Justice League Dark: Into The Dark by Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin – A Book Review

Justice League Dark has a fantastic premise.  I have to admit, when I heard about this book, I became giddy.  I’ve always loved DC’s magical characters, especially those with a bit of an edge.  And while I love their depictions at Vertigo, a part of me rejoiced that they were rejoining DC proper.  Furthermore, by putting “Justice League” in the title, these characters would enjoy a certain level of celebrity, allowing new readers to discover their charisma.  Interestingly enough, the team is comprised of three characters I hold very dear (Deadman, Zatanna, and Constantine) and three characters for whom I’m not all that invested (Shade, Enchantress, Madame Xanadu).  Finally, there’s a character I’ve never heard of (Mindwarp) which frankly surprised me because I’ve been reading DC off and on for the last several decades.

So as you can gather, I was fairly biased before I even opened the first volume of Justice League Dark.  I wanted to like it.  And, honestly, I did like it.

But it’s not perfect.

The premise is a bit clichéd.  The world is at risk, and only by these seven joining forces can this destruction be averted.  Of course, the Enchantress is already destroying much of the earth, and so the future cataclysm seems a little unimportant.  And as entire cities are dying, only the seven members of Justice League Dark seem to be doing anything.  This is where the book lost me.  After brief appearances by Superman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg, the rest of the world’s heroes are nowhere to be found.  I thought Milligan overreached with the wholesale destruction of cities.  Toddlers are killing caregivers, brunettes are killing blondes, nuclear power plants have decided to quit – it all became a bit much to the point of almost being silly.  I think if Milligan had kept it tighter and more focused, perhaps concentrating upon only one locale, it would have been an easier plot to accept.  And while I won’t spoil anything, the end of the book fell into the horrible trap of offering one last jolt, one last horrific challenge that seems to pop up out of nowhere and disappear nearly as quickly.  It reminded me of some really bad horror movies in that regard, and I didn’t want the book to end on such a sour note.

However, the characters alone are enough to keep me around, and they do make an interesting mix.  Would I have liked their “origin” story to have been a little more original and unique?  Yes, but it was a serviceable first volume, and while I didn’t love it, I also didn’t hate it.

The real star of the book is artist Mikel Janin.  Janin’s pencils and inks are absolutely beautiful.  He makes these characters look both regal and terrifying, and he blends the super hero genre with horror expertly.  He’s one of the few artists out there who actually knows how to draw realistic regular clothing, but he also excels at the traditional “costume.”  I see that Janin is still on Justice League Dark as of this writing, which is definitely a reason for me to keep keeping it.  In the hands of a different artist, Justice League Dark may not have been as enjoyable an experience.

If you’re into the darker side of the DC Universe and still enjoy a spot of super heroics, Justice League Dark may be the book for you.  Thought the story wasn’t initially superb, I see a lot of potential with these characters in particular and look forward to seeing what’s in store for them, especially as rendered by Mikel Janin.

The Bronx Kill by Peter Milligan – A Book Review

The Bronx Kill is a graphic novel released through Vertigo’s crime imprint.  In case you’re not aware, Vertigo is a division of DC Comics, aimed at mature readers and offering mature content.  Not pornographic, mind you, just a little bit more adult-themed.  Think of DC as network television, and Vertigo as HBO.

Peter Milligan delivers a story about a young writer who opted to ignore the family’s history of going into law enforcement.  He takes his young wife to visit The Bronx Kill, a space of forlorn land where terrible things have happened to his family in particular.  She is fascinated by it, especially given his father’s past.  The writer soon leaves the country in order to research his newest novel, but when he returns, his wife—and his life—are irrevocably changed … and it has everything to do with The Bronx Kill.

I have to admit that much of Milligan’s story was predictable and well-tread.  However, he put enough suspense into it to make it an enjoyable read, and once through the first third of the book, I couldn’t put it down—despite its familiar ingredients.  Milligan did one thing, however, that really set The Bronx Kill apart.  He inserted excerpts from his main character’s latest novel, and it isn’t long before the passages begin to parallel the main storyline.  I thought this was a nice touch that really made the book feel special.  It definitely augmented the book’s quality in my mind.

James Romberger provided the art for The Bronx Kill, and he does a serviceable job.  To me, his work didn’t really stand out as especially captivating.  And while he successfully conveyed the mood, the story’s progression, and the action, his pictures just didn’t seem to totally fit with Milligan’s themes.

Overall, The Bronx Kill is a fast, enjoyable read with some moments of real originality.  If you’re a fan of crime noir and sequential art, I’d give it a try.