After some creative musical chairs across various titles, writer Jeff Lemire ended up on the supernatural team book Justice League Dark and I couldn't be more pleased about it.
Lemire first caught my attention with his recent Atom feature in Adventure Comics prior to Flashpoint and afterwards, has been absolutely killing it on Animal Man. So when he was selected to replace outgoing Justice League Dark writer Peter Milligan, I was more than intrigued by the potential result. After starting off so well, Milligan appeared at a loss of where to take the series and its diverse cast of supernatural DC Universe characters. Fortunately, Lemire comes out of the gate strong with a much clearer sense of direction.
His first story, "The Black Room," is structured like an episode of the J.J. Abrams TV series Alias, with events already in motion filled in with flashback scenes that explain how we got to this point. Deep in the Amazon jungle, the reformed team "Justice League Dark" has been asked to retrieve the South African mystic known as Doctor Mist and stop classic Justice League nemesis Felix Faust from his usual supernatural shenanigans. That's a pretty straightforward story premise, a refreshing change from issues up until now.
The team itself has changed as well, with John Constantine taking over as the unlikely "leader" from the interminably vague Madame Xanadu. As we learn throughout the issue, Constantine was recruited by A.R.G.U.S. agent Steve Trevor to "get the band back together" under the offer of being allowed ten unsupervised minutes in The Black Room, a top-secret storage facility for various DCU mystical artifacts. He's assigned the mysterious woman known as Black Orchid to keep tabs on him for A.R.G.U.S. and there's even an explanation for why this team is called "Justice League Dark," a name that Constantine (echoing many fans in the process) remarks is "the stupidest" he's ever heard.
Wisely, artist Mikel Janin was kept on the series and he produces another solid effort here. Janin, together with colorist Ulises Arreola, breathes considerable life into the story, from Felix Faust's decayed face with glowing blue eyes to considerable detail like the large theater banner advertising Zatanna's performances. He seems to enjoy Constantine's smirking facial expressions and the textured plant vein design of Black Orchid's new costume.
All in all, this issue was a very promising relaunch of Justice League Dark and one that already sets up a number of potential story ideas to be developed down the road. If you gave up on this book a few months ago, I definitely recommend giving it another shot. Lemire proved that he has just the right take on VERTIGO characters like Animal Man that were brought back to the DC Universe, so I won't be surprised if he does just as well here.