Jeff Lemire and Mikel Janin deliver another clever and beautiful installment of "Justice League Dark" with issue #11. With the charming but terrible John Constantine at the forefront, "Justice League Dark" turned into a truly interesting book, one that I've come to enjoy in part because I can't predict it.
Jeff Lemire's story is just smart, something I wish I could say about more comics. "Justice League Dark" #11 is filled with double crosses and betrayals. The first one is almost expected, but neither the second nor the third. There is a layering to Lemire's storytelling absent in so many books I read. Not only does he know how to surprise you in the middle of the story, but you can feel him laying the groundwork for bigger and more complicated things. These are characters headed for a lot of tough choices and dark days. It's evident on the page, and yet he never lets it become so grim and gritty and without humor that you stop enjoying it.
The sole complaint I have for "Justice League Dark" -- and this can't fall on Lemire since he's only been on for a few issues -- is that I'm still not really connecting with any of the characters. I'm interested in all of them, and I'm delighted to be free of any treacly exposition laden back stories, but I do want to feel a bit more about who they are in how they interact with one another. We're seeing hints of it in this issue in how Zatanna and Deadman interact, as well as Constantine's developing as a semi-terrible, semi-brilliant team leader, but seeing more would be great in anchoring this book as a must read. It's not enough to just tell smart pretty stories, I need to care too -- and I'm not quite there.
Janin just gets better and better with every issue he draws. His storytelling is frenetic and busy, but never confusing with a fairly large crew of characters. His character acting has improved dramatically over the last year and his character design, which was always nicely consistent, now has more variety, especially when it comes to his female characters. Janin continues to excel at the details. His pages are incredibly well considered. He never drops out a background because it would be easier and he never skimps on the character of someone's face. He also has an obviously delightful time drawing all the treasures in The Black Room.
On the whole, I'm delighted with the direction this book has taken under Lemire's pen. I'm not quite in love with all the characters yet, but the story is complex and intelligent and nothing is quite what it seems. Similarly, Lemire seems to have reinvigorated Janin and the book looks better than it ever has, a great example of DC making a few smart changes rather than jettisoning the project or creative team altogether.