Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Justice League Dark #20

"Horror City Part 2: The Nightmare Gospel"

Ray Fawkes and Jeff Lemire 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 while it is drawn well and is quite exciting, it depicts a scene that flat out does not happen in this issue. It would've been cool for the Flash and Swamp Thing to have to team up to take down a possessed Justice League Dark, but nothing of the sort occurs here. As I said previously, the cover to issue #19 would have worked better for this issue — similar to how the cover of Flash #19 should've been with Flash #20 — but DC wanted to have all comics in that month feature the fold-out cover. Delaying it one month for a couple of issues was apparently out of the question.

We start with Doctor Destiny siphoning off power from Swamp Thing in the House of Destiny. He quotes strange scripture and gloats over how he's unleashed a world of nightmares on New York.

Meanwhile, the Flash learns that Frankenstein is actually a good guy, and his real son was killed months ago. This "son" of Frankenstein lunges at the Flash, but he just vibrates through him, and doing so causes the nightmare to disappear. Flash examines the "wife" of Frankenstein, and discovers that she is also a nightmare, simply made of energy — similar to Green Lantern's constructs. Flash causes her to disappear as well, and Frankenstein asks him what he's doing in the sewers of New York.

Flash says he was merely passing through the city when the nightmares showed up, and he was about to call in the Justice League when his signal device picked up Frankenstein's transmission. Frankenstein doesn't believe he has a transmitter, but quickly surmises that Steve Trevor secretly implanted one on him. Frankenstein suggest they find Madame Xanadu first, so Flash finds her in the graveyard, takes out her nightmares, and takes her to the sewer almost before Frankenstein can finish talking.

The three of them then quickly find Deadman and save him from his nightmares, but they have a little more trouble with John Constantine. He's under duress from a few clones of himself made up of his blood, and they quickly cast a spell to freeze the Flash in a block of ice. Eventually, Madame Xanadu reminds Constantine of the incantation to pull the bloody clones back into his own body.

Now that the team's reassembled, everybody starts blaming John Constantine for putting them in this mess — and they're kind of justified. But Flash convinces them all to stick together, so they lay out a plan. First, they need to find the House of Mystery, which Flash accomplishes in just a few seconds. Once they get there, Frankenstein and Flash decide to stay outside to protect civilians from the nightmares, while Constantine, Xanadu and Deadman enter the house, only to be greeted by Doctor Destiny, who refers to Xanadu as his mother.

The Good:

Nice Flash cameo. I've been waiting for a great Flash cameo like this — where he helps save the day and stays true to character. Although I didn't understand why Flash initially vibrated through Frankenstein's son, I was very happy to see that Flash ended up being the key to taking down these nightmares, thereby justifying the guest appearance. And Fawkes and Lemire proved they have a strong understanding of the Flash's character, as they made him the moral voice of the team — the one guy keeping everybody together. (Geoff Johns should be taking notes.) Although it does feel rather random to include Flash in this world of magic, I wouldn't mind seeing him make some more appearances in Justice League Dark because I know I can trust this creative team to handle him properly.

The Bad:

I'm not a fan of magic and nightmares and other abstract stuff like that. (I prefer more down-to-Earth stories about a man who can run at the speed of light.) But I never really felt much of a threat in this issue. Sure, Swamp Thing is being tortured, but I know he can handle it. But are these nightmares actually causing physical harm to people, or are they just illusions in the mind scaring everybody? I guess that's just mainly my problem with Doctor Destiny. Oh no, don't give me a scary nightmare! I'll having trouble sleeping at night!

Final score: 6 out of 10

Next: The forbidden future of Justice League Dark

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