The Magic Architect
This cover amuses me so much. We've got Andrew Bennett, Zatanna, Deadman, and Black Orchid all ready to charge, and then Constantine's just looking away. But what seals it is the dude in the doorway who's just like 'Uhhhh... you're not the pizza deliver guy...' Actually what REALLY sells this cover is the way everyone's laid out so perfectly.
All the exposition at the beginning is very necessary, but really smooth, but almost TOO smooth to feel completely natural. Everyone just happens to ask just the right questions to have just the right person show up to answer. The biggest thing is that it all happens one after another. Just a smidgen gap more would've made it a ton more believable. But I'm certainly over-thinking this more than most would.
Very little actually happens in this issue, but there's a TON of developments. I figured Lemire would just kind of do his own thing, but he's picking up on the threads Milligan left hanging. Madame Xanadu's scene is probably her best in the series to date, and it sets up a VERY intriguing subplot for this arc, or maybe the main one for the next arc. It's hard to tell where this story's going to go and I love that. To anyone who read it, my guess is Andrew Bennett. I'm a little biased, but I think it works. Just as long as it's not the cliche answer of Superman.
What this issue really come down to it essentially John Constantine and Felix Faust unwittingly playing a game of 'who can be the biggest manipulative bastard?' with each other. Faust is at least completely open about how cruel he is, he's just more concerned about using that to hide his brilliant plans. Constantine is overt about his cunning, but such a smooth charismatic disguiser of his bastard tendencies. Now that I've read most of Milligan's Hellblazer, I can see how this Constantine and the 'real' Constantine compare. Lemire does a great job at writing a character who is... the same person, but in a different era. A different world and a different age. I can see the invisible ties very strongly, but Constantine here is definitely recognizable as his own, at least compared to the older one in his Vertigo series. Lemire's John suits the DC Universe. An essentially unaging icon that can be used in the same form over years. It's as if he was plucked from Vertigo at a certain age, for a single moment. They removed a single instant of time from John Constantine, and stretched it out into infinity like the rest of the DC Universe. Because it exists outside of normal time, and they only snipped him out of a single frame in the 4th dimension, his 'real' timeline where he genuinely lives and ages and will someday end and die is never interrupted. That's my take on the two existing separately at least.
Constantine is again the real star of the show, but the rest of the characters are well written and each have their own nice definitive moments. Lemire is essentially writing the Books of Magic that they seek, he's crafting and defining the various corners of the magical DC Universe post-Flashpoint.
In Conclusion: 5/5
Lemire delivers once again. While the issue is light on action, its heavy on characterization. Slower, but overall of the entire same quality as the previous issue. It didn't blow me away quite the same, but A: it wasn't really 'bad' in any way and B: it can be forgiven for being less mind blowing since it's essential transitionary stuff in the arc.