This week’s Justice League Dark Annual #2 takes place before last week’s Justice League Dark #35 and reveals just how the team became splintered. Whereas last week’s issue focused heavily on Zatanna, this issue is centered more on John Constantine.
The second annual focuses entirely on a conflict between the Justice League Dark and the human forms of both the House of Secrets and the House of Mysteries. The issue opens in the midst of a date between Zatanna and John Constantine. The rekindling of their relationship quickly is undone, however, when Zatanna discovers a hint of a seduction spell in her drink. After a verbal confrontation, Zatanna and John Constantine both find themselves inside the House of Mysteries and the House of Secrets, respectively.
Once inside the Houses, Zatanna and Constantine become involved in a conflict between the two that quickly escalates, mirroring the argument between the two Justice League Dark members. However, it is soon revealed that the Houses are working with one another, looking to harness the power of the Justice League Dark members in order to engulf the Earth within the House of Wonders.
The art by Klaus Janson and John Stanisci in Justice League Dark Annual #2 does a great job of serving the story by J. M. DeMatteis. The House of Wonders looks truly majestic with an eerie vibe. There are some great action beats, such as Frankenstein punching a hole through Swamp Thing’s chest, but they also get the quieter moments right. The confrontation between Zatanna and Constantine at the beginning of the issue takes on an appropriately creepy vibe, and there’s a nice beat with Constantine at the end that was handled with the right amount of subtlety. The personification of the Houses make for interesting enough antagonists, though their ultimate goal leaves a lot to be desired.
Unfortunately, Justice League Dark Annual #2 misses more often than it hits. The issue is chock full of dialogue and caption boxes, and some of the panels feel unnecessarily crowded. As the issue moves into the more action packed second half, this error lessens, but it still drags down the pacing of the first half of the book. In addition, the plot is a bit too thin to fill the page length. The twist that the Houses are working together feels telegraphed and ultimately, superfluous. And the world-takeover plot feels a bit played out. This would have been okay had the issue featured a bit of character development, but with the exception of the ending pages, those are absent.
Ultimately, Justice League Dark Annual #2 is a disappointing entry, especially after last week’s Justice League Dark #35. With a routine plot and few character moments, the annual ultimately feels shallow. Strong art and some good action beats save the issue, though if you aren’t reading Justice League Dark, this issue is forgettable.