Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Mikel Janin & Victor Drujiniu
With all the nice things getting said about this series since Jeff Lemire took over writing duties since issue 9, combined with the release of the new Constantine series, I decided to get the back issues of this, and boy am I happy I have. It's been phenomenal, and one of the most unique series I've seen in the New 52, and I'm glad I've given it a try.
John Constantine and Black Orchid are in trouble when faced against Black Boris in Slaughter Swamp, Gotham City, and Deadman and Zatanna face Blackbriar Thorn in the Peru. Also the mysterious man that Felix Faust and Doctor Mist have been working with is revealed to be Constantine, and Zatanna's former mentor, Nick Necro, who featured in the zero issue.
After a phenomenal Zero Month issue the series is back to the War for the Books of Magic story, and the events of the zero issue spreads, with the big reveal that the mysterious man Faust and Mist are working with being Nick Necro, Constantine's former mentor. Jeff Lemire has once again amazed me, as he gives yet another interesting issue, with ton's of action, and brilliant dialogue. To be honest I've loved everything I've read from Lemire, including this, Green Arrow, and Animal Man, and although I've said this before, I'm happy that I've started to read his work, and can't believe I've never thought about it sooner, as his writing is simply stunning. I've really enjoyed how he's managed to keep this story very dark, and mysterious, whilst also adding in humour, and fun. It's also been interesting that Lemire has split the story over many sections, and although each one has it's own unique feel, they also fit nicely into the overall story. He also did a fantastic job of linking the events from the zero issue into the story, showing that despite being part of the Zero Month, that the zero issue was always part of this story. I also think that it was a good thing revealing who Necro was in that issue, as if they just went and added him without it, it wouldn't have been as good, and may have been confusing, whereas with this people who've read the zero issue get to enjoy the character of Neco is. It is however easy to pick up this issue without reading the zero issue, it's just that you won't get the references.
Mikel Janin returns as artist for this issue after Lee Garbett worked on the zero issue. Although Garbett's art was nice, and suited the story of the zero issue, I'm still very happy that Janin is back as artist, as his art is simply phenomenal, and suits this series perfectly. Janin did however have help on this issue though as Victor Drujiniu did the finishes to Janin's layouts. I'm not entirely sure what the difference between a layout artist, and one that does finishes, but I believe that the layout artist only does rough penciling depicting the character motion, whereas the artist doing the finishes does the detailed artwork, so I believe Drujiniu would have done most of the art (comment if you know more on this). Either way the art was brilliant, and I loved everything about it. It was very detailed, and the layouts were perfect, with the characters being in the right position to give a dramatic feel. Ulises Arreola also did a brilliant job of the colours, and I've always felt that they suit the tone of this series, and that they make Janin, and in this case Drujiniu's art look even better than it already is.
The issue starts from where issue 12 left of, with Constantine and Orchid facing Black Boris. This sequence was phenomenal, and I loved how you could feel the menace coming from Boris, and he felt like the troll he is. This sequence also showed that Orchid did have a secret, as she shows that she's got more power than just the ability to shape-shift. I won't mention what this secret is, as to avoid spoilers, but it was obvious she had a secret, and it was nice to find out what it was, even if this is only part of what she'd been hiding. The overall dialogue between Constantine and Orchid was interesting, but it was this revelation that interested me most. I also liked that Constantine had brought stuff from The Black Room, as due to having no real power it gave him a way of fighting Boris. The only negative thing I have to say is that after his big entrance at the end of issue 12 I expected a bigger fight from Boris, but it wasn't really much of a fight, although I can understand that Lemire didn't want to take too much away from the development of the overall story.
Whilst Constantine and Orchid were facing Boris, Deadman and Zatanna faced Blackbriar Thorn. Again there wasn't too much of a fight here, but I'm not too bothered about that, as Deadman possessed the big tree, and that was fun, especially when he talked to Zatanna, acting like a giant. This sequence did however get more interesting as it had the arrival of The House of Secrets, with the house coming out of nowhere, with the shocking surprise of Necro emerging with Mist. I'll talk more about Necro's appearance in a bit, but I will say that I was happy to see it, especially after the brilliant events in the zero issue.
We also got a more in-depth sequence featuring Madame Xanadu and Tim Hunter, with Faust trying to abduct the boy. Like the other fight sequences this was very exciting, and entertaining, and with the type of magic Xanadu possesses it made for some beautiful artwork, and Janin did a terrific job. Like the other fights I did feel that it was a bit short, but that's what you get when you have so many fights in the one issue, and it would probably been better if they'd cut one a bit more, as it would have given more for the rest. It wasn't however that big a problem, and everything else that happened in the issue, along with the overall mysteriousness, and suspense of the issue made up for it.
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH WILL SPOIL JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #0!
Finally I'll get back to Necro's appearance. I loved the events of the zero issue, and the way Necro felt betrayed by Constantine and Zatanna, with him also attempting to kill Constantine. In many ways Constantine and Zatanna did betray him by falling in love, but that may not have happened in the first place if it wasn't for Necro's obsession over the Books of Magic. Lemire did a brilliant job of continuing this into this issue, and although it was obvious from the zero issue who the mysterious man was I felt the backstory needed to come first, and it overall helped this issue. The emotion between Constantine, Necro, and Zatanna was brilliant in this issue, and although the zero issue showed more emotion, you still felt the history between these characters, and the overall love between Constantine and Zatanna, even if they try to hide it.
With the conclusion of this story coming ever nearer Lemire's produced an amazing penultimate issue, and although the fights were a bit short, the overall development was brilliant, and the issue left me wanting to read Justice League Dark Annual #1. I would recommend this issue to anyone, and the entire series, as it's been nothing short of phenomenal.