The sky is still blue. The clouds come and go. Yet something is different. It is October, 2014, and J.M. DeMatteis is joined by guest artists Tom Derenick and Scott Hanna to lead you on a voyage through space and time for DC Comics.

To QUOTE Lewis Carroll: “Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas -- only I don't exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that's clear, at any rate”.

I bet you thought that now we're past September's Futures End possible-future-fest, we're finally done with time travel and non-sequential storytelling, didn't you?


That's right, the Justice League Dark, last seen tidying up Nanda Parbat and riding off into the sunset, have apparently gone and gotten themselves thrown into a whirling hole in space and time. Of course, we haven't been told that story yet, but it'll be out in the world by the time you read this. But, y'know, that pesky K'am'deva curse has its way of causing chaos, so one thing leads to another and -- BOOM -- we're back in the Land Before Time.

No. I don't mean “BOOM” in a Godhead or World's End kind of way. No sir-re-Bob! This is apparently a completely unrelated whirling hole in space and time.

And when I say the Justice League Dark, I of course mean Zatanna Zatara.

It's hard to say why this book is such a good read without spoiling it. Let's just say we get to learn a whole lot about Zatanna and get some glimpses in to her early childhood. We're sort of entering this new story arc at a pause, but there's mysteries left and hints of events to be exposed in the JLD Annual and next month's issue. And frankly, they're kind of exciting hints and mysteries. DeMatteis has laid out an issue that stands on its own as an interval yet really gets you excited (and guessing) about what's coming next.

Or what 'already happened', depending on how you look at it.

The guest art team is a fun treat. Any of DC's magic titles must be a good chance for most artists to get their trippie hippie swirl on, but this issue looks like a particularly fantastical journey for the artists. It's like getting a full-size candy bar of art while we're out trick-or-treating. It's a somewhat peculiar style, and maybe it's not your favorite, but it's a nice change for an issue.

Plus I think their illustration of Giovanni Zatara resembles Ioan Gruffudd, so now whenever I read Zatara's speech bubbles they're in Henry Morgan's voice. Usually I don't like it when an artist associates a specific actor's voice with a character (intentionally or otherwise) in my head, but for some reason this one just works.

Bad? Well, that all depends on whether you're cool with being dropped in the middle of a story all out of order. If you enjoy “whiffling through the tulgey wood”, then this issue doesn't have much wrong with it.

Derenick and Hanna get a little lazy on the mid-shot drawings, but no worse than most artists do these days. On the story side, as I mentioned, it's not so much a story as a break from a story we haven't started yet, but it's a story all the same. If anything, I suppose it's a bit predictable. And I'm not so sure I like knowing exactly how old Zatanna is, but that's pretty minor.

Otherwise, enjoy the ride. This is the Justice League Dark, after all. You're not supposed to always know what's going on.

I promise not to make every Justice League Dark music selection psychedelic, but the general lost-in-Wonderland style of this issue -- emphasized by Zatanna's favorite books as a five year old -- just got me in a “Width of a Circle” kind of vibe. Plus, doesn't every kid who loves Lewis Carrol and L Frank Baum grow up to love Kahlil Gibran as well?

(Don't read too much in to popular Judeochristian interpretations of the lyrics -- Just enjoy the tune while you read...)

It might be a bit of a cheat to compare any magic comic to a funhouse mirror, but this issue of Justice League Dark in particular gives us a whole lot of distorted perceptions of what is going on. So, there you go.

Mostly, this issue made me really want to read the next issue as soon as possible. After reading the Annual, which didn't come out for another seven days, of course. And it gives us lots of good questions, some of which are answered in the Annual, some of which are not.
  1. Where and when is “Elsewhen”?
  2. Where are the other four members of our merry band? Perhaps Constantine is off fighting the Cold Flame and getting flung to Earth 2 by way of 1914 Tanzania. And Madame Xanadu is likely still walking this Earth alone, as is her preference. But Black Orchid and Deadman are still presumably . . . somewhen. Boston was at least with them in Nanda Parbat, but we haven't seen Alba since she was busted out of the Thaumaton, have we?
  3. What is the House of Wonders? Is it similar to the House of Mystery and the late House of Secrets? Or just a tourist attraction in Zanzibar? (Why has nobody written 'Zatanna Zatara in Zanzibar' yet?!)
  4. Where is Zatanna really? Or when?

Did this issue create any other mysteries that you want to see answered?

Oh, and a side note for those of you concerned about the apparent retconning of Deadman's New 52 origins back in JLD 33 and 34; Secret Origins issue 6 is out and actually fits Brahma Dass in continuity with Rama and the events of Deadman's post-Flashpoint afterlife activities. (Pretty slick work, DeMatteis. Very slick, my friend.) Go check it out. There are some bonus Wonder Woman (by Azzarello) and Sinestro (by Bunn) origins to boot!

*** Just reading and writing and rambling in the back of the Joker's old Ho-Home-On-Wheels... Keath.