Writers: Jeff Lemire & Ray Fawkes
Art: Renato Guedes
Most first issues come with some form of baggage. It’s usually the expectations of fans for a good book because of the creative team, or the excitement of a well-liked character finally gaining a solo series but this one comes with low expectations. That’s the impression I got from some of my friends and commenters online when Constantine was announced and the reason was that this is only here due to Hellblazer’s cancellation.
With John Constantine’s inclusion in the post ‘New 52’ DC universe, the cancellation of Hellblazer with its 300th issue was very much expected. As a fan of the series, the first Vertigo series I began to collect in trade, I was sad to see it go. Though that sadness did not stop me ordering Constantine #1 to give it a fair shot, after all; John was a main DC universe character when Alan Moore created him in the pages of Swamp Thing. His role so far in Justice League Dark has been interesting and entertaining, if a little sanitized, so I wanted to see how his new on-going would turn out.
Firstly the art by Renato Guedes is not bad. Illustrative rather than cartoonish, his stubbled John Constantine looks good. The opening couple of pages of John walking New York’s streets had a nice look of the real world with only a Green Lantern flying in the distance to remind us that this is not the real world at all. When the supernatural elements of the story kick in I really felt they looked a bit too ‘right’ I hoped they would seem more otherworldly and creepy but they just didn’t. I think this is also due to colorist Marcelo Maiolo whose work might just be a little too bright and fitted to a superhero book rather than a supernatural one. This book feels like it needs more atmosphere to it, a bit more shadow and darkness.
A bonus, to those of us who hate to see books with the same characters constantly contradict one another, is that this title has the same writing partnership of Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes who handle John as the lead of Justice League Dark. Anyone who reads that book will see a recognizable Constantine here. The plot of this first issue recaps some of the mythology around magic in the DCU, while introducing to new readers John character and the theme of the cost of magic .Something Hellblazer readers will already know well. It is a good opening to the first arc and sums up John’s place in the world of the New 52. The plot however, revolving around the search for a supernatural artifact, is too much like what we already see in JLD. I hope we see something different in the coming issues or Constantine may be no more than Justice League Dark without the rest of the team in tow. Oh and Jeff please stop having every hero and villain announce their names the second they appear, it is becoming my one and only pet hate about your work.
This book could have potential. John is still his conman self and he isn’t totally out of place in the new DC universe. But this book is not a Hellblazer replacement. I knew it never could be simply because it loses the ‘anything could happen’ feel that the Vertigo title had. This feels sanitized, not seeing John curse takes getting used to. Having said that the horror seen in recent DC books shows that a book without the ‘mature readers’ stamp can still shock, I just wish this one would. Lemire himself has shown in his other titles that he can do horror but we see none of that here so far and it seems like that might be what’s missing. Fingers crossed for the next few issues.
3 out of 5 Nerds.