So, Swamp Thing and John Constantine are back in the DC Universe and we get to pretend they’ve never been away. As you might expect with these two, weird happenings are afoot – and not all of them seem intentional on the part of the creators.
First, we have the strange case of the appearing and disappearing Hawkman and Zatanna, the shifting face of John’s pal Chas, and the question of John’s Brightest Day travels, all detailed at Bleeding Cool. Then you read the comic and there’s an odd incident involving Batman’s manservant, Alfred.
John is in London when the Swamp Thing summons him to Kew Gardens (via a newspaper, which is surely dead and so not actually connected to The Green). There he’s attacked by a tree, but escapes with the aid of trusty cabbie chum Chas. Wanting to get to the bottom of the mystery, John flies to Gotham City to find the World’s Greatest Detective and ‘charm the geezer into doing me legwork for me’ (yeah, ‘geezer’ – I know. John also uses such decidedly non-British terms as ‘schooled’ and ‘bromance’ but turnabout is fair play – it’s not as if British writers always get US usages spot on).
In Gotham he saves a cabbie from a robber, and when John says he’s looking for Batman, he’s directed to a certain signal in the Gotham night (John’s just not used to looking up to the heavens). We then see the Dick Grayson Batman in the Batmobile, in an alley, sending a message to Alfred concerning the decidedly botanical death of a mobster. Alfred, a screen reveals, is unconscious on a floor somewhere – my guess would be the Batcave, but John appears and says he knocked Alfred out to get Batman’s undivided attention. So it’s obviously not the Batcave. But where is Alfred? If he were in the Batmobile, Batman wouldn’t be contacting him by computer, he’d be turning in his seat.
Anyway, Batman listens to John – one of the men who raised him is lying on the ground somewhere, and Batman gives the time of day to the man who did it. Yes, he beats John up some, but surely he’d knock the stranger out, attend to Alfred, then consider what the Englishman has to say? Having the conversation take place immediately helps move the story along, but it doesn’t make sense for the character. Then again, neither does John assaulting or zapping fellow Englishman Alfred for no good reason.
I didn’t hate this comic. Slightly off-moments aside, it’s good to see John interacting with super-heroes again, I like his impertinent attitude to them – guess who dares light up in the Batmobile? – and their bemusement towards him. Jonathan Vankin’s narration and dialogue is generally good (I’ll excuse the unlikely radio call ‘Batman to Alfred’ as a scene-setting shortcut), especially when Zatanna shows up to help Batman with John after a trip into the Green ends badly. Zee’s spell to stall John’s spore infection is a classic. And Marco Castiello and Vincenzo Acunzo’s illustrations are good stuff, somewhere between John’s Vertigo look and the DCU house style. Their Batman is terrific, evocative of David Mazzucchelli’s at times, and there’s a tremendously spooky scene outside the city limits. And it’s all beautifully coloured by Barb Ciardo, who excels when we enter The Green.
So there’s enough quality here to bring me back for next issue’s middle episode. But with a wobbly start like this, I have a terrible feeling this is going to be another DC series that promises much, then ends badly.