The M Now Stands for Meta, but the Changing Man's Still Mad!
The Enchantress has gone mad (as she's want to do) and poor June Moone's life's been turned inside out as a result (as tends to happen). Madame Xandu summons Shade the Changing Man to bring together a team of the DCU's most powerful but problematic supernatural experts to bring down the insane sorceress before she turns the world (further) inside out.
I've been waiting for this book ever since it was announced and I can't say enough how pleased I am with it!!!
Ryan Sook's cover looks amazing and the slight warping of everything on it perfectly reflects the atmosphere and content of this issue. If this book ever needs a fill in artists I say keep it in house and let him handle that!
I'd never heard of Mikel Janin until this book, and I must say I'm highly impressed with what he brought to the table here. he has a very clean style that (can't belive I'm saying this) reminds of all the good things about Greg Land's pencils. His characters have a very photo real nature to them, but sans the distracting tracing. He does a great job of rendering all the characters and action and his art, while very pretty, can convey the proper creepiness and touch of the macabre a book like this demands. The final page of the issue perfectly shows off his range and ability to convey the darkness of this title. And the coloring by Ulises Arreola perfectly compliments his pencils.
Milligan's quickly become one of my favorite writers as of late and the more I delve into his past works the more I believe he's second only to Alan Moore in terms of consistent craftsmanship and pushing the boundaries of the medium. I couldn't be happier that a founding vertigo writer like him is handling this book. He's well versed in many of these characters and with him being the current writer of Hellblazer and former writer of Shade the Changing Man it's only fitting that he's the writer on this title.
Having Madame Xanadu narrate the issue was a wise move and establishes a very poetic, Vertigo tone to this book straight out the gate. And I love the opening shot of the characters on the various tarot cards. I know a certain reviewer is sure to have a ball analyzing this scene. Milligan write's a great Madame Xanadu and she's certainly right in step with her last appearance in her last issue of her (sadly) cancelled monthly.
Xanadu's description of the various odd goings on in the world immediately reminded of the opening sequence from Xombi #1 (a title you should go out and read ASAP!!!) and anytime a book reminds me of that it's a very good thing. This book definitely has that trademark morbid sense of humor that makes Milligan's Hellblazer such a joy to read.
The scene with Shade and Kathy really made me happy. I'm glad to see that Shade's still Shade and the reveal on his and Kathy's relationship should be a favorite scene for those who are familiar with Rac. Scenes like this assure me that Milligan wrote this with established fans in mind and will play to his strengths as a writer and examine the psychological aspects of characters.
At first I didn't like the scene with the League facing off against the Enchantress, but the more I examined it the more I liked it. First of all Janin's art looks great and he draws an excellent Diana and even manages to make Supes new threads look less silly (toning down the knee pads was a good move). These pages do a great job of establishing exactly why this "team" is necessary and as a longtime DC reader it was nice to see Supes is still vulnerable to magic. And something as odd as Superman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg being overwhelmed by a maelstrom of weaponized witch teeth is what I came to this book for. I was really impressed with Janin's art in these panels. I think the highlight for me was the way he drew Superman's speed with the motion effects on his punch.
The scene with Zatanna and Batman was great, I love character interaction like this. There's a great blend of humor and gravitas here. And it's nice to see that the chemistry these two characters shared is still present. This Zatanna's a bit more morose than I recall her being but I feel like there's a reason for that that'll be revealed as the book progresses. Batman's words to her as she left really has me intrigued as to what's behind her current attitude.
Though brief I enjoyed Constantine's appearance in this issue.
I really liked the interaction between Shade and Xanadu in this issue. I can't wait to see all these characters play off of one another! Especially considering the shared and antagonistic history many of them share.
This book is definitely setting it self up as a slow burn title. There's not a lot of action here and this is definitely dialogue and character driven storytelling. If you're a new reader expecting this book to be a "Extreme!!!", "edgier" Justice League then you're barking up the wrong tree.
This books written with the assumption that you either know these characters already or are willing to wait to get to know them. This won't be a problem for readers like myself but I can see how this'd be a bit jarring for truly new readers. I mean Deadman doesn't even speak when he appears in this issue and Constantine has a one page monologue and about three speech bubbles.
The whole Superman talking about smelling Cyborg's oil thing was, ummm, weird and sort of took me out of the story based upon the awkwardness and silliness of the line.
Something about the way Janin draws Dove weirds me out (and not in a good way) she exemplifies a problem I saw with many of his background characters. They seem stiff and lifeless. Seriously Dove's face looks expressionless and her eyes as soulless as Emily Browning's in Sucker Punch. He draws June Moone in a similar way but form a narrative standpoint that makes perfect sense.
Books like this are exactly what I was hoping to get out of this DCU relaunch! This book is in good hands with Peter Milligan at the helm and Janin's artwork looks quite nice and fits the book like a glove. Milligan has quite a unique and interesting cast of characters to play with in this book and I have no doubt that given a wide open room he will craft some very excellent stories. This book may not be paced in a manner many usual superhero readers are used to but for Vertigo vets like me this will be like coming home to an old friend. Milligan does a nice job of establishing a threat, introducing the main characters, and providing a reason for these main characters to come together to face said threat. In my book that's exactly what a first issue should do. Though most of the cast wasn't delved into in depth I'm willing to wait and see who they are (and will become) as the story progress. That being said, JLD is definitely a buy!