This review contains major spoilers.
“The Witching Hour” has been a struggle to get through — what was initially a compelling, masterful idea quickly became weighed down by a narrow focus, needless verbosity, and shifting priorities across each issue. Those struggles continued to plague the story and execution even as the end goal came into focus in Justice League Dark #4. Now, however, the struggle is over as the journey through them, which likely came with frustration for readers as it did for me, has paid off as this miniseries tips the scales and delivers one of the best, most surprising main character story turns this year.
Wonder Woman may be dead.
There’s no way to discuss this issue without discussing the reveal. All of that power gained in the name of defeating her God-enemy Hecate, only to have it turned against her and her friends has likely resulted in Diana’s death. (At least, for now).
So, how’d we get here? DC’s preview reads:
“The Witching Hour” part four! As Hecate’s new world is born, Wonder Woman is under the goddess’ total control! This is magic’s darkest hour–one of the most powerful magicians of all time may not survive!
Tynion IV delivers on the promise of “magic’s darkest hour” wholeheartedly as an opening prose waxes poetic, darkly, on the nature of the Moon as the guide of magic in the waking world — a silver and wavy visage of the way things are and the way things change before revealing that Wonder Woman’s very conscience is there, secreted away from her body which wages a war on the Earth. It’s a compelling, effective and stunning establishment of time, place, and stakes all at once that sets a tone for the entire issue that feels not only deserved but entirely necessary for the work that must be done here as friends turn on friends, the Parliament of Trees burns, and lives come to pass — Diana’s life comes to pass mistakenly at the hands of Constantine and Zatanna.
Like The Knife’s fantastic Silent Shout proclaims — our warrior princess caught a glimpse of power, of the greater threads connecting everything she thought she was strong enough to manipulate and act above without consequence, and now it haunts her to the very end. Away from her body, away from her friends, she’s powerless to change anything, to right her wrongs and she’ll suffer the consequences of this fallout alone and scared. Does Hecate win here? Maybe; the next issue will tell. But, in the interim, both Tynion IV and the reader certainly do revel in getting the cathartic payoff of issues of necessary but somewhat droll storytelling paying off in this entirely sensible, poetic and forborne way.
It’s a shocking, but fitting moment that feels earned amidst many here. The burning of the Parliament gives a great scene to Swamp Thing, Constantine and Zatanna are given a foxhole-like moment to shine, and Deadman and the others ground out the story in a way that focuses on character first wholly and openly in a story that has struggled with that previously. It’s earned development and payoff in equal parts — a total harmonious balance that doesn’t right the wrongs of previous issues but does highlight what was good about them to begin with.
Luppacchino brings almost all of these moments to a fantastic, dark life. The Moon scenes are especially beautiful — a silvery purgatory where Diana and her sisters in magic are stored away by Hecate acting as a kind of metaphorical mirror for the narrative itself, the Earth hanging in the background almost always. A similar care and focus given to a shared moment between Constantine and Zatanna before they charge towards almost certain death, taking cover behind a magic-blasted wall, feels especially human and realized as well. In fact, the only true misstep here is a strange take on Swamp Thing that tries to play around with perspective but misses the mark and makes him look like a kind of Wizard of Oz projection with too-little detail and dynamism, hollow and flat. Luckily, though, that’s one small blip in an otherwise well crafted, unique and dynamic issue that hits all of the tonal direction that the narrative demands of it.
All said and done, this is an incredibly cathartic, worthwhile issue that tips not only “The Witching Hour” into feeling wholly worthwhile, but plots a fantastic direction for Justice League Dark, for the magical tethers and pillars of the DC world, and for Wonder Woman herself.