Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Constantine, Volume 1: The Spark and The Flame by Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes and Renato Guedes Review

“Constantine” – right away you can tell DC have fiddled with the former Vertigo fan favourite by naming it after the atrocious Keanu Reeves picture from 2005. It used to be called John Constantine: Hellblazer and the name Hellblazer isn’t mentioned once in this comic. But it’s still recognisably the same character even though the character’s doomed soul isn’t mentioned as much in this reboot than it was before, and I’m not sure it’s once mentioned that he’s from Liverpool, just that he’s English (I’d have LOVED to have heard Keanu’s attempt at a Newcastle accent – if you’ve never heard it, google it and listen to how funny it sounds and then imagine the guy who mangled a British accent in Coppola’s Dracula attempting it. Woah!).

Instead, Constantine is portrayed as a supernatural Indiana Jones, globetrotting ahead of his evil magic rivals to collect the pieces of the powerful talisman known as Croydon’s Compass, a device that alerts its owner to the appearance of any mystical object first. As he travels to Norway, Myanmar and London, he’s chased by Sargon the Sorceress (daughter of Sargon the Sorcerer – imaginative, right?) and Mister E, and encounters other spooky characters like Papa Midnite, Zatanna and the Spectre along the way too.

The book does get a lot right by including a lot of magical action, duels, spells, and everything that should be in a story featuring sorcerers, spirits and wizards, and artist Renato Guedes does an excellent job of drawing these magical scenes really well. Also, Constantine’s devil-may-care, selfish, and roguish personality comes through strongly. Buuut… it’s just not a very interesting story. The first three issues at least have a story arc as Constantine gets the pieces of Croydon’s Compass, but it’s quite formulaic with few surprises along the way – how does Constantine get the pieces? Shows up at a shrine, cracks open a vase, and there it is. And then what happens at the end of the arc? He puts the compass on a shelf and sits in a chair. Oh. How…zzzz…. The remaining 3 issues are a bit of a directionless mess with issue 5 unfortunately being a Trinity War tie-in.

Trinity War was utter garbage but suddenly inserting Shazam into the series is just awkward, not least because it’s a terrible issue or that it has nothing to do with the series or even Trinity War, and is totally irrelevant. It’s just a cynical marketing trick to sell more copies, and fans of New 52 Shazam (there must be some) hoping for something out of the crossover with Constantine are treated to Shazam pushed to the side for the entire issue while Constantine fights a bad guy.

Jeff Lemire co-writes the first four issues with Ray Fawkes and it’s unsurprising that these are the best of the book with the last two containing so little moments of interest that I don’t think I’ll be following the series any further. Constantine, Volume 1: The Spark and The Flame is a decent book in that it’s accessible to new readers and Lemire/Fawkes have more or less captured the essence of the character, but it’s a shame that the series suffers from a lack of a strong narrative to give Constantine a sense of urgency or tension in his adventures. As it is, it feels like each issue of Constantine is the character treading water – not exactly riveting reading.

Constantine Volume 1: The Spark and the Flame

No comments:

Post a Comment