John Constantine is back again with a new writer and artist, but is this the one that sticks?
Johnny boy hasn’t had the best time of late (figuratively and literally). Constantine lasted a decent time alongside Justice League Dark, but Constantine: The Hellblazer was shorter than both and none of them could even touch the one true Hellblazer. A Vertigo mainstay until it was canceled at issue #300, it was truly one of the imprints best and show-cased some of the industry’s strongest talents working on a character that Alan Moore based on Sting. While I think the previous three titles carried some aspect of John’s character (his use of magic, his dalliances with being part of a team, his interactions with the supernatural and his bisexuality), none of them were able to fully integrate them into the character that headlined in his own title for 300 issues and minis. This series is off to a decent start, but it has a long way to go to prove worthy of its title.
The story begins and ends with John pissing off a demon coming to collect his soul, cursing him to die of a plague and John outsmarting him with almost his wits alone.
It’s around the climax when the story starts to show cracks when Shazam, Wonder Woman and Swamp Thing show up and Oliver tries to bring everything full circle but it comes off as lazy. John’s gambits with the demon don’t feel that inventive or full-proof, like he did the first thing that entered his mind and he went with it. Oliver has a good handle on John’s voice, which is vital for who he is as a character, but he has ways to go to make him more like the (anti)hero fans love. Although I love the not-so subtle jab he gives to a certain presidential candidate.
Moritat brings a unique aesthetic to the art which feels outside of what we are used to seeing from DC and channels the dark, grimy art that was common in Vertigo. Parts of his art carry jarring human proportions, and frankly unappealing color gradients that might remind fans of The Dark Knight Strikes Again. These are minor instances, but they do distract from an otherwise fine visual of John Constantine traveling, arguing with a dandy-esque demon and satirical take on London .His characters don’t feel like movie stars, but actual people someone sketched out during an acid trip. That’s not a detraction for a book like this, it helps to have this non-idealized view of people and their environments to set the tone of the story. Again though, a few pages have people two feet tall and flat as cardboard.
I very much wanted to like this issue and 3/4’s of the way into it I did. I thought this would be the book that would bring THE John Constantine back, but then it showed the same faults that held back the other series starring the same character. John doesn’t need pop-ins from the rest of DCU and simplified plotting, and neither do I.
Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent