J. M. DeMatteis, Mikel Janin and team forge ahead into the darkness with this "Forever Evil" tie-in. On its surface, "Justice League Dark #25" is a visually stunning book. I thought Janin, colorist Jeramy Cox and inkers Vicente Cifuentes and Guillermo Ortega captivated me with the action in every panel. The cover oozes chloroplast. Swamp Thing looms. I picked up this issue for his appearance, and his cameo didn't disappoint me. He's angry and for good reason. The Nightmare Nurse brought him into Constantine's mission to find Zatanna and the rest of Justice League Dark against his will. The nasty, muck-monster of a beast in the opening pages was her best effort to spawn a carbon-copy of the Green Avatar. With gross effect, Janin illustrated the fruit of her labor. Literally. The sight of Swamp Thing "sshhripp-ing" from the womb of this "woman-thing" as a newborn babe and of his rapid growth through the stages of development into a towering tree of green rage was awesome.
After settling that misunderstanding (the Nurse could have just asked him for help), the pair elicited Swamp Thing's help. Their fight was against the massive build up of dark energy that escalated from the moment that Pandora's Box was opened and to the eventual entrance of the Crime Syndicate into their dimension. The shadowy homunculus readers saw in issue #24, now a fully-realized sentience, was more than a negative force of evil. It was a collection of the sin and darkness of every living soul on the planet. And the darkness was spreading. DeMatteis crafts a thought-provoking narrative on the duality of good and evil; light and dark; and the genetic disposition all of us have toward sin. The humorous dialogue between Constantine and the Nightmare Nurse revealed a bad chemistry with good effect. I personally could have done without the muted, sexual innuendos, but it's J. M. DeMatteis. He knows the voices of these characters very well and does them justice.
"Stories are dangerous, and that isn't a bad thing," wrote N. D. Wilson in an online article written for Ligonier Ministries' Tabletalk Magazine entitled "Catechisms for the Imagination." In it he states, "Stories are potent, but that potency can be used for true and good and beautiful ends, or it can be used to attack and destroy and undermine truth and goodness and beauty" (Wilson, 2013). "Justice League Dark" is a "dark" series. No surprise there. Black magic. Rune magic. Demons. The supernatural. It's all there and more. However, how can darkness destroy an even greater darkness? In truth, it's incompatible. Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospel of Matthew posited, "If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself" (Matthew 12: 26). In DeMatteis' attempt to deconstruct the nature of humankind's duality using a kind of "backdoor" theology of redemption, he's covering the black mark of sin with a Sharpie. In my opinion, DeMatteis missed an opportunity to address the human condition and the destructive power of sin on all of us; thus exposing our need for redemption. John Constantine is no redeemer. He himself would define his propensity toward darkness as "irredeemable." Only a hero who is unaffected by the disease of sin can rise against the tide of darkness.
"Justice League Dark #25" was fun and entertaining. Swamp Thing showed up. And just like the philosophy teacher at the Catholic high school I attended, DeMatteis challenged me to think. Good writers welcome readers to question what they read, to bring their beliefs to the table and to decide for themselves whether to subscribe or not to the narrative's meta-message. Know what you believe about the world, then pick up this book if horror comics are your speed.
Wilson, N. D. "Catechisms for the Imagination." Tabletalk Magazine. from Ligonier Ministries and R. C. Sproul. www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. November 1, 2013. Retrieved Nov. 27, 2013 from http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/catechisms-imagination/
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