Writer: Ram V, James Tynion IV
Artist: Alvaro Martinez Bueno
Zatanna singing Bohemian Rhapsody backward. That’s it. Review over. If that isn’t enough to sell you on this comic then nothing else will.
In all seriousness though, I just got my hands on this issue after a long wait. This Coronavirus has caused so many delays for comic releases and the industry in general. It’s been difficult for comic companies, distributors, and store owners alike. A number of comic book stores have even been forced to close due to financial pressure. We finally seem to be seeing some signs of things finally returning to normal though and it’s an amazing feeling. After all this, it feels so good having a new comic book in my hands once again. Onto the review!
In the previous part of this story we’d seen the team split. Wonder Woman, Detective Chimp, and Animal man are attempting to deal with the zombie incursion. Meanwhile Zatanna and Constantine are attempting to find a solution to the problem. This issue continues that as Zatanna and Constantine investigate an abandoned sanitarium. This was probably the best bit of the comic. It puts the focus on John and Zatanna. The dialogue and the facial expressions between the two do so much to convey their relationship. It actually makes me want a whole series just focusing on the two of them.
This is also where most of the horror elements of this story fit in. That’s pretty much a given though since they’re in an abandoned sanitarium. The creatures they encounter are visually horrifying. They’re the kind of disfigured creatures you’d expect from Silent Hill or Resident Evil. Alvaro Martinez really did a terrific job here. Both with the horrifying monster designs and the characters themselves. I can’t wait to see what he works on after this series finishes up. The Wonder Woman and crew segments are much the same as the last issue. A bit of action but there isn’t much beyond it. There’s an entertaining page of artwork as Wonder Woman buys time for the others that definitely deserves some praise. Other than that and the cliffhanger it leads to there isn’t much to say though.
The one criticism I have of this issue is what I mentioned at the beginning of this article. There’s a segment where Zatanna sings part of a Queen song backward to cast a spell. It’s extremely entertaining on its own but in an issue like this it may feel out of place to some. Personally, I’d argue that it’s a nice break from the horror elements. If something is scary all the way through then eventually the horror can lose its effect. Something like this is needed here and there to give the reader a rest before the comic traumatizes them again. Some people might see it as a forced pop culture reference and be put off by it though.
In summary, this is a great issue and far superior to its predecessor. The first part of this arc felt very generic. This goes back to the style of writing I loved from previous arcs and it’s much better due to it. The art is stunning and the writing is smart and suspenseful. This may not be a great jumping-on point since it’s the middle of an arc but it’s a great book. Definitely worth a read if you’re a horror fan or just enjoying the series so far.
Justice League Dark (2018-) #21
This is a solid issue. The art here is fantastic, especially the horror elements. There isn't a great deal of character work aside from the Constantine and Zatanna interactions. What is there is good though and the story was pretty decent and left me curious to see what happens next. Definitely an improvement over the first chapter of this story. It was worth the read.