Justice League Dark #4 Review: The Witching Hour Comes to Nanda Parbat!

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Well, I think we all saw that ending coming. It’s been telegraphed since the crossover began two weeks ago. That turn was on the way. And the fun thing is, I was looking forward to it! Superhero comics can be formulaic, to say the least. When done poorly, you can see the whole story stretching out in front of you from the get-go and then drop four bucks a month to watch your predictions come true. But good writers play with the formula, and that’s where things get fun. The cliffhanger of this issue was always coming. It had to! And we all knew it. So while this ending isn’t that much of a shock, there’s still some tension because dang, what comes next? The gang is in a serious predicament here. That thing we knew (and they knew, to some extent) was coming has happened, but NONE of us have any idea how they’re going to deal with it now, the team least of all. It’s an unsurprising cliffhanger that leaves me very eager for the next issue, and that is quite an impressive feat. We’ll dig into it all momentarily, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I have nimbly danced around a major spoiler thus far, but will do so no longer!

Look away if you haven’t read this comic yet!

Also, go pick it up! It’s good!

With that taken care of, we can stop beating around the bush in terms of details. Circe helped Wonder Woman channel the power of Hecate in an attempt to defeat the goddess of witchcraft’s evil plans but, surprise surprise, the goddess of witchcraft is super powerful and now Wonder Woman is under her control. This is exactly what Zatanna was worried about last week, and rightly so it turns out. But this was also their only play. Magic is on the fritz, and this was a chance to channel some major power and maybe stop Hecate. “Maybe” being the key word here.

I’m really enjoying James Tynion IV’s depiction of Zatanna in this crossover. She’s a great character that never gets the attention she deserves, and she’s really taking the spotlight here in a fun way. I loved how she disagreed with Wonder Woman’s plan in the last issue, and how Tynion took care to show that yeah, they were both absolutely right. It was a very dangerous plan, and it was also the only plan they had. And now, with Diana controlled by Hecate, we’re getting to see Zatanna step up as a leader. I haven’t read the first few issues of Justice League Dark, but my understanding was that Wonder Woman was in charge of the team. Now Zatanna’s got the reins, and that should make for a fun time. She seems to have a close connection with everyone and they all defer to her already, which is another dynamic I quite like. Having the other characters respect Zatanna so much is yet again a good move by Tynion. She deserves to be treated as such.

But she’s in a tight spot now. Hecate is tearing through everything, including Nanda Parbat. I always like to dig into the mystical side of the DC universe, and Nanda Parbat is its quintessence. I mean, it’s a secret, magical city in the mountains of Tibet where time moves differently and the dead aren’t quite dead. It’s the hub of weird magic fun. Also, I love that it’s this super secret, mysterious place and yet pretty much every superhero has been there at one point or another. That’s just classic comic booking.

However, not even Rama Kushna, the goddess who makes Nanda Parbat her home, can stand against Hecate. While Hecate tears the place apart via Manitou Dawn, she simultaneously possesses Black Orchid half a world away and starts a new campaign against the Parliament of Trees, a key component of the Swamp Thing mythos who monitor and guard all plant life on Earth. This crossover is BIG, and I am into it. We’ll pick up with the Parliament of Trees next week in Wonder Woman #57 as Hecate continues her destructive tour across the planet, but for now we’ve got Nanda Parbat in ruins. Not for the first time, but still. It’s a big deal. Plus, far more significantly, Wonder Woman wasn’t able to stop it with her additional powers, and now she is under Hecate’s thrall. Things could not be going worse.

The issue is nicely drawn by Alvaro Martinez Bueno and Raul Fernandez. They’ve worked with Tynion before on his excellent Detective Comics run, and the familiarity shows here.  Everything flows smoothly, and you can tell that the art team is playing to their strengths. They also manage to achieve something that the previous artists didn’t quite reach, and that’s making Hecate look interesting and menacing. Hecate’s appearances in the past two issues were serviceable but underwhelming, though, as I said then, this is understandable. It’s hard to design an iconic villain look. But Martinez Bueno and Fernandez have built nicely on these earlier attempts, and while the overall look for Hecate is still a bit clunky, there’s a simplicity here that was lacking before and, even better, an ominous, threatening quality. If Emanuela Lupacchino’s art last week was lovely where it should be lovely, Martinez Bueno and Fernandez’s work here is creepy where it should be creepy. Brad Anderson’s colours go well with the linework as well. Big destructive scenes like this can get brown and muddled sometimes, but he does a nice job mixing up the colours and creating distinctive palettes for each setting.

So yeah, the worst has happened. The team’s lost Wonder Woman and Hecate is besting them at every turn. And the best part is, I’ve got no idea how they’re going to get out of this one! We’ve got two more issues of “The Witching Hour” to go, and there is no obvious solution in sight. It should make for a fun read next week as the crossover continues.

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