Justice League Dark #7
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Alvaro Martinez Bueno, Raul Fernandez and Brad Anderson
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
James Tynion IV and Alvaro Martinez Bueno swing for the fences with Justice League Dark #7, shrewdly adopting an anthology-style structure to criss-cross all the magical corners of the DC Universe, while doing terrific work to front-load the looming threat of the Otherkind. In an era where decompression is the standard, Justice League Dark #7 feels dense and expansive, making this a superb issue to jump on board.
Tynion’s framing device - namely, Man-Bat typing out stories of the Justice League Dark’s adventures as a way to calm his anxious mind - is a particularly effective method, as he’s able to cover a lot of narrative ground without dealing with any drag from having to weave the stories into each other. Instead, the common thread behind all three stories is simply capturing the various magical players from across the DC Universe as the Otherkind get nearer - and effectively wipe the floor with some of the biggest guns the JLD has to offer.
With this in mind, Tynion’s also able to expand the core cast of characters beyond what we’ve seen before - while Wonder Woman, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, Detective Chimp, and Man-Bat are still front and center, he’s able to organically include more and more new recruits, ranging from Frankenstein and I, Vampire to a pair of sorcerers thought long lost to our mortal coil. It’s a great way to not just expand the scope of the series, but the stakes - most of Tynion’s new characters feel like a whole other class of power, and watching them get beaten so badly really establishes the Otherkind as a credible threat, even when their characterization is mostly just menace and gore.
It’s also a credit to Alvaro Martinez Bueno that he’s able to fit Tynion’s massive script without seemingly breaking a sweat. Every page in this story has at minimum five panels - some are even double that - and yet this issue reads clearer than some books with half that real estate to cover. Perhaps even more miraculously, Bueno is able to lend all of his pages with a real sense of mood, while also pulling off the wildly differing designs between this mish-mash of mystical characters. He’s even left himself room for flourishes, like overlapping panels when Lucifer’s bar is hit with a horrible flood of green liquid, or the panel outlines turning into a countdown when Frankenstein sets off a nuclear detonation to buy the team some time. Colorist Brad Anderson also does yeoman’s work to make each of Tynion’s four stories have their own sense of setting and identity, giving each scene its own subtle but unique palette to help distinguish them.
Given how naturally the mainstream Justice League and Justice League Odyssey books seem to dovetail, given their shared interest in sci-fi and space, it’d be easy to overlook Justice League Dark - but if this issue is any indication, that would be a big mistake. Tynion seems to be gearing up for a monster sophomore arc, and is expanding his cast to match, making this story feel inherently weightier and full of potential. What other denizens of the dark can Tynion conjure up? And what other atrocities can the Otherkind commit in order to make their bones as frightening villains? It only feels like Justice League Dark is warming up - which might be a bad place for our heroes, but is a superb place for their readership.