The concept of Justice League Dark makes a lot of sense since most superhero books are dealing with the bright and shiny heroes who fight for justice and the American way. Who then can take on the grotesque horrors that go bump in the night? It’s a great way to change the tone but keep the same level of stakes while supplanting the team with magic-wielding and offbeat characters. With issue #20 out today, we also get a fan favorite and not often used Animal Man. How can this character mix things up while a mushroom/spore enemy grows in strength? A lot if you consider The Rot is the natural enemy of Animal Man!
This issue is co-written by Ram V. and James Tynion IV and you can see both their influences from the captions to the pace and plotting. Ram V’s These Savage Shores is one of the best horror comic series ever and to pair him with the already strong Tynion (see Something is Killing the Children) and you have the potential for one of the greatest horror-collabs ever in comics. They don’t disappoint here, opening the book with a mysterious smirking businessman covered in disgusting mushrooms that release gas seemingly at his whim. Gross. Take a peek at the monster below.
Talk about creepy. That’s largely due to Kyle Hotz and color artist FCO Plascencia who let the shadows and ink work do a lot of the talking in the issue. The creep factor is high in this book and the art maximizes the horror of the mysterious villains in the issue. That goes for the Floronic Man who is withered and weakened and by extension even creepier in some ways thanks to that. Animal Man looks incredible in this issue too and there are details that make even the simplest scene come alive. Take for instance a moment where Zatanna and Kent Nelson are doing their magic thing in a downstairs library. Forget the details in the books behind them — the magical clouds floating about are vivid and dynamic in their composition. Kent’s cape is like a living skin with veiny wrinkles running through it that are impressive. It’s quite a sight and that’s just one page.
As far as the plotting of the book this issue does well to explain the various locations our heroes are placed as well as the stakes in play. There are moments for characters to shine or to surprise us and overall you’ll understand what is going on and it’s not the simplest of concepts either. The nature of the powers of these characters and their ramifications can sometimes feel obtuse and unsure, but overall I’m game for more creepy evil to be thwarted.
A good first issue in “The Parliament of Life” storyline. The return of Animal Man is exciting, but what will really win you over is the creepy and gag-inducing nature and look of the evil on the page.