"Justice League Dark" #9 gets a new writer in Jeff Lemire joining up with series regular artist Mikel Janin. With a new writer comes a slightly revised vision for the book, a new mission, and a modified team of heroes. So far, the changes are a definite step in the right direction.
Lemire does a clever job of shaking up the team, allowing Peter Milligan's story to stand untouched, while still going off in a new direction. Madame Xanadu was arguably the original leader -- pulling together this team that didn't want to be a team -- but there was weakness in her motivations. She always spoke in cryptic prophecy and visions and as a result the center never felt like it would hold. Putting John Constantine at the center of this revised team works well, if only because he seems the least likely to be interested in a team dynamic. Initially, as we jump directly into an action scene, it seems like Lemire has botched this reimagining, but we quickly flashback to reveal how all of this has come together, and it knits together very nicely.
Lemire has a good feel for both the voices and dynamic. I can't tell how accurate Constantine is, he seems a bit too affable here from other versions I've read, but I'm no Constantine expert. He does work well as both reluctant hero and an even more reluctant leader and he's certainly got both the power and charisma to lead this team of individuals in a way that Xanadu didn't seem to in the previous arc. Lemire makes excellent use of new member Black Orchid and her power set is a nice change of pace for what most of the others are bringing to the table. All in all these are good changes and at the end of this issue the team is set up for a great adventure and a similarly great arc.
Janin's art continues to be very strong in almost all ways, though he still is a bit weak with his female faces looking the same. However, with Black Orchid subbing in for Xanadu it's less of an issue, as Orchid looks less similar to Zatanna -- at least while in costume. Janin's action is solid and he doesn't shy away from good character. Some of the fussier panel layouts don't serve the story as well as they should, but the details on the whole are incredibly vivid and well thought out. There's a prettiness to his style that's enjoyable but doesn't feel fussy and it's only enhanced by Ulises Arreola's very painterly colors. Janin's really developed a great feel for these characters over the last year and it's clear he's fond of them in the detail he takes with these pages.
"Justice League Dark," from the beginning, has been one of the new DCU books I was most excited for and most wanted to like, but it never quite hung together right. It's good to see that DC realized they had a great concept and great characters and made a few tweaks rather than canceling the title outright or doing a complete overhaul. So far just changing out the writer has given the book a new look and feel, and a direction I'm excited to see play out.