Book Review – Justice League Dark vol. 2: The Books of Magic

  • Title: Justice League Dark vol. 2: The Books of Magic
  • Author: Jeff Lemire, Peter Milligan
  • Artist: Mikel Janin, Lee Garbett, Daniel Sampere, Cam Smith, Admira Wijaya
  • Line: New 52
  • Characters: John Constantine, Zatanna, Madame Xanadu, Deadman, Andrew Bennett (Vampire), Black Orchid, Dr. Mist, Felix Faust, Steve Trevor
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/04/2016

**Spoiler Alert** Justice League Dark is an awesome series – fantastic art, great characters, and complex plots. I was especially impressed with the art in this volume – not simply what was in the panels, but how the panels were drawn – the frames within frames effect evokes film noir, and the off-kilter panels at times really suggest movement. Plus the intricate edges of the panels – soft curves, or jagged edges, or thorns in the section where characters are attacked by a wood-creature (think Tolkien’s Ents) basically a giant, evil, sentient forest – add to the atmosphere of the story. And the atmosphere is great. This story moves fast – I stayed up way too late one night finishing it – and I’m glad I already bought volume 3.

Justice League Dark is a loose group of DC magic users: Shade the Changing Man (though he’s only in the opening story of this particular volume), John Constantine (we get part of his backstory in this volume), Zatanna, Deadman, Andrew Bennett a Vampire with a conscience, Black Orchid, Madame Xanadu, Dr. Mist, and the bad guy Felix Faust. Steve Trevor (from Wonder Woman) and now with A.R.G.U.S. makes an appearance as well – asking Constantine to gather “the troops” so to speak and rescue Dr. Mist from Faust. That doesn’t go as planned – which seems pretty normal for this series. Justice League Dark isn’t simply about characters who have supernatural powers or who walk on the dark side of the street – it’s about characters who don’t always win – which makes it a more interesting read. These are characters who not only might not do the right thing and whom you can’t always trust (Xanadu is convinced Constantine will cause the destruction of the world for example) but they are characters who can die – like Mindwarp who dies in the opening sequence, causing Shade to walk away.

After the opening fight against vampires, the team takes a break. Steve Trevor comes to Constantine and makes him an offer he can’t refuse to get the band back together and go on a mission for A.R.G.U.S. Constantine agrees and ropes in Zatanna and the rest of the gang – they are to rescue Dr. Mist from Felix Faust and find some sort of mysterious artifact. Well, after complications, they rescue Mist and defeat Faust – then steal the artifact, the first Tesseract, a map to the Books of Magic. However, no one thinks it’s a good idea to give the Tesseract to Trevor or A.R.G.U.S.

Constantine tries to get in to the Black Room, a repository of magical artifacts held by A.R.G.U.S. while there, Faust escapes and Dr. Mist turns out to be a traitor – in league with Faust to get the Books of Magic. The Black Room holds the key to the Tesseract, which Constantine and company have. Meanwhile, Mde. Xanadu has had visions of Constantine destroying the world after being corrupted by the Books of Magic. But in once of her visions, he tells her that “he can’t get the books but there is one who can” – Xanadu searches for a boy, someone destined to be the world’s most accomplished mage, who, as an innocent, can possess the Books without being corrupted.

Constantine also possesses the House of Mystery – a house that can travel in any dimension, and pair of the House of Secrets (possesses by Constantine’s rival and former mentor). When the House of Secrets attacks the House of Mystery (and yes that is as awesome and unusual as it sounds – two houses fighting it out at like Warp 2 or something) Constantine’s House crashes in the desert. Constantine calls in Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. and when Madame Xanadu arrives with the boy who has pushed away his magic, Constantine brings in Princess Amaya of House Amethyst to help. He also brings back Bennett the vampire. The group confronts his rival, Dr. Mist, and Faust.

This story really moves, but besides the dense plotting and the magical fights – there’s also really good, realistic characterization. I enjoyed this volume of Justice League Dark very much.

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