This cover is a rare miss for Ryan Sook. For starters, it looks like the image is just cut in half, they're all attacking something off the edge right next to them. As for the roster, it's a random selection of three to represent the team, and while Zatanna and Deadman vs. Vines makes perfect sense, the end of the previous issue revealed Dr. Mist as the traitor, so his presence on the cover here makes no sense. This is also one of those cases where the white background doesn't work, it just makes the whole things feel very awkwardly empty.
This issue jumps right in to a Dr. Mist flashback to justify his betrayal, which works out well enough. It still kind of creates a strange knowledge loop, where Faust knew of The Black Room because of Dr. Mist, but Dr. Mist got there and knew of the Books of Magic because of Faust. All of this is potentially answered by the reveal that they are both working with a true master with some very intriguing connections to Constantine. I'm kind of suspecting he's an older Constantine, but for he's just a pretty badass intimidating foes. He has the same tattoo and smoking habit though... And the issue ends with a perfect setup for the epic war for the Books of Magic, the mystery master acquiring a power to rival the JLD's.
Another big revelation this issue is that Timothy Hunter literally banished all magic from his body. The scene where he does so makes me feel that the 'magic force' he banished from himself is about to start mimicking the feeling of the Phoenix Force over in Marvel. Madame Xanadu seems to be wallowing in hopeless despair, but right away my first thought was that it appeared his magic was still out there in a somewhat self aware form, and could be inserted into a new host. I'm pretty sure that's where this arc will end up going, and I'm surprised Madame Xanadu didn't have that thought.
This issue bridges the Black Room into The War For the Books of magic, like an arc bridge connecting these two arcs into truly a single arc with a fitting arcing name for each segment. Surprisingly, this issue falls back into more of a relaxed transition instead of action like the last issue's cliffhanger implied. The move works well, and we get some time to do some GREAT character spotlighting. Constantine's flirtation with Black Orchid is extremely entertaining, perfect demonstrating how much of a magnificent bastard he is.
This issue also does a great job at continuing to reach into the far corners of the magic side of the DC Universe, like some bizarre version of Shadowpact dedicated to reconnecting the more Vertigo associated DCU characters, or just the ones less shown. From Blackbriar Thorn, to Dr. Occult, and of course Timothy Hunter.
In Conclusion: 4.5/5
There's a couple of moments with characters kind of dropping the ball on things, and definitely some plot points that are tailored more to those deeply entrenched in DC lore; but at the same time I feel that this is a good way to introduce some more obscure segments of the magic DCU. And of course the artwork is incredibly atmospheric, the panel layouts are elegantly inventive, and the characters are richly written and interesting. Plus the plot is awesome.