Monday, September 2, 2013

Justice League Dark #19

"Horror City Part 1: House of Misery"

Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes Writers
Mikel Janin Layouts
Vicente Cifuentes Finishes
Jeromy Cox Colors
Rob Leigh Letters
Kate Stewart Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor
Swamp Thing created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson

The cover is by Mikel Janin, and it is fortunately the final WTF cover I'll review. Once again, the Flash is featured prominently, although he plays a rather minor role in this issue. Actually, this would have been the perfect cover for Justice League Dark #20, but DC insisted on having all the WTF covers in April, so this is what we got stuck with. Overall, though, I rather enjoy Janin's style, and even though he didn't finish his art on the inside pages, they still looked pretty good.

We start this story with John Constantine at a horse race track. He wins a bet on a long shot, much to his dismay for some reason. When he goes to collect his money, the tiller instead hands him a note, which reads, "The cold flame burns." Constantine is then caught in a massive explosion.

We cut to ARGUS headquarters, where Steve Trevor is offering Deadman a spot on the Justice League of America — if he's willing to spy on the Justice League Dark. But before Deadman can answer, he feels a massive quake in the ethereal plane, and rushes to Greenwich Village, N.Y., to meet up with Madame Xanadu, Frankenstein and Constantine. Constantine tells them that he survived the explosion by putting up a protective spell at the last second, but doing so caused him to lose his psychic connection to the House of Mystery, which has now been stolen.

To help them find the house, Constantine summons Swamp Thing, who reaches out and connects to the enchanted wood. But it turns out to be a trap, and our heroes are scattered, while a legion of nightmares descends on the city. Constantine faces a bloody version of himself, Deadman meets cannibal versions of his old circus gang, and Xanadu is attacked by the skeletons of all her former lovers. Frankenstein ends up in the sewer, and he sees his wife being attacked by his evil son. The four-armed monster then goes after his father, when both of them are hit by some lightning. But the lightning turns out to be the Flash.

We then see that the House of Mystery is on Fifth Avenue, and Swamp Thing is being held captive there by the mastermind of this plot — Doctor Destiny.

The Good:

I think I was in a big rush the first time I read this, because it really confused me, and I was prepared to give this a poor review. But after re-reading this issue, it suddenly made sense, and was pretty fun. I still don't understand why Constantine wanted to lose that bet, but in the whole of the issue, that doesn't really matter. And even though I'm naturally inclined to be resistant to magic-based stories, I really didn't mind what was happening here. It's still not my favorite, but I can appreciate some aspect of it.

The Bad:

Yeah, the Flash is hardly in this issue, but I really liked his entrance. It wasn't just a red blur zooming by, but there was that element of lightning added in. And ultimately, I like the idea of Flash just randomly bumping into Frankenstein. Yeah, they would never meet or team up normally, but if they both live in the same world, odds are they'll run into each other eventually. I just wish Flash wasn't placed in the front and center of the cover. I think this would have been a lot better had the Flash's appearance been a complete surprise. But, putting the Flash on the cover helps sell comics ... which, ironically, is something Jim Lee largely ignored during his run on Justice League.

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next: A Flash in the darkness!

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