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John Constantine: You’re right, mate. I never really known what I’m doing.
Synopsis "In The Dark Part Three: Shibboleths and Alcohol" (20-pages)
Previously: June Moon has somehow become separated from the Enchantress, the witch entity which usually possesses her. However, this has driven the Enchantress insane. Through her bitterness and anger, she blames other magic users for her separation from June, but those emotions are being manipulated by Madame Xanadu for her own purposes. The Enchantress first attacked Zatanna, who retreated into a protective trace, before tracking June Moon to the Deadman’s apartment and attacking Dawn Granger, Deadman’s girlfriend.
The British magician John Constantine had been searching for Zatanna ever since he sensed her distress. He eventually finds her sat on an US side-walk surrounded by concerned onlookers and paramedics. Zatanna is in a protective meditating trance and Constantine has to use Zatanna’s own backwards magic to wake her. They then go to a hotel to compare notes and to heal each other with tantric magic. To Zatanna’s annoyance, John then disappears to investigate the Enchantress on his own.
June Moon apologizes to Deadman for causing problems between him and Dawn, but he wonders if the Enchantress’s crooked influence was swaying their behaviour. The conversation is cut short when the wall behind them starts crackling with magical energy. The terrorized June believes that the Enchantress has found her and runs. However, the luminous display is actually caused by Rac Shade trying to reach Deadman. Neither June or Deadman realise the real significance and don’t acknowledge Shade’s request for them to cross over. June flees to the roof of Deadman’s apartment building, but topples over the edge in her panic. Deadman possesses her and uses his circus skills to save her life.
After his unsuccessful attempt to recruit June and Deadman, Madam Xanadu says that the Shade will have to try recruiting a telepath called Mindwarp. Rac is worried that Mindwarp is psychotic, but the M-Vest talks to him and warns him about brooding. It creates the Kathy creature from earlier (Justice League Dark #1 (Nov 2011)) forcing Shade to destroy it. Rac retreats to bar for a drink (where he is observed by Constantine) before going to see Jay Young, alias Mindwarp. Rac traces Jay from Los Angles, USA to Sydney, Australia and interrupts him in his “Seizure Soul” astral form while performing a robbery.
June and Deadman are driving down a dark road when they think they hit a person. They stop and get out of their car to see if the person the hit is okay, but suddenly find themselves face-to-face with the Enchantress.
This issue rotate the pairings of the characters and draws them all together by one more step. Shade and Xanadu break apart, Shade meets Mindwarp, but Constantine is close behind. Constantine has met and then left Zatanna, while June and Deadman meet the Enchantress. The general consensus from last issue was that this series was slowly paced, but that Peter Milligan’s engaging script and the character moments still made it enjoyable. It’s a nice trick, but this third issue has essentially the same format as the first two – links slowly forming between the characters as they become aware of each other and the larger threat around them.
Jesse Schedeen (IGN) questions whether this is “even meant to be a team book, or just an ensemble series following various separate but interconnected groups?” while Greg McElhatton (CBR) says this issue is suffering from arc “middle issue syndrome”, but that its is still an enjoyable read. You can see in the reviews that people are getting a little impatient for the larger plot to kick into high-gear, but they are not too upset by the developments we do have. The Dean (AICN Comics) challenges the naysayers to like this series:
The Miller, Moore, and Morrison apologists of the world may find the series lacking substance, but they’d be missing out on a fun ride with unusual characters that leaves you fully entertained, even if you might not reference it in your “Defense of Comics” essay for your snooty English lit professor.
Justice League and Justice League Dark are superficially very different books about very different sets of characters, but the underlying story in each is almost identical. Justice League conceals its slow-plot with massive Jim Lee visual stunts, whereas Justice League Dark used a stream of finely crafted and instructive character moments. Both work within their own context, but feel played out after three issues. Maybe its a page count issue, maybe they’d read better back-to-back, but both titles needs a twist, change, or some other change of gear as they transition from the first to the, presumed, second half of their arcs.
Mindwarp, the new character, appears interesting — a man-child thief who suffers from epilepsy and is able to project a powerful astral version of himself during his seizures. Mindwarp first appeared in the Flashpoint bridging series Flashpoint: Secret Seven, which was also written by Peter Milligan, but this is his first proper DCU appearance. As high-concepts go he is interesting, but he’s at odds with the other characters in that he doesn’t already have a previously established back story. Minhquan Nguyen (Weekly Comic Book Review) puts forward the old-time readers conundrum about Mindwarp in perspective:
Most problematically, his appearance lacks all context. You have no idea why he’s attacking that unnamed, unidentified man in the hotel, or threatening that man’s unnamed, unidentified lady companion.
Mindwarp’s appearance here is a significant as he’s the Conway-character. This is something all Justice League writers do, add to the League a character that they created or significantly reformed. Conway added Firestorm, Morrison added Zauriel, and Geoff Johns is adding his version of Cyborg. The other players have been established as clear and definite personalities ahead of any clear explanation of their individual back stories. Therefore readers are left to ransack their memories of the older-versions of these characters to fill in the blanks. It works well for the other members of this group, but breaks down for Mindwarp and that makes him feel odd. A blank slate amid all these old and finely studied characters.
Then again… there is a very certain lack of definition in this entire series and I’m beginning to think its deliberate. The only characters who are named are the protagonists – background characters and places remain cyphers. Even in the art you’re never really sure where things are meant to be set. Dark country lanes could be any dark country lane, bar and hotel signs are partial obscured. The character’s backgrounds are likewise obscured and we’re left with their pure force of personality.
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Cover. The original solicited cover showed (left) John Constantine on the back of Zatanna’s bike fleeing from the hands of the Enchantress, but the released cover (right) was different and showed Deadman, Constantine, and Zatanna facing the audience.
Page 1. The first page of this issue got artist Mikel Janin into a bit of a hub-bub online after somebody at Bleeding Cool noticed that the pattern of trees on this dark road:
matches those from photograph they’d seen elsewhere on the Internet. Janin has download this photograph:
from a site which claimed it was an archive of royalty free stock images, but whoever loaded the photograph didn’t have the original photographer’s permission.The image is actually called “Into The Mist” and was taken by photographer Greg Martin. Janin publically apologised to the photographer for his innocent mistake and commented on Bleeding Cool’s forums that:
I didn’t find it in Deviant Art but in a wallpaper stock image site, and I really thought this image was copyright free. (Dark Forrest Road wallpaper from Dark wallpapers personally think that using photographs for reference it’s always ok, using your own photographs, stock images or similar. When I need a photograph for reference I buy it or I download it from a free copyright site, or ask permission to the author of the image. I’m sorry I didn’t seek enough to find the person who did this one. The debate about referencing in art is old and don’t want to start one here. Someone so big and respected in the industry like Stuart Immonen explained something about it way better than I could do. (Stuart Immonen on Computers and Art | Comics Should Be Good! @ Comic Book Resources) Thanks to Bleeding Cool I’ve found the photographer, so I’m going to write him to clarify this. My sincere apologies to the photographer, and to anyone who can feel cheated by the use of an image as reference.
Page 2. The locality on the ambulance is Ellingstone.
Page 3. Maithuna is one of the central rites of Tantrism, a spiritual movement from India which stresses the both physical and spiritual union of female and male aspects. This is the PG version, “only the very tips of our fingers touch”, as Constantine describes. Shakti is the female aspect in Tantrism and the Divine Mother in Hinduism. She/it is the prime agent of change. Shiva, by constant, is the male aspect and one of the most important Hindu gods. He/it is also an agent of change, but as the destroyer (i.e. the one who wipes away the old so the new can be created).
Page 4. Zatanna has a tattoo, several in fact. One on her upper-right arm and another that starts on her back and winds around to her right-hand stomach.
Page 8. A Shibboleth is more than a mark. It’s a cultural thing that only those from your culture or a very narrow cultural group might know. For example, you may discern an Englishman from an American from his arcane knowledge of the game of cricket or vise versa, by the American’s knowledge of baseball (that second one was actually used in WWII to stop German infiltrators).
Page 11. Deadman makes reference to his death at the hands of an assassin called the Hook. The current DC Comics Presents #1 recaps his origin as:
However, Boston Brand’s spirit did not cross over to the afterlife and he instead found himself working for a spirit/goddess call Rama. He had left a selfish live, but Rama gave him the chance to redeem himself by becoming her servant in death. His job is to help the living by possessing their bodies and straightening out their lives one at a time (think of the main character from Quantum Leap, but undead).
Page 15. The TV in the first panel shows the double-page spread from Justice League Dark #1 (Nov 2011) and the TV in the second panel shows the double-page spread from Justice League Dark #2 (Dec 2011) .
Page 16. Patek are a brand of exclusive Swiss Watch. The Aria “Un Bel Di Vedremo” is a lyric from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. It’s translation is something like “One good day, we will see” which is ironic given the number of dark days that this series and these characters have seen.
Page 17. Mindwarp first appeared in Flashpoint: Secret Seven #2 (Sep 2011). In the Flashpoint reality he was a member of the Secret Seven, a defunct JL Dark like group that had been run by Rac Shade, but which had imploded sometime before the events depicted. The Enchantress was also the “bagguy” in that series and made the other former members of the group believe that Rac had tried to kill them. They attacked Rac and he was forced to kill them in self-defence.
In both realities Mindwarp is 23-years-old Jay Young, a super-human thief who steals to finance his expensive and lavish lifestyle. He suffers from a bizarre for of epilepsy. During an epileptic seizure he projects an astral form which “operates within a world of extreme synaptic plasticity.” He is in effect projecting a ghost of himself which can either pass through or hold objects as desires and can be seen or be ignored as he desires. The Flashpoint Mindwarp was killed in Flashpoint: Secret Seven #3 (Oct 2011) which makes this his first real DCU appearance.
Page 20. Classic witch moment: Enchantress’s “I just want to eat you up.” Is one of those odd phrases that old women use and young children find particularly creepy. Those creepy old dears aren’t really cannibals, but the phrase gains that literal meaning in the classic portrayal of the witch as old woman.