Ray Fawkes, Jeff Lemire and Mikel Janin are all talented creators, but they struggle under the weight of "Justice League Dark" #18. With magic handled in an obscure and convenient way and none of the series' core characters (except Zatanna) able to do much of anything, this issue collapses under its own concept.
It's hard to blame any of the good creators involved for this issue, as magic has got to be one of the toughest ideas/powers to write well. It's easy to "magic away" a problem, and unfortunately that's what's presented here. While Tim and his father's solution to the magical problems of this war might be impressive -- or even moving -- on film with spectacular effects, as a couple comic book panels it just falls flat and feels overly convenient.
The fact that only the book's guest stars - Tim and his father - have active roles is frustrating. All our supposedly powerful leads (except Zatanna) spend most of the book bumbling about and hoping for rescue. The most interesting aspect of the entire issue is in the last pages as the "team" takes a stand and really begins to feel like an actual team. The last panel is enough to leave one hopeful about the direction for this book.
Mikel Janin does his absolute best with this massive cast and magical war, and the book looks good. There's not a lot of time for the core members to shine, but that's no fault of Janin's. The non-specific "magic stuff" is pretty and as functional as possible, and what we see of the war is well handled. Janin's storytelling has always been strong on this title and this issue is no exception. Most impressive however is Janin's character work, which gets better and better with every issue. A year ago, Zatanna and Madame Xanadu were almost interchangeable, today they have their own features and personality, even when Xanadu is not a really fantastically rendered almost-corpse!
"Justice League Dark" continues to be a book that I want to like more than I do. It's not bad, but it's just not great. Some issues and arcs are better than others, but 18 issues in, nothing but the art has really blown my socks off, despite featuring some of my favorite characters in all of comics. I'm not sure what's missing here, but I wish one of these great creators involved with the book could figure it out. I still feel there's a brilliant book here, but it's still just waiting to be discovered. Maybe that last panel in this issue holds the key?