Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes
(a) Mikel Janin
In this modern era of fascination with all things magical and mystical from our entertainment outlets, it takes a lot of courage to challenge the status quo of how people perceive “the supernatural”, as a media concept. Just look at the popularity of True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Once Upon A Time, Grimm, or any other number of supernatural shows (including Supernatural) that all seem to have a concept of magic based around a shared aesthetic: magic is chaotic, everywhere, and cannot be contained, hence how and why people can utilize it for their own means. While all of these shows have different storytelling methods and dramatization processes, they all stick within a fairly narrow definition of “supernatural”.
Jeff Lemire is taking a different approach with Justice League Dark, specifically this “The Death of Magic” arc that was prefaced by the discovery that the ancient and mythical Books of Magic were actually highly advanced technological machines seemingly capable of imitating what humanity knows as magic or mysticism. One of the most common shared elements of magic-based fiction is that magic is ever-present. Lemire has penned an arc that challenges this standard by flipping it on it’s head.
At the end of Justice League Dark Annual #1, Timothy Hunter opened the Books of Magic before he and Zatanna were teleported, by the books themselves, to a new and unknown world. This month, Lemire reveals that in this new world, anything remotely connected to magic is hunted down and exterminated with extreme prejudice. Zatanna also discovers her backwards magic is super-charged in this new place, and uses her heightened ability to fend off an assassin gunning for the two individuals who just used teleportation illegally.
The only problem I had with this issue was Amethyst. Constantine uses a crystal he stole to summon Amy from GemWorld in order to help stop Nick Necro, then in JLD #14, she’s seen exploring the House of Mystery with Black Orchid and Frankenstein, then in this issue, she’s just gone. Granted, she does mention something about Constantine giving her the port crystal once everything had settled down, there just isn’t a scene or even an off-handed comment about Amy’s departure. It feels like that detail just slipped through the cracks, which wouldn’t be a big deal except Amethyst didn’t really need to be there in the first place, so bringing her in then dropping her from the book without even a modicum of explanation is kind of frustrating.
Justice League Dark #15 does an excellent job of setting up “The Death of Magic”. Lemire is playing around with the idea of magic in the DC universe, something that’s only ever been lightly done, due to the ingrained nature of continuity-based comic book mythology. As long as I can remember, magic has always been regarded as a more ‘powerful’ or ‘enigmatic’ force than science in comic books. With the ‘New 52’, all bets are off, so making magic and science more equivalent doesn’t seem like such a far-fetched idea.