Since its debut, Justice League Dark has been a slow but steady success — but while James Tynion IV brought the same sort of superhero team dynamics to his run on the book, Ram V is channeling the more sinister undercurrents of the DC Universe in this character-driven catch-up issue. Beautifully written and given its own fresh visual identity by artist Amancay Nahuelpan, Justice League Dark #24 is an excellent jumping-on point for those who have been missing out.
Written by Ram V
Art by Amancay Nahuelpan and June Chung
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
V's story starts off not with a bang, but with an immolation — seeing Giovanni Zatara burning alive, trapped in torment in the Upside-Down Man's magical mirror universe. It's a great way to get readers' attentions, even if it later causes some pacing issues towards the end of the story — Nahuelpan and colorist June Chung create a truly arresting visual that needs no commentary, but V throwing in one-liners like "a magician never repeats his tricks!" makes the scene truly crackle.
It's that sort of care for dialogue and characterization that permeates Justice League Dark #24, as V checks in with each of his cast of characters. Wonder Woman is the stoic foundation everyone relies upon; even as an immortal she grapples with the decisions she must make — Nahuelpan leans into her iconic otherness as the sole A-lister in this group of heroes, making her look like a different class of strength that unifies the disparate eclectics that make up the rest of the team. Meanwhile, Zatanna drives the narrative as she tries to rescue her father, with a short-but-sweet burst of action that gives the book a jolt when it needs it.
V meanwhile uses Detective Chimp as the real thread that darts through each story, infusing him with the heart of the narrative while letting him quickly check off the boxes for characters like Dr. Kirk Langstrom or Swamp Thing — Swamp Thing in particular getting a great-looking sequence from Nahuelpan as the resurrected champion of the Green is taking root in places directly connected to his past.
If there's a weak spot to these narratives, however, it's with Doctor Fate, as Kent Nelson leaves Khalid to the helm of Nabu — it's the most esoteric and soap opera-ish of the various status quos, and while V goes down swinging with some Doctor Manhattan-style dialogue about the improbability of life itself, the characters themselves feel a little too distant to connect, and doesn't give Nahuelpan much to do visually. And because they say there's a price to pay for magic, while Nahuelpan knocks it out of the park so magnificently with the book's introduction, the setback is that the book's conclusion doesn't get nearly the same breathing room, leaving for a rushed ending and cramped composition.
Still, the level of craftsmanship that V and Nahuelpan bring to Justice League Dark is pretty impressive, especially when working with a scattered cast of characters that (on paper) would be a tough fit to make work as a cohesive unit. But V is able to really channel the magic and malevolence that makes Justice League Dark feel like its own separate corner of the DC Universe, apart from the various sci-fi oriented super-teams. With stellar artwork, deft characterization, and a true flourish for dialogue, this is one of DC's best books this week.