Constantine #1 – 4 GPPs
Ray Fawkes, Jeff Lemire (Author) Renato Guedes, Marcelo Maiolo (Art)
Plenty of potential.
Inconsistent and confusing writing.
Severe pacing problems.
Hit and miss art.
Occultist John Constantine sets out to track down a legendary artifact with dark magical properties and gets more than he was expecting in this the first issue of his new on-going series set in the DC universe.
This younger version has been a part of this universe for quite some time now with John Constantine being one of the core members of Justice League Dark, Constantine has also made appearances in several other titles too.
Ray Fawkes and Jeff Lemire writer of the critically acclaimed Animal Man and the under appreciated Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E have been given the uneviable task of writing Constantine and from first impressions it seems like they’ve stumbled badly.
It’d be hard to not mention Hellblazer whilst talking about Constantine, after all Hellblazer was John Constantine’s home for over 20 years and he became one of the most believable characters DC has ever had thanks to deft characterisation over the years.
There’s going to be several different types of potential reader for this title, Hellblazer fans picking it up to see what it’s like, those familiar with Constantine through Justice League Dark and other titles in the DC52 and those that don’t know the character at all and are just picking it up to try it out. The latter will be smallest at a guess.
It would be impossible for Constantine#1 to please all these potential readers but crucially this inaugural adventure for the nicotine stained occultist will probably fail to please any of them.
The introduction to Constantine shows him leaving some subterranean club somewhere in New York before shortly encountering someone named Chris who suffers from some sort of mystical divination affliction. Before long the scene shifts to John’s appartment which is festooned with occult trinkets, totems, scrolls, books and various other items which defy description and he has several dogs because ‘animals screw with divination magic’,it’s also above a pet shop .
A running narrative of John’s thoughts acts as a framing device stating that there are people that bend and twist the rules of the universe to their own devices ‘There are no rules. That’s magic. And that makes people like me very,very dangerous’
Unfortunately these attempts at world building are hampered by a story which is unengaging and flawed and in a big hurry to get somewhere.
In the space of a few pages the story jumps from New York to Norway via plane ride and the scene shifts to the chapel of an ice hotel. It’s here where the fate of Chris is made out to be a major event and also made as indicative of Constantine’s character as Sargon the Sorceress says ‘you do live up to your reputation Constantine’.
Sargon’s statement doesn’t have any real weight though since it’s never established who Chris is to Constantine, it’s never inferred whether he’s just a random aquaintance or a friend so any power this was supposed to wield vanishes. Aside from establishing that John isn’t your typical ‘hero’, which most readers will already know this doesn’t really achieve anything and things are further obfuscated when at the conclusion somehow a fleet of yellow taxi’s have appeared outside the hotel.
John’s thoughts refering to magic are the only indicator to anything actually happening to explain the presence of several cars where there was only one previously, this is jarring and sloppy from a writing point of view and makes John seem more like Mysterio than the occultist he is purported to be by the earlier events of the story.
Another problem is Renato Guedes art which seems to be distinctly hit and miss, the first few pages are good with a great atmospheric image of Constantine walking through New York in the early hours and his apartment has some great detail going on . At other times Constantine looks flat out malevolently evil and also looks uncannily like Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
A first issue is never easy to get right, with characters to introduce, a world to introduce and all whilst having an engrossing story which hooks the reader. The problem here is it seems to be written for the ADHD crowd, there’s no time to actually build any atmosphere to any of the places Constantine visits or add any sense of weight to anything that happens and the ease with which John finds the first piece of the Compass makes him seem like Dr Manhattan.
It seems that Fawkes and Lemire are moving away from Hellblazer’s territory of urban horror and are wanting to set up Constantine as a sort of edgy Doctor Strange, that cover looks exactly like a Doctor Strange cover, but this is not a good start to things. Unfeasibly attired women and splash pages just seem wrong in a John Constantine comic.
The pair may have a longer term plan for the story but whether anyone will be reading is the question.