Back before then we had the now, before the when became the then and all of them scattered to the where. Where here in the now it's still October, 2014, and J.M. DeMatteis seems to have misplaced Andres Guinaldo as Klaus Janson and John Stanisci join him to illustrate the latest (sequentially, if not chronologically) chapter of mystical misfortune under the banner of DC Comics.

To QUOTE KMFDM: “I am your holy totem. I am your sick taboo. Radical and radiant, I'm your nightmare coming true. I am your worst enemy. I am your dearest friend. Malignantly malevolent, I am of divine descent”.

Remember last week?  (Or whenever it was) Back when everyone's favorite twenty-seven year old orphan mage found herself fighting evil nonce monsters alongside her dearly departed father in the age of dinosaurs? And you were most probably all, “hey, man, what the hell is going on?”.  But then you read the little footnote box that said “see JLD Annual #2, on sale next week, for all the details – Frank” and you were all “Oh. Okay. But who the hell is Frank?”

Well, it's next week. (Figuratively speaking) Get your backstory on. And read the credits all the way down to the editor line, you disrespectful little puke.

Back in the day it was Nick and Zatanna. Then it was Nick and Zatanna and John. Then it was Zatanna and John. Then it was sort of Nick and Zatanna and John again. And then it was very definitely just three people with no “and's”.  But John still wants it to be Zatanna and John again, because he's like that. But Zatanna, ehhhh, maybe not so much.

Oh, and there are houses involved! HOUSES! The one we know and love. A new one we've only heard of briefly in last week's issue. And even the one which we last saw destroyed in Nanda Parbat, presumably with a dead Doctor Occult inside. (Which raises an interesting possibility... eh?)

You recall how I was all whiny about how so many of our team members have been missing in action? Maybe they left to walk this Earth alone. Maybe they just haven't been seen since the Thaumaton Project went kerblammo. I'm sure you were worried about this, too, right? Well, we're both in luck, dear reader, as everyone who's ever been part of Justice League Dark has been gathered together! Save for Zauriel, Pandora, and the Phantom Stranger, of course, but they're way more tangential participants.

Yeah, they were gathered against their will, but, well, what story arc of this series hasn't started with at least one unwilling participant?

Janson and Stanisci's art is both jarringly bad and trippingly good. On the good side, with a tale like this the hard lines and crude shapes give a very Escher-esque sense of multidimensional confusion. They're at their best when painting an abstract landscape of space and time and shifting walls and floors and bowls of fruit. And, well, without giving too much away, this issue involves a lot of abstract landscapes of space and time and shifting walls and floors and bowls of fruit.

On the other hand, their illustrations of our heroes is certainly not to my liking. If you really like I.N.J. Culbard's work on Dark Ages then you might love Janson and Staniski's work here. Yet with the exception of Deadman I just felt that everybody else looked a little off. And they got very lazy on the mid and far-shots.

Expressive faces are rare in their work, and most characters spend the issue with half-dazed smiles on their face, save for the occasional battle cry, scowl, or scream. It's actually at its worst when Andrew Bennet is swinging through the window of the House of Mystery smiling like a baby that just pooped its diaper.

But their style works so well in the broad strokes that I'm more than willing to give them a pass on the details. Some of their Deadman work ends up feeling very Kirby-esque, which is always a plus in my book, even though it doesn't match up with the style of the rest of the book.

The story in itself is strong. Unfortunately, since we know the endpoint of this Annual from the opening page of last week's issue, it's all very predictable once we get past the initial team-gathering and conflict-introduction bits. So while it's a fun ride, it still feels like a bit of a let-down, really, having all been succinctly wrapped up in a single sentence as Zatanna's opening narration to issue 35.

And the Eiffel Tower exists. Which is either a glaring error or just sets this story way further back in time compared to other DCU titles currently being published! (It's presumably before the events of the last dozen issues of Constantine and World's End, but apparently also before the events of the Red Lanterns Annual).

Trust me. This issue is all about the Joy Division classic, “Love Will Tear Us Apart”.  It works on multiple levels. And I ain't sayin' no more about the topic. Enjoy.

For this issue's comparison, we're going to journey to Chirk Castle in Wrexham, Wales, and gaze upon a little oil painting, possibly painted by Thomas Francis, entitled “The Mistress Art”.  Once again, if you're not familiar with the term for which the painting is named, I'll say no more about why this is the comparison for fear of spoiling what little surprises this Annual has in store. Once you've read it, or if you're just a big fan of spoiling things, go ahead and Google “'the mistress art' wales” to find the parenthetic title of the work.

(Don't forget your quotes and Wales, or you'll be rooting through all manner of references to Aretha Franklin and Reginald Blomfield.)

As mentioned, this is a fun read, even though we know where it will end. And while it answers some of our questions from last week, it introduces some pretty big changes in the status quo of our team before flinging them to assorted and sundry “elsewhens” as we saw them last week.

So yeah, we know what the House of Wonders is – was – now. And we know that all our missing characters were accounted for before the K'am'deva curse opened up a rift and flung them all over space and time. But we still don't where that “all over space and time” is / was.

And we still don't know quite exactly how the story actually ended. I've read it over a few times now and it could really be taken either way. Time shall tell.

And then there's that throwaway line from Madame Xanadu (what have you been up to since you wandered off, girl?!) about what she saw 1500 years ago. Oooh! How I hope that's a reference to something that matters and not just a throwaway. Could it be someone we know? Vandal Savage? Ra's al Ghul? Doctor Occult? Despero? Etrigan? Mickey Mouse? Maybe someone we haven't yet seen post-Flashpoint? Mordru? Calculha? Prime Earth Nabu? Arion?

What thinks ye?

*** Just reading and writing and rambling in the back of the Joker's old Ho-Home-On-Wheels... Keath.