The latest issue of Justice League highlights a new foe that Justice League Dark is preparing to face who started a heroic New 52 group.
WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the Justice League Dark story “Dangerous Things” by Ram V, Xermanico, Romulo Fajardo Jr., Rob Leigh, Andrea Shea, and Alex R. Carr, featured in Justice League #60, available now.
The Justice League Dark title was canceled last December, but the team’s adventures continue as a backup feature in the main Justice League comic. Their newest story features the return of Merlin, one of the most powerful magicians in the DC Universe, and one of the greatest threats to the team’s future.
While he might be fighting DC’s heroes now, he brought together one of the most quietly important organizations of the New 52 era one of DC’s other teams dedicated to stopping such threats is Stormwatch, whose earliest incarnation was founded by the Arthurian wizard nearly a thousand years earlier.
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The current story begins in the Justice League Dark back feature of Justice League #59. The story opens with Merlin appearing at an ancient Welsh priory. After opening a secret gateway, he murders the knight who has been keeping watch over Excalibur for centuries. He takes the magic sword for himself and transforms it into a gemstone. The wizard’s return was foretold by various prophecies, as both Heaven and Hell took notice. John Constantine and Zatanna converge on a site described in these prophecies, where they encounter Etrigan the Demon, who has been sent as a representative of both respective afterlife realms to stop Merlin. After gaining the Justice League’s approval, the three join up with Detective Chimp to stop Camelot’s court wizard.
These events are tied to the Future State: Justice League Dark story by Ram V, Mario Takara and Marcelo Maiolo. In this dark future timeline, Merlin takes control of all the magic on Earth. Etrigan has been separated from his human host, Jason Blood, who Merlin kidnaps. Surprisingly, the demon’s new mortal host is Detective Chimp. At the end of the story, Merlin actually wins the final battle when Doctor Fate surrenders. However, Fate takes one final moment to speak with Etrigan, saying that this is just one of many possible futures, and that there is another future where the team defeats Merlin. He tells Etrigan that since he is a demon who perceives time differently than mortals, his past self will remember this conversation and can prevent the future from ever happening.
While the Future State story clearly ties to the current events depicted in Justice League Dark, it also is connected to Stormwatch, and in particular to its earlier incarnation, the Demon Knights. Originally, Stormwatch was part of the WildStorm Universe. The team was created by Jim Lee, Brandon Choi, and Scott Clark and functioned as a UN superhuman security force. In 2011, Stormwatch was incorporated into the main DC Universe as part of the New 52 and given a new history that revealed how the team had been secretly working to keep the world safe for centuries.
The first incarnation of the team appeared in The Demon Knights #1 by Paul Cornell, Digenes Neves and Oclair Albert in a story that began with Merlin and Etrigan (as well as Lady Xanadu). When Camelot fell to attackers, Merlin bound the demon Etrigan to his human assistant, Jason Blood. Both Etrigan and Xanadu wandered for centuries before meeting up with other champions such as Shining Knight, Vandal Savage and a Muslim polymath called Al Jabr. Merlin’s manipulation brought them together to protect against powerful supernatural enemies and restore Camelot to its former glory.
Using the pseudonym Adam One, Merlin oversaw different versions of Stormwatch throughout the years. He also recruited Century Babies, who manifested the powers of their respective eras. Stormwatch saved the Earth from invading alien Daemonites in the 14th Century and violent Neanderthals who attacked America’s Wild West. Now, one of the members of the original Stormwatch team, Etrigan, is going to have to stop Merlin in order to save the world.
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