk a fine line between a caricature of a modern gay single person, in the realm of Tom Hanks’ character in Philadelphia.  She uses poor judgment, frequenting gay bars and going home with whomever she ends up with and going on binges.  Did she, or the writers, learn anything from the 1980s?  Are they setting her up for another AIDS story?  Hopefully not, as that was done with Mia aka Speedy in the Green Arrow series.  

In every aspect of her life Kate is dangerous and cocky–she is dating Detective Maggie Sawyer, the very woman on the police squad who is trying to uncover who the vigilante in the black and red suit really is.  On the one hand Kate herself is not a role model, yet Blackman and Williams have written her as a tough woman fighting the good fight every day like everybody, only in the depths of Gotham, her place is getting down and dirty.  To balance out the series, we find Kate’s true enemy is the federal agent, Cameron Chase, and we learn in Issue #3 she is partnering with the creepy skull-headed villain behind the dark doings of Gotham.  The best part of Batwoman?  Despite her own inner doubts and less experience at the hero business, Batwoman stands on equal footing with Batman in their secret meetings–we see a mutual respect there.

On the other side of the globe in Italy is Helena Bertinelli, the heroine of the Huntress title.  Like Barbara Gordon, Huntress spent some time gaining her crime-fighting sea-legs in the Birds of Prey.  In Issue #2 of the current Huntress limited series, Huntress has tracked down a trafficker of girls in the sex slave industry.  Huntress is a character who simply has a job to do.  Unlike Batgirl and Batwoman, we see no emotional obstacles with Helena.  She knows her job and gets the job done.  As her own flavor of dark knight detective, she is a true sleuth in the ongoing whodunnit of each issue.  And like all the superheroes in the DCU, she has her alter ego life.  Bertinelli would fit in fine with the characters of the BBC’s Zen series, tasteful and stylish, she seems to have adopted Italy as her home turf.  It is refreshing to see a character establish herself in a non-English speaking locale, and the word balloons even feign a translation via dialogue in carets.  A clever comics story device.  Unlike Batgirl or Batwoman, Huntress’s targeted villains are rooted in the real world, and in Issue #2 she is honing in on capturing the man behind the trafficking operation, as she liberates all the victims.  A woman saving women.

In an even darker realm we encounter Zatanna, magician of backward incantations, in Issues #2 and #3 of Justice League Dark.  The Enchantress has unleashed an evil that even the Justice League itself cannot stop, and she must use a spell to save herself.  Only John Constantine understands the magic enough to use her own language to free her from her protective state.  And tarot card reading Xanadu appears to be working alongside the ultimate villain of this series–the Enchantress, on a quest to capture June Moone, who has been seeking the aid of Deadman.  Deadman is complex yet entirely weak, he slips in and out of other people’s bodies, himself a ghostly spirit.  Deadman is driving his girlfriend, Dawn Granger, the character Dove from the Hawk and Dove duo, nearly mad with his switching from body to body.  Dove drives off in anger as Deadman tries to protect June Moone from the Enchantress, but we get the vibe she can pull away from the witch’s curse when she will need to.  We hope to see more of Zatanna and Dove in future issues, but as new characters are added, like Mindwipe in Issue #3, Justice League Dark is bordering on a soap opera-sized cast that may be too much for a monthly title.

Not only do these titles stand out as key stories focusing on strong female characters, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Batwoman, Huntress, and Justice League Dark, with both good writing and art, continue to stand at the top of all of the 52 main titles of the New 52.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

When the 52 titles of DC’s “New 52” were announced a few months back, a glaring omission was a comic book featuring our favorite backward talking, fishnet wearing magician, Zatanna.  Happily she has a featured role in the new series Justice League Dark.  If we’re lucky, she will be proclaimed the ultimate leader of this new spin on the Justice League.

Funny Name

The title is a little weird but the “dark” is enough to pick up readers and it is, after all, why I grabbed this one.  Let’s see, there’s Milky Way Dark and now there’s Justice League Dark.  I hope they don’t plan to really call the team that.  In the very best scene of Issue #1 we see Zatanna working with Batman, and the rationale for this series is laid out:  there are some things the Justice League is not suited for, things involving an understanding of the darker elements, like magic.  Zatanna gets to work one of her backward spoken charms on Batman entangling him in gold magic.  This is one of the best drawn Batmans of the New 52, by artist Mikel Janin.  And the new Zatanna looks great, even without her classic fishnets.  Writer Peter Milligan’s best work in this book is this scene, and he shows some great characterizations between these two key characters of the DCU.

Nice Grouping

The Enchantress is the villain at the beginning of this new title.  She is wreaking havoc from her base inside an envelope in a dilapitated shack (and yes, you read that right).  Madame Xanadu foresees doom is coming and a strange girl is seen dying in multiple realities yet fixed in one reality–“34 simulacra of June Moone” as Zatanna sees it.  Shade, who freely manipulates and changes realities keeps changing his girlfriend Kate.  The actual Justice League of Cyborg, Superman and Wonder Woman try and fail to stop the Enchantress, who is involved in supernatural deaths and a power plant becoming sentient (one panel is all we get on that oddity).  It is unclear how this fits into the ongoing Justice League series, however.  John Constantine is summoned by Zatanna.  And June Moone tracks down Deadman.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.  Former JLA member Zatanna, in new outfit, is the obvious headliner for the group but only time will tell.  Ultimately Madame Xanadu sees death for all these would-be team members.

I like the concept here and the art is well done.  I also like the use of several women characters featured instead of the typical male team-up with a token female character.  Issue #1 features a nice cover by Ryan Sook.

If there is one thing I don’t like it is the choice of the same expletive multiple times in one issue–“Christ!”, and an odd choice at that.  It’s one thing to have a novel peppered with a few expletives of any variety if it furthers the plot, but here the use seemed random, unnecessary, and in a story of only 24 pages just not appropriate to the story or a teen rated title, dark or not.  A writing teacher once said over-use of expletives is a sign of poor writing.  Unless it is a book about the mob or gangs, I would agree.

An overall well-drawn book and unique character ensemble will have me back next month for Issue #2.  DC Comics also released a slick trailer that fits the mood of this one, at this link.