Review: Justice League Dark #4

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A long, long time ago, the witch-goddess Hecate took her power and broke it into five pieces, hiding each piece in a different woman, moving the power to different hosts as each woman lived and died. Today, that power lived on in Rebecca Carstairs (also known as Witchfire), Manitou Dawn, Diana of Themyscira (also known as Wonder Woman) and two others. Hecate has returned to claim that power, and in doing so has awakened the witch-mark on Diana’s forehead, claiming the Amazing Amazon as one of her own. To combat Hecate’s might, and to stop her from wiping out all magic and replacing it with something else, Diana and the Justice League Dark – Zatanna Zatara, John Constantine, Kirk Langstrom (the Man-Bat), Swamp Thing, and Detective Chimp (also called Bobo) - have joined forces with the witch Circe. Circe helped Diana gain some semblance of control over the power bestowed upon her by Hecate, though no one truly believes that Diana will be able to wield the power against the ancient goddess. The Justice League Dark, joined by Deadman, have arrived at Nanda Parbat, where Manitou Dawn is wreaking havoc, trying to destroy one of the hearts of magic on Earth.

As the Justice League Dark arrive on the scene, the monks of Nanda Parbat – dead men, all of them – try to hold Manitou Dawn down, to stop her from destroying six millennia of construction, but Hecate proves too strong for them. Rama Kushna, guardian of the boundary of life and death, whose seat of power is Nanda Parbat, tries to reason with Hecate but is attacked by Hecate instead. Luckily for her, Wonder Woman arrives in time to deflect Hecate’s attack. As she starts to face off against the goddess, Zatanna instructs the rest of the team to evacuate the city. Deadman reasons with Rama Kushna to leave, and she eventually agrees, hiding herself in all of the monks who had just died only moments ago.

Knowing that the city is going to fall apart – Rama Kushna was responsible for a lot of the city’s structural integrity – Swamp Thing goes underground, using the Green to give the city some solidity and structure. Detective Chimp – with help from Diana – uses the Sword of Night to open a portal into Myrra, allowing the others to escape from Hecate’s destruction. Sensing this, Hecate sends Manitou Dawn after the retreating Rama Kushna, while awakening another one of her Witchmarked to distract Swamp Thing. In another part of the world, the Parliament of Trees comes under attack as the Black Orchid’s witch-mark is activated.

Diana tries to fight against Hecate for what she has done – and what she is about to do – but the power within her belongs to Hecate, and even if Circe has allowed her some measure of control over it, it’s not truly her own power. Thusly, Hecate overpowers Diana and forces her to obey. Her next command? To destroy Zatanna and Constantine, a command that Diana accepts.

Review
When this crossover was first announced – tying the Wonder Woman ongoing into the Justice League Dark ongoing – a lot of fans had felt that it was too early for a crossover between the two books, especially as Justice League Dark had just launched, but James Tynion IV easily proves his detractors wrong as the Witching Hour continues with its third installment in this issue. While this issue is less expository than the last two installments of the story have been, the action more than makes up for it as everything starts to kick into high gear and a couple of mid-story plot-twists make things a lot more difficult for the Justice League Dark as the team starts to splinter due to Hecate’s machinations.
Hecate is a tough, formidable villain, working on the sort of playing field that few of Diana’s enemies have played on before, despite the fact that she’s had a lot of powerful enemies in her rogues gallery. She has the power to be in many places at once, and so while Diana and the Justice League Dark could have maybe been enough to take her down with a coordinated effort, when they’re distracted by Hecate’s Witchmarked attacking the different hearts of magic, they’re a lot less capable, and Hecate knows it. Her pitting Black Orchid against Swamp Thing is a wildly intelligent thing to do, especially because it not only pits Green against Green, but it also pits Swamp Thing against a champion of the Red, which gives her a huge unfair advantage against Swamp Thing, especially with Hecate’s power boost. It will be interesting to see how that clash plays out, and what will become of Swamp Thing if the Parliament of Trees indeed burns down.

Tynion’s script is brilliant, his character interplay very well done. He knows these characters in and out, and despite the fact that it’s filled with so many different characters, he’s able to give them each their own distinctive voice, and he’s able to give them each a moment to shine. Moments like Man-Bat asking Zatanna not to die and Deadman telling Zatanna that he hopes she knows what he’s doing, and then following it up by telling her that it’s clear she doesn’t help infuse the book with heart and humor. The scene where Diana protects Rama Kushna by using the Earth to do her classic crossed arms pose is pitch perfect and a beautiful use of her powers. It’s a quick-paced, energetic book that has a lot going on, but goes by very quickly – and that’s not a bad thing at all.
Alvaro Martinez Bueno – absolutely a rising star in comics – shows some incredibly strong storytelling here. While he’s proven how good he is at allowing his characters to be expressive, and how good he is at giving all of his characters different body types so that you can make them out even in silhouette form, here he also does some amazing things with showing the destruction of Nanda Parbat. There’s a lot happening on the pages here but he manages to put in a lot of detail. The splash page that’s filled with flowers – an unusual piece of work to put into a comic as action-heavy as this, but welcome nonetheless – is a stunning piece of work, lush and vibrant, oddly calming even as the book hurtles towards more destruction, because Hecate is absolutely hell-bent on destroying everything. Hecate herself is truly a formidable figure, towering over everyone, glowing with a dark light, creepy, but awesome in power. Brad Anderson’s colors are a standout here as well, as are Raul Fernandez’s inks, suffusing the book with a lot of mood, shadow, and brightness. The glowing yellow warmth of Rama Kushna works in a great contrast to the angry red of Hecate’s power, and the blue that infuses the landscape as Detective Chimp uses the Sword of Night to open a portal into Myrra works perfectly against the other two colors. The palette used when the Parliament of Trees is shown is so beautiful and alive. This is absolutely a book that is firing on all cylinders between writer and art team, and it shows.

Final Thoughts
An absolute spectacle of smart storytelling and gorgeous art, this book is a must-buy for fans of both Wonder Woman and the mystical corner of the DC Comics Universe.
 
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