Taking Man-Bat as its crypt keeping story meister of the hour, issue #7 of Justice League Dark’s whole narrative structure – including the breaking of the fourth-wall to directly address the reader (or, that’s the perspective we’re given at the issue’s opening) – is a very knowing nod to the EC traditions of yesteryear.
Before the skewed unscientific findings of one Fredric Wertham, when horror comic were de rigueur, EC Comics followed a tried and tested formula in their output of creepy comics, with each issue of their anthology titles being presented by some creepy ghoul or another. Titles like Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror were very popular comics, and this framing device has been used many a time since, in both comics, TV and films; whenever these classics were adapted. And, as a result, we have all grown up with our own renditions of the Crypt Keeper et al. and so cannot fail to recognise the homage here and in a more superhero flavoured supernatural series.
It’s a fun and effective device, but one used to tie together four plot lines that are all connected to the bigger story going on: the threat to magic on Earth thanks to DC’s current crisis-level; the destruction of the Source Wall and everything it has released into the known universe.
Alvaro Martinez Bueno and inker Raul Fernandez illustrate James Tynion IV’s script with gusto; giving us a very emotive Man-Bat enveloped in just the right amount of darkness and shadow to sustain the appropriate tone throughout this issue. Of course, it would never have come through so successfully without the support of colourist Brad Anderson, who knows how to darken a scene as well as when to turn on the lights. It may be a superhero team book, but one of a very different stripe to the main Justice League book. Just as Justice League Odyssey does a great job being a sci-fi heavy saga.
An added bonus, well for me anyway, is the return of the blood-sucking do-gooder that is Andrew Bennet (I, Vampire), met with some relieving humour by Detective Chimp and Swamp Thing. And, when there aren’t the odd quips from Detective Chimp, Tynion’s good use of the language of horror only complements the art and underscores the book’s credentials as DC’s premier supernaturally soaked book. I even thought one scene reminded me of the reveal in the cult classic Society (1989), with Bennet reacting very differently to Bill Whitney (Played by Billy Warlock) in the original. A revelation to be dealt with at another juncture, no doubt.
It would seem that Tynion IV is as much as fan of schlock horror as he is of the classics, with an ice-captured nuclear submarine named USS Miskatonic being the focus of the third story, featuring Frankenstein’s monster and the Creature Commandos, working under the S.H.A.D.E. organisation, alongside Wonder Woman.
But, with a few more startling revelations still to come in this issue, this is one heck of an comic. It paints a larger canvas of the horrors at work across the globe, as well as a reminder of the great mystically-charged characters at DC’s disposal. Characters that are once again getting their time to shine.
With a great, chunky done-in-one issue that also paves the way for future storylines and future threats, DC’s universe just got weirder again.
Justice League Dark #7 is available now from DC Comics.