Nightmare Nurse and Deadman take spotlight in Justice League Dark: Paradise Lost

FTC Statement: Reviewers are frequently provided by the publisher/production company with a copy of the material being reviewed.The opinions published are solely those of the respective reviewers and may not reflect the opinions of or its management.

As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. (This is a legal requirement, as apparently some sites advertise for Amazon for free. Yes, that's sarcasm.)

When the New 52 was announced, Justice League Dark was one of the titles I was most excited about. Part of that was that I really loved Shadowpact, and this seemed like the natural evolution of that series. And adding the Justice League name would be good on getting that book a little more attention. I also liked Peter Milligan's work on X-Statix and Human Target, and Mikel Janin is one of my favorite artists.

But, like many mystical series that have come out over the years, Justice League Dark suffered from beng a little too cryptic. There is a very fine line between cool cryptic and dull cryptic and Justice League Dark missed that mark quite often in its early issues. Becase of this, I basically stayed away from this book for a while. Recently, I decided to check out Forever Evil, and I was surprised to say that I really enjoyed the way Justice League Dark was used there. So, when I had the opportunity to check out this trade containing the issues after Forever Evil, I figured I would give it a shot.

As a bonus, these issues were written by J.M. DeMatteis. I've loved his work for as long as I cam remember. I even got to do an interview with him a while back, which remains one of my favorite columns.

Justice League Dark Volume 5 - Paradise Lost

Written by: J.M. DeMatteis and Len Wein
Pencilled by: Andres Guinaldo
Inked by: Walden Wong, Mark Irwin, Raul Fernandez, & Allen Martinez
Cover by: Mikel Janin
Colored by: Chris Sotomayor & Brad Anderson
Lettered by: Rob Leith, Taylor Esposito, & Travis Lanham

Published by: DC
Cover Price: $14.99

Trade Contains Justice League Dark #30-34 and Justice League Dark: Future's End #1

Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!

What made this book immediately stand out for me was that DeMatteis gave a lot of focus to more of the team than I saw in the early issues. So much of the Justice League Dark issues was the John Constantine Show. This was true of the early issues and the Forever Evil issues. I have no real gripes with Constantine, I just like team books that take more time to develop each of the characters. The issues in this trade give a big focus to Deadman and Nightmare Nurse, including filling in some blanks in their history. At the same time, there was still a lot for Constantine, Zatanna, and new teammate Swamp Thing to do.

For Nightmare Nurse, we find out that close to a hundred years ago, Nightmare Nurse was forced to bond with a dying woman named Alice Walker in order to save Alice's life. Because of the mystical chaos kicked up during Forever Evil, Nightmare Nurse had become disconnected from Alice. Alice was terrified of rebonding, and the other Justice League Dark members, unsure of what's going on, decide to protect Alice from Nightmare Nurse. They had kicked Constantine off the team after his betrayal during Forever Evil, but he returns to help fix this situation, which takes the team into an epic battle in The Between. The story ends with Alice and Nightmare Nurse deciding to rebond, though Nightmare Nurse did agreed to give Alice more control.

As for Deadman, we find out that during his childhood, he often looked for escape from his drunken parents. Brahma Dass would bring him to Nanda Parbat to give him some comfort. It was basically his Narnia. When Boston Brand grew up, he forgot about these adventures, thinking them as childish imagination. But, now Nanda Parbat is under attack, and Boston is forced to return to protect it.  Deadman at one point regains a body, but is willing to give that up to protect the only place he really ever felt home. I thought this story worked really well, giving Deadman a little more depth without changing anything all that dramatic.

The trade ends with a Future's End issue. We find out that five years in the future, Zatanna leads the team, but the team and the House of Mystery has been lost in a dangerous void. The team consists of Zatanna, Black Orchid, Nightmare Nurse, The Demon, and Cassandra Craft. Zatanna is desperate to get them home, so she follows a lead of questionable trustworthiness. The team had become pretty splintered over the years, but Zatanna's willingness to sacrifice herself to save the others goes a long way towards repairing that breech. In the end, the team is still lost, but they seem united once more.

As I said in my opening, I think it takes a tricky balance to write a book like Justice League Dark well. You want it to be mystical and weird, but at the same time, it also need to be accessible to the reader. It is easy to get lost in the mumbo jumbo and lose track of good storytelling and characterization. DeMatteis walked this line perfectly. I especially liked how we saw the characters grow in the five years leading into Future's End. This was definitely one of the better tie-in books there.

The art on this book was great. I especially liked how detailed the different realities this book explores looked. It would have been easy to have The Between, Nanda Parba, and the void all look the same, but instead Andres Guinaldo gave each a very unique look. Guidaldo also made a lot of the creatures inhabiting this world really stand out. I also loved the constant changes to Swamp Thing's appearance. This played nicely off some of the things established during Scott Synder's Swamp Thing run, and I thought it fit the character perfectly.

I am glad to see Justice League Dark finally achieving the potential I saw in this book when DC announced it. After Convergence, this book will be relaunching as Dark Universe...which is a terrible title. Jame Tynion IV will be taking over the writing chores, which is a good choice. Batman Eternal has mostly been great (though it is dragging on a little) and The Woods is one of my favorite comics. Tynion will be a good fit on this series moving forward.


Title: Justice League Dark Vol. 5 - Paradise Lost
Written By: J.M. DeMatteis and Len Wein
Art By: Andres Guinaldo
Company: DC
Price: $14.99
  • Justice League Dark is finally the great book it always should have been.
  • Great stories focusing on Deadman and Nightmare Nurse.
  • Art was great, especially the settings and monsters.
  • DeMatteis creates a perfect balance between weird and accessible.
  • Constantine fans much be disappointed that he takes on a much smaller role in this book than in earlier volumes
Is it worth your $14.99? Definitely!  It's a stand alone trade and a huge improvement over the earlier issues. Under DeMatteis, this book seems to finally have found it's footng. Hopefully, under Tynion, it will keep it going.
4.5 / 5.0