Back in 2001, I was an avid comic book reader. I bought almost every major title DC Comics published and read them eagerly. My wife and I would make a weekly trip to the local comic store, returning with armloads of entertainment, which we would usually read at some fast food place or another while eating french fries. But then came "Our Worlds at War." Over thirty comics and two months of my life dedicated to an alleged "war" involving our favorite comic book heroes.
Do you know what happens in wars, though? People die. Nations are devastated or sometimes stop existing at all. In short, things change.
Not in "Our Worlds At War," though. No, three months of overblown action and alleged devastation later, the only heroes to die were Maxima and Strange Visitor. If you weren't reading a lot of '90s comics, those names probably mean nothing to you because they were really obscure characters. As far as the bombarded, beleaguered planet Earth? I think there was some lip service about Lex Luthor building stuff that ended within a year. Long and the short - nothing happened. Not a goddamn thing. By the end of that year I had sworn off of comics entirely, enraged at the pointlessness of it all.
I briefly resumed reading comics after "Identity Crisis," up until there was an "Infinite Crisis." It wasn't really all that bad but before it was even over I was hearing hints of an "Final Crisis," which meant another super-event was just on the horizon. I'm old enough to have read some of the original "Crisis" in the '80s, so I was already a little bored with revisiting "Crisis," especially with Superboy as some sort of super-duper villain who decapitates super heroes with punches. I read the original "52" and enjoyed it but when it turned to "Countdown to Final Crisis" I dropped it. Why even bother having a crossover that just launches another crossover? Why?
Unfortunately, I moved last year, and the local game shop is also the local comic shop. When I found out DC's mystic heroes were rebooting and even getting their own Justice League, Justice League Dark, I got excited and started buying again. Within about three months I was back on the crossover event train, of course; not only a crossover, which I hate, but a really sucky crossover that sucks John P Henry Sucking's sweaty balls.
Basically DC, I fucking hate you, and I fucking hate "Forever Evil" and/or the subset of it Justice League Dark has been sucked into, which is sometimes called "Blight" even though that doesn't make sense anymore. Here are ten reasons why!
1. Where the Hell Is the Justice League Dark?
DC Comics There they are! For one panel. Out of 3 issues. So far.
Justice League Dark is a team book, but apparently DC seems content to constantly scramble their membership. When we start this crossover, some arbitrary number (just a little less than "all") of the world's mystic heroes have been kidnapped along with the regular Justice League. The leftovers decide to go save the world or, at least, John Constantine really wants to save Zatanna, who he has decided is his One True Pairing (as the kids say). As far as DC Universe history goes, Zatanna as a character predates Constantine by 20 years and she predates him as magical-advisor-to-the-superheroes, since she joined the Justice League in the late '70s and Constantine has only recently even joined the main DC Universe (back from twenty years under Vertigo).
None of that matters to the writers, though, as they prefer to make Zatanna the Princess Toadstool of this adventure with Constantine obsessively searching for her; more on that later, but it sucks. Black Orchid? Madame Xanadu? Frankenstein? They're gone too; forget about them. Justice League Dark's apparently just a subset of the Constantine title now. With the exception of Black Orchid, who is new, these are characters that have played key points in other crossovers before and saved the universe in their own ways; not this time, though. This time they're being put aside so we can see Night Nurse and a strangely belligerent and grouchy Swamp Thing. Night Nurse isn't a stripper, though, she's a superhero...or maybe both. I'm just saying. She is pretty stripper-y.
At least, I think it's a strangely belligerent Swamp Thing, because this is all "New 52" stuff anyway.
2. It Reminds Me how Much I Hate "The New 52"
"The New 52" is the worst kind of reboot; the "have your cake and eat it too" reboot where whatever the writers feel like happened still happened and whatever they don't like didn't happen. There's no particular guide or briefing that helps you understand what actually did happen; you just have to stumble along. For instance, I've been reading Superman Unchained and took a look at Superman/Wonder Woman out of morbid curiosity. Superman looks completely clueless in Superman/Wonder Woman but seems competent in Unchained. By the way, unlike Justice League Dark, neither of these titles seems even vaguely aware that "Forever Evil" is going on, nor do the core Batman books. Why are they so lucky?
Here's a relevant example. Phantom Stranger, who was revealed in pre-New 52 to choose the rarely-trod path of neutrality during the whole Lucifer uprising thing back in the day, is apparently now Judas Iscariot. Thing is, a semi-fallen angel from the beginning of time is just a lot more interesting and has more history than Judas Iscariot, who is a comparative baby to most of the cosmic creatures of the DCU. It also seems to have prompted a vastly more emo sensibility on the part of the Stranger, who once viewed things with a cosmic detachment. At one point, someone reads his mind, and we are treated to this purple prose: "such pain... such guilt... such suffering... and sorrow ... I've never known a Hell like the one you live every second of every minute of every day."
That's a demon saying that, by the way. So apparently the Stranger's angst is literally worse than Hell itself. Pretty deep, huh? Maybe he should write a song.
Speaking of angst:
3. Constantine and Zatanna are Neo and Trinity and Other Stolen Ideas
Warner Bros. It's like this except if Keanu was playing... Wait... Warner Bros. Holy crap it's all starting to make sense.
Constantine hates the whole world; except he's decided that he loves Zatanna and NOTHING ELSE, man. Sort of exactly like what the Architect tells Neo in Matrix Reloaded (What? The second one was still good! Really!); most of the human Messiahs care about people but you only care about this one girl. Whoa, that's deep, man. That's where we start. That is, until we get into the main plot of this crossover, the reason why it's called "Forever Evil: Blight": Blight itself, an incarnation of everything dark and evil in the world! It's an incarnation of evil that takes advantage of a cosmic event to try and take over. Gee, that sounds strangely familiar. It's pretty much the exact plot of the mystic hero sub-story to the original Crisis, in fact, which also involved an incarnation of evil trying to wreck anything along with John Constantine and Swamp Thing.
The League go and fight Blight, the namesake of this whole thing, with the help of Zauriel, the angel, and, just like in Swamp Thing #50, things end peacefully when the heroes realize God had a plan all along, which is just like when Asmodel attacked Heaven and Zauriel tried to stop Asmodel only to realize it was planned all along. It turns out that the whole Blight thing was just training wheels for a new Spirit of Redemption to come into being. It will be a counterpoint to the Spectre, and not at all like that time the Spectre underwent a retcon and its human host realized it was really secretly a Spirit of Redemption, I'm sure.
That's that, right? Surely with Blight now being subsumed into a Spirit of Redemption, this long crossover is over. But wait, there's more!
4. The Whole Thing Is Long and Stupid and Barely Makes Sense
So, after having their asses handed to them off screen, the Justice League Dark substitute version shows up to handle Blight and then gets their asses kicked again. By the way, it turns out Blight has absolutely nothing to do with the only thing Constantine cares about, which is Zatanna and their love stuff. Good news: after Constantine spends half an issue angst-ing and dealing with after effects of a really powerful spell he cast to save Zatanna (except she wasn't there), their psychic connection is restored (because somehow it was blocked before) and he realizes that she's hooked up into a giant evil science machine.
Yes, the League is apparently about to confront Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz. God have mercy on their souls. (Did I mention God is a small dog that angels carry around in this series? Sorry, I'm not writing a novel, I only have so much space!)
DC Comics Because Morgan Freeman was busy?
I guess in this series Superman got replaced by an evil Superman who snorts kryptonite like cocaine. He came over with an evil Justice League, except their evil Aquaman, the Sea King, sucks so bad he died on the way between the universes. Fortunately, Constantine found his body and, when his body-possessing ghost pal Deadman is inside it, Constantine seals him in. By the way, the sealing in is necessary because apparently Deadman does not see the utility of a super-powered body that looks like one of the bad guys and new rulers of the planet. Maybe some of Deadman's brain is still dead. They attack the Thaumaton (the machine is called the Thaumaton; it has a fiendish plan to lower the reader's IQ) and, well, get their asses kicked again. Hooray?
Don't worry, though; Phantom Stranger escapes and goes to Las Vegas, apparently to build the third version of the Justice League Dark we've seen in this crossover and attack again. Hopefully not to get his ass kicked, like what happens every other time so far. Fortunately, he has one trick up his sleeve.
5. Wild Power Level Fluctuations Make It Even More Confusing
DC Comics That Happened.
Early on in the series the League goes to Heaven to gather information. They are stopped by Zauriel, who casually drops that he has the power to wipe people entirely from existence. When the Justice League Dark gets in their magic house and flies away there's a thrilling chase sequence where Zauriel dives after the magic house and the League prepares for a massive fight! Fortunately for all involved, Zauriel is actually chasing them to tell them he wants to join up because Constantine is fighting for love, which Zauriel thinks is awesome! You're thinking this Zauriel guy/angel is pretty damn metal! Unfortunately, he later runs afoul of a hoary old Justice League villain named Felix Faust who smacks him around and pulls his wings off. Ouch. I guess Zauriel forgot his "wipe you from existence" power in his gym locker.
Nightmare Nurse is also a little mysterious. When she and Constantine unleash their demon selves in an impressive, but utterly useless display of dark magic, she's up and about the next morning while Constantine seems ready for a padded cell; but then when the fight gets serious with the Thaumaton (every time I type that word, a manly tear dribbles down into my beard) suddenly she turns out to not really be the Nurse. She seemed cool, but got replaced off screen somehow, which makes her look not so cool. All of that pales beside the really big switcheroo in the Phantom Stranger comic.
We are led to be nervous about the Spectre, the incarnation of the wrath of God, showing up to smack the Stranger around, but all of a sudden the Phantom Stranger grows up into a giant and punches Spectre. Phantom Stranger basically takes him out of the fight with one hit, with the help of "sipping from the wellsprings of the Phantom Stranger's near-infinite power". Where's this near-infinite power been during all of the ass-kicking the team has received, and why is he referring to himself in the third person all of a sudden?