Sunday, May 19, 2013

New 52 Review: The Dark Books

I, Vampire volume 1: Tainted Love, trade paperback. Issues 1-6, by Joshua Hale Fialkov & Andrea Sorrentino. And Justice League Dark, volume 1: In the Dark, Issues 1-6, by Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin.

These are related volumes in that they both fall into the "Dark" line of DC's New 52 titles. They overlap at the end of their stories, and begin a crossover in the issues following these, so I am reviewing them together.
I enjoyed the I, Vampire issues, these being the first I have ever read from that title or with that character. There have been plenty of stories about vampires and/or vampire hunters, and even of vampires who turn to hunting other vampires. But this sentiment that drove this story was unique to a world with super-powered characters, a sentiment voiced by Mary the Queen of Vampires: "Today we begin our holy war against the humans. Many of ours will die, more of theirs will. We were meant to inherit the earth, but instead we let it be stolen by aliens and masked men."

The narrative style was interesting, as Fialkov wrote each of these six issues from only one person's perspective. This made for very tight writing, and perhaps one book that might actually read better as single issues than as a collected whole. Batman guest stars in one of the issues, and this is just enough of a tie to the greater DC Universe.
John Constantine also appears as a guest star in I, Vampire, another tie between these two series. Madame Xanadu (also a character in Demon Knights) peers into the future and sees a coming global destruction, from the out-of-control Enchantress.
She recruits her Justice League friends to take the Enchantress out, but they fail miserably. Xanadu attempts to form a team of more supernatural heroes to aid her instead -- Deadman, John Constantine, Shade the Changing Man, Zatanna and Mind Warp fight the powerful magic of the Enchantress, but they manage to find plenty of time to fight each other, as well.
I enjoyed the fact that even after their joint adventure, these characters all mistrust each other, and many flat out dislike each other. They come across as well-rounded fully thought-out characters, and their conflicts seems natural. It is pointed out at one point that dealing with powers of magic and the supernatural does have consequences, and the wrecks that each of these people have made of their lives are testament to that. The story moved a bit slow for my taste, as the gathering of the team members was a bit repetitive, and dragged on an issue or two more than it needed.
Fortunately, the team never calls itself the "Justice League Dark," at least not in these six issues. But it is a testament to the power of the words "Justice League" that this title continually lands in the top half of DC's monthly sales, despite having a cast of (mostly) little-known or unknown characters. Yes, Constantine is here, but the New 52 version will be much less "mature" than the Vertigo version that lasted 300 issues.
I am personally a fan of Deadman, and thought his portrayal here was strong. Milligan strikes the right balance of including critical parts of his pre-New-52 character, while modernizing him just enough to give this version a fresh start. I am not as familiar with the rest of the cast, except for Zatanna, whose powers and personality seem similar to her earlier incarnations, as well.
The end of issue 6 of both JLDark and I, Vampire was exactly the same, indicating that these two books will cross over in the following issues. I am looking forward to reading those joint issues. This crossover is at least partially an attempt to bring new readers to I, Vampire, which consistently sells about half the number of issues that JLDark sells.

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