Last week’s Justice League Dark #35 presented a very interesting tale of Zatanna meeting up with her father Zatara in an alternate-reality kind of setting, following an adventure with the rest of the supernatural Justice League that split the entire team up. It was a really fun tale, and nice to see Zatanna take the lead in the title after the recent Nightmare Nurse and Deadman-oriented arcs that did a lot to flesh out those particular characters. But the big question of course was what kind of an event had split the team up, and just how it all went down.
J. M. DeMatteis’ latest issue on the title does a lot to flesh that out in its entirety and help answer some of the questions that I found myself raising after getting through Justice League Dark #35. The Justice League Dark Annual #2 is a pretty great story that explores the character relationships between Zatanna and Constantine, which segues into an exploration of how their relationship has ended up affecting the House of Mystery itself. The writing is fairly solid on this one, though I think that it moved a bit too fast and missed out on a few emotional beats, and the same kind of goes for the artwork as well.
This extra-paged issue explores the concept of the personification of both the House of Mystery, which is where the team resides, and the House of Secrets. The issue starts off with a romantic-styled dinner between Zatanna and Constantine where they try to resolve their differences, though it doesn’t quite go as planned since Constantine is still an egotistical jerk and a manipulative bastard. Their bickering quickly segues into a liaison and then we get to the heart of the matter here. The House of Mystery, personified as a man, and the House of Secrets, personified as a woman, are at war with each other and at the heart of this issue is this conflict, which they want to settle with the help of Constantine and Zatanna, or rather, their respective teams.
The great thing about this issue is that it brings back I, Vampire‘s Andrew Bennett to the team. He was kinda-sorta a part of it before, but he has been missing for a long, long while. The same goes for Frankenstein and Black Orchid, both of whom left the JLD team after the events of Forever Evil: Blight since they wanted some serious time-off. And Madame Xanadu as well, who was pretty good under Jeff Lemire when he was on the series, before DeMatteis.
So as you can see, apart from the regular team, there’s a lot of heavy-hitters involved here, and it is glorious to see. Some of the most powerful supernatural beings in the DC universe are gathered here to settle a metaphysical conflict, and it really couldn’t be better. The only problem with all of this is that DeMatteis moves the story too fast, not allowing the characters to really settle in, especially with ones that have been missing for so long from this series.
That would have helped, certainly. But still, the big twist as it happens about two-thirds of the way in, was a good one, and it played on some of the tropes that we’ve seen before, and also settled quite a few questions that I’ve had about the series for a while now, especially given the opening between Zatanna and Constantine.
If the issue had been slower-paced, it would have helped with the big twist as well since it could have been setup a bit better, and the consequences of that could have been similarly better-explored.
Klaus Janson is the artist here along with John Stanisci with Steve Buccellato on colours, Dezi Sienty on letters and the cover by the Guillem March and Tomeu Morey duo. The artwork here is pretty decent, with some really good action sequences in the middle of the issue, but the characterwork is often lacking since the characters change from page to page quite often and the consistency just isn’t there, not like it should be. And this is disappointing. The colours are pretty good, of that there’s no doubt, and the pencils are decent as well, but they could definitely be much better I think.
A fairly good installment to be sure.