The Witching Hour finale sticks the landing…mostly.
The penultimate issue of the Witching Hour crossover series playing out between Justice League Dark and Wonder Woman was a fantastic, poetic character piece that dove deep into the repercussions of Diana’s play at power in the name of defeating the story’s big bad, Hecate. It even went far enough to set up a cliffhanger that Wonder Woman may die as a result. So, how does the final issue, a follow-up to that fantastic work, fare?
Not as well, instead returning to a middle ground between the best and worst impulses that this series has reveled in with equal measure.
What’s it about? DC’s preview reads:
The deadly finale of “The Witching Hour” arrives as Zatanna battles for Wonder Woman’s soul–and the rest of the Justice League Dark battle for their lives! Hecate is more powerful than the Greek Gods…and no matter who wins, the Earth will lose its chance of surviving the war that’s coming!
First, no, Wonder Woman is not dead. While the previous issue did very well to imply that she may die as a result of the course of actions that she’s taken throughout this series, she is alive and fighting back against Hecate’s grasp. It makes sense — DC wouldn’t kill one of their main characters, not without fan fare at least, and this crossover series wouldn’t be the place to do it. However, the total lack of payoff or hat tipping to the previous issue’s cliffhanger is palpable and weird — as if all of that was built up to be ignored here almost wholesale. Disappointing, and one of the weaker points of the issue, but other things shine brighter.
And, while the issue is overwritten in the way that most of these issues under Tynion IV’s penmanship have been, with lofty narration and dialogue alike, the credence and weight that it gives to everything here feels totally deserved. Hecate runs the Earth ragged below, burning the Parliament of Trees and rebirthing it in her image as she does with Nada Parbat, Zatanna and Constantine willing to fight for their very lives but also sharing a kind of somber, and well written, last few words in the peripheral. Elsewhere, Swamp Thing combats the Parliament, and the rest of the Justice League Dark looks for a way to take down Hecate while Diana does the same in her spiritual form.
It’s a lot. But it’s mostly well down, mythologically rich and tightly scripted stuff that feels deserved and both back and forward looking, if a little self-indulgent. The focus on Wonder Woman that has dragged previous issues down is a little less acute here, giving other characters room to shine, setting up arcs for the coming Justice League Dark run and turning the entire story on its head a bit with a somber and sinister backstory for Hecate’s turn to evil.
When the Otherkind arrive near the issue’s end, then, everything feels close, scary and sharp to great effect — they feel positively evil. Their arrival, in fact, highlights that the entire Witching Hour plot is really in service to validating Wonder Woman’s place on this team, which it has been (maybe a little too much, or at least a little too slowly), and in setting up the power and potential of the Otherkind, which it has been again. With that done, the miniseries can finish, and we can proceed. It’s a quick and dirty way of doing a lot of necessary work, and it does so a little too obtusely, but it makes its point well enough in the end — with a very special, unexpected twist to boot.
And alongside it here in the end is largely great art that makes a point all its own from an equally great team of artists. Visuals like a new, horrifying Parliament of Flowers staring down a defeated Swamp Thing, a death god offering to take Zatanna and Constantine to their graves, and a possessed Wonder Woman begging Hecate for parlay are going to stick with readers. And they should! They give cool, mystical feeling weight to the whole book, adding a good balance of light and dark that make things feel otherworldly and important. The layouts are overly busy and distracting, and the character faces are often underdeveloped, or at least expressionless, but when things are firing on all cylinders, they do so very well and help the weighty narrative clip along at a more digestible pace.
All said and done, it’s an imperfect finale, one that relies too heavily on explaining things that are easily seen and understood through visuals, as well as a convenient ignoring of some major hooks from previous issues, but also one that sets up a great, human and relatable arc for Wonder Woman, a cast of terrifying villains, and a changed world of magic for the DC canon at large. Cool — maybe not as sleek as it could be, but effective nonetheless.