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Anarchy in the US
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Peter Milligan's Justice League Dark Vol. 1: In the Dark (The New 52) (Jla (Justice League of America) (Graphic Novels)) was a good little introduction for some of DC's more bizarre and occult figures into one team. John Constantine, Zatanna, Deadman, and Madame Xanadu are some of my favorites to be put together into a team that I enjoyed just the characters being on the same page together. Volume 1 was decent, but it felt like it was just setup for the cross over with I, Vampire, which are Milligan's last 2 issues of writer for JLD (collected here) before hot writer Jeff Lemire takes over. And does Lemire take over Milligan's bizarre book and make it his own? Absolutely and makes it even better!
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK VOL.2: THE BOOKS OF MAGIC collects issues #7-13, #0, and the Annual #1. Issues #7-8 are the last issues done by writer Peter Milligan and involved in the cross over with I,Vampire. While issues #9-13, #0, and the Annual #1 are done by Jeff Lemire and makes up the "Books of Magic" arc.
Let me do a quick review of Milligan's JLD first:
After the end of volume 1, the first vampire Cain came back from the dead. It seems JLD have to stop this massive threat or it means the destruction of the world, so they go to Gotham to help Andrew Bennett (I won't spoil what happened to him. Go see I, Vampire Vol. 2: Rise of the Vampires (The New 52) for those details). I liked what Milligan did with volume 1, but again, I feel as if he was holding out for this cross over because it's really good. Everyone gets their time to shine during the chaos of the vampires and it melds pretty well with I, Vampire without taking itself away from its own series. You don't have to read I, Vampire to know the details of what is going on, but as a fan of that series, and sorry I have to advertise it but I do highly recommend you buy I, Vampire and read it some point. You won't regret it. Other then that, Milligans end on JLD ends on a high note and clean slate new writer Jeff Lemire to take over.
Okay, now that's out of the way...
The rest of JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK VOL.2 involves ARGUS agent Steve Trevor having John Constantine band together the Justice League Dark again, as to look into old DC villain Felix Faust in South Africa. The JLD come to find out a map to the Books of Magic, 4 books that are the very creation of magic itself. Seeing how anyone who gets their hands on the books could mean complete destruction of time and reality to whoever wields them, Constantine and company take it upon themselves to look for the Books before ARGUS or Faust finds them. But are other unknown forces looking for the Books? Can Constantine be trusted if he does find them? Or are the books just a legend? You'll have to find out.
Compared to Milligan's take on JLD where the book was dark in tone, a bit serious and occult magic; Lemire turns the series on its head by making it more action, suspenseful, and lighthearted in the same tone of being a Justice League-type book. This means readers without any prior knowledge or reading from Milligan's run on the title is not needed, so for old and new readers, this is a great time to start or continue (which makes it odd that DC didn't collect issues 7-8 into volume 1).
The only characters who stay on is Constantine, who becomes unofficial leader of the team; Zatanna, who we get further background with Constantine; Deadman, who shares some great moments here and there and even gets some alone time with Zatanna; and Madame Xanadu continuing her fortune telling of the group. New members of the team include Black Orchid, shapeshifter; Andrew Bennett, to repay the JLD for their help, and a host of other DCU dark characters that get involved that I do not want to spoil. None the less, expect a great dysfunctional team book full of action, humor, lot of surprise plot twist, hidden motivations from characters, and plenty of DC Universe easter eggs that fans well versed in DC lore will appreciate.
As for art duties, Mikel Janin continues doing art from volume 1 and does every issues here except #0. Janin's art is superb with pages of magic flowing everywhere, character reactions through the highs and lows, and handles Lemire action heavy script very well. Lee Garbett does #0 and holds together just fine from Janin's art work.
If there is any negatives to be found, they're minor, but few. One of which is that Constantine takes over so much of the book, it feels more like it should be titled "John Constantine and the Justice League Dark", since the team aspect of the book isn't quite up to par (yet). Constantine is not his Vertigo/Hellblazer version, so he's toned down. And the other aspect might be the tonality change. Again, Milligan's time on the series felt more darker, serious, and gothic. It really felt like a "dark" book. Lemire's version is far more upbeat and action packed, losing much of its "dark' aspects. Altogether, it feels like a PG-rated John Constantine book, with magic characters.
Other then that, JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK VOL.2: THE BOOKS OF MAGIC is big action-packed, magic based justice league book that has a lot going on with some great art work to back it up. New readers are welcomed to hop aboard. But if you are an reader who liked volume 1 for the grittier/occult aspects, you might not like the tonality change from Lemire. But if you can get over it, you'll enjoy this new direction greatly. And since this volume collects a whopping 8 issues and an Annual, you get a ton of content for the price. So I'll give the book a 4 ½ out of 5 stars, but Amazon will not allow half star ratings, I'll round up to 5 stars.
After this volume, Lemire will do Justice League Dark Vol. 3: The Death of Magic (The New 52) (Jla (Justice League of America) (Graphic Novels)), all the way until issue #23, which Lemire joins Geoff Johns epic cross over with Justice League and Justice League of America for Justice League: Trinity War (The New 52).