We take a step forward. We take a step back. We take a step forward. And we're stuck at the end of the universe. So we take J.M. DeMatteis and we shake him all about. DC Comics even got Andres Guinaldo back to draw the Hokey while Walden Wong inked the Pokey. And THAT, my friends, is what November, 2014 is all about.

To QUOTE Andres Guinaldo: “This issue is my best work in this series I think. Great script @JMDeMatteis”.

Andres has a pretty good point. It's some damn fine work. Mostly. But we'll come back to that later. What about that story, eh? Holy Greek mythology, Batman! That's one way to modernize the tragedy of Eos and Tithonus.

Right off the bat we get the answer to last month's cliffhanger; where and when is “elsewhen”? Earth, or what's left of it, billions of years in the future. And while Nightmare Nurse's “magical probe” can determine this information, the probe doesn't realize that they're not alone. Not by a long shot.

Maybe, when probing magically, as one does, you need to specifically probe for insane immortal magical two-assed centi-slugs composed of a “most delicious magic”.  Because those things certainly don't come up in a standard WTF tricorder spell, now do they?

And remember, our fine Justice League Dark members -- Asa, Swamp Thing, Andrew Bennett, and Frankenstein -- are not superheroes, so they don't fall sucker to that whole “must punch everything” approach. Well, not for long, anyway. Because this team, my friends, will reason with the insane immortal magical two-assed centi-slug composed of a most delicious magic. But from this point forth, we'll just call him Felix Faust for short.

Well, Andres Guinaldo is back. And that's mostly an awesome thing. With one exception I love his take on the characters of JLD, and the detail of expressions on their faces is something I sorely missed last month during his break. While his rendering of a desolate end-of-not-time Earth is beautifully stark and barren, it's the characters that populate this sliver of rock that make this issue magnificent.

And let me tell you, if you think an insane immortal magical two-assed centi-slug composed of a most delicious magic sounds disgusting, just wait until you get a peek at Guinaldo's illustrations of ol' Felix.

Did I mention that he has a Sarlacc-esque slit in his slug-chest that ingests people? And elastic tenti-nipples to suspend him from cave walls, presumably so his centi-legs don't get tired? Man, I love a good, sexy pin-up pose. Can I get this guy as a poster?

Oh, right, there's a story, too! DeMatteis is awesome, as always, and after giving us, the readers, a rather hasty explanation of where and when we are, he goes on to write the best Felix Faust tale of the New 52. For a guy named after a classic tragic character of legend often meant to represent all of mankind, the New 52 has thus far really painted Faust as a straight up villain. Faust has always pretty much missed the moral point of his namesake and walked away with his “deal with the devil? Brilliant! Sign me up!” attitude.  

So it's nice to see DeMatteis intertwining the German tragedy of Faust with the Greek myth of Tithonus to bring us a moment of humanity -- in the least human of forms -- in Felix Faust. Which, in turn, is beautiful in the way it echoes Bennett's own desire to be freed from his eternal curse, triggering a pep talk about humanity from the least human among them.

Beyond that, we're still floating around in the great mystery about how the K'am'deva curse flung the team around the extremes of time. But we do get a little reveal, confirming that Zatanna is indeed at the beginning of time, and aware -- at some level -- of what happened to the others. We know that this group is at the end of time, or rather, 'not-time'. And finally, we learn that Deadman, Madame Xanadu, and Black Orchid are . . . no. I have said too much. You buy. You read. You like.

Frankly, not much is bad about this book. I did mention that Guinaldo's return was “mostly” a good thing, so I'll call him out on a couple of items. Asa's eye-shadow is occasionally a bit overwhelming, though that may have been Wong's inking or Sotomayor's colors. And Andrew Bennett, who I think popped up in this arc for the first time since Guinaldo took over the art duties, is going to take some getting used to.

Gone is his white hair stripe (although, that again may be Wong or Sotomayor), leaving Jason Blood alone in the New 52 with that pimpin' style. But more unsettling is his sudden resemblance to a vaguely Neanderthalic Bob Geldof with heavy eye-shadow. While most of the issue is beautifully rendered at all focal lengths, AndyBob gets really 'vague faced' really quickly. I get the feeling that Guinaldo hasn't quite settled on what exactly he wants Bennett to look like quite yet.

Storywise, aside from the sort of half-assed explanation of “magic probing” at the beginning, it was very nicely done. I'm a little disappointed we didn't get a hat tip to Neil Gaiman's Books of Magic with an appearance by Death towards the end, but, well, there's still time for that I suppose.

The moment I finished reading this book I found myself wandering around singing Styx's “Come Sail Away”. Or more specifically, Eric Cartman's version from South Park. But we'll keep things classy here and stick to the hairy men in shirtless tuxedos. (You're welcome, ladies.) The song doesn't make any specific mention of swarms of Faust-slug-beetles (did I mention the swarms of Faust-slug-beetles?) but does make a nice reference to looking back on life's memories and what you've missed. But then the angels, or Frankenstein if you will, sing a song of hope. Or some such.

Yes, Adan used a variant of this when reviewing Red Hood #36, but I'm going to stick to the comparison to the classic legend of Faust and his deal with the devil for this one. In this tale we see a Felix Faust who has pursued the deal to the ultimate absurdist conclusion. We don't know yet if our New 52 Felix Faust was trapped for millennia by Nommo and released by Drache in modern day (as his pre-Flashpoint story goes). Or if his modern story starts more recently. Tithonus' unrequested “gift” of immortality without eternal youth from Zeus and Eos certainly seems like an appropriate final comeuppance for a man willing to sell his soul a thousand times over for greater mystical power. 

See what reading books'll get ya, kid?

Overall, a great issue and a welcome return of a great art team. I'm assuming that the gang at the end-of-not-time will soon run in to some reference to Ganymede. And perhaps latch on to Zatanna's mystic searches from the other end of time. Perhaps they'll catch a swift chronal space breeze and come across the splintered ectoplasm of Xanadu. Or perhaps they'll just all cease to be and some new (or old) epic being will re-manifest them in a whole new story?

In the meantime, though, we turn our attention next month to the third group of Dark Justice Leaguers strewn through time. Which, of course, leaves a fella named John Constantine somewhat unaccounted for.

Wherever could he be?
  • Tanzania, 1914?
  • Battling Nabu in 2019?
  • Practicing his dance of Eros?
  • Baiting a trap to resemble the Lost Book of Tithonus so as to turn Faust in to an insane immortal magical two-assed centi-slug composed of a most delicious magic?
  • Shopping for a better quality hair bleach?
  • Serving as cupbearer to the gods on Mount Olympus?
  • Running around Nanda Parbat, trying to trap all his little homunculus selves to battle the swarms of Faust-slug-beetles across all of time and space?
  • Having a smoke, luv?

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