Constantine #1 review

Well, if there was any doubt that DC’s replacement for Vertigo’s long-running Hellblazer comic was going down a very different path, it’s right there on the cover. Your typical Vertigo cover would be John smoking in a street, with a demon looming in the background. The debut issue of Constantine has its titular hero blasting outwards courtesy of some magical maguffin. This isn’t John Constantine, jumped-up con man and street magician, it’s Dr Fate with trenchcoat rather than cape.

Inside, the first few pages of Ray Fawkes and Jeff Lemire’s script try to reassure us that this is indeed the same character created by Alan Moore, but now living in New York rather than London or Liverpool. He visits seedy haunts and tries to help a friend in trouble of the mystical kind.

Then you get to page five, and an honest-to-goodness superhero-style mission statement …

Dearie Lord! Soon he’s having a magical tussle with a cheerfully chesty femme fatale named Sargon the Sorceress, a spin-off from DC’s Golden Age hero turned Bronze Age villain. And by the end of the issue Constantine has sacrificed his pal in a way far more premeditated than anything I recall the Vertigo version doing.

The writing’s not bad for what it is – a DC New 52 superhero comic by any other name. The best line reads: ‘Magic is costly. You take what you didn’t earn, but you pay for it.’ Actually, it’s not so much the best line as the only standout line – the rest of the dialogue and narration serve the story, but lack style, insight and mood.

The visuals of Renato Guedes are as splashy as the script, not unattractive but pretty generic 2013 DC, with none of the subtlety I associate with a John Constantine tale. And why does our hero’s hair look like a moulded plastic wig?

There’s not much more to say – a multi-part storyline kicks off and I’m jumping off. The John Constantine here has none of the sly wit, the likeability of the ‘real’ guy. Happily, there are 300 issues of Hellblazer to remind me who John is, I shall read them. I suggest someone in the land of the New 52 does the same.

8 thoughts on “Constantine #1 review

  1. Heh, there's a surprise. Glad I passed on this.

    (Then again, I shamefully hadn't been reading Hellblazer for 4-5 years. I've got a good bunch of trades to catch up on.)


  2. I am quite jealous of Guedes' confident mastery of Sketchup that he can create so many fisheye and Dutch Angle panels, but like yourself, Martin, I felt it either got in the way of being John Constantine art, or it was a bold mission statement that by page 3 we were so awash in broken lines that Jim Lee's inkers would be proud of. The two panels at the top of page three also visually distracted me – were they supposed to be a single street view broken into two panels? If not, the second panel creates an odd tangent with the first.

    I don't know what to make of this, to be honest, as I know it's sacrilege to say it, but beyond the odd trade bought more for Will Simpson or Steve Dillon artwork, I am not actually a big Hellblazer fan as I found it a bit wanky, so cannot really review this relative to the strengths and merits of that book, but it reminds me most of those teen wizard mangas you find on Deviantart, only without the charm of being a labor of love, free to read, and/or anthropomorphic animals in the main cast who randomly gay up.

    What we have here objectively to my eyes is Harry Dresden fan fiction – only not very good Harry Dresden fan fiction, which is cool in a way because it helps validate my theory that this book was created solely to generate the basis of a Supernatural/Vampire Diaries-style hourly fantasy melodrama for the CW* by creating a comic book indistinguishable from one.

    *Makers of Arrow, Smallville, and a WB subsidiary.


  3. I read it and liked it, but it's not one of those books I ended up loving. I bet this is because of the writer switch so I'll hang around for a while. Ray Fawkes promised rather short arcs so that's good for me to feel this comic out. If it doesn't work out, that's alright, I'll fine something else (possibly his Pandora comic in June!).


  4. Hello Brigonos, thank you so much for the insight into how the art was done, it's an area in which I'm horribly ignorant.

    It doesn't sound at all wanky, I'm not a completist – I read every issue until Brian Azzarello's scripts sent me running to the hills – he moved Constantine to the US … like that'd work!

    The CW guess sounds awfully likely, though he'd have to swap the overcoat for a form-fitting tee shirt.


  5. I only thumbed through one issue of Hellblazer and saw part of the movie so JLD was where I got interested in Constantin. I'm not familiar with hellblazer Constantin but this is a different universe and a different Constantin whom we are just getting to know. I liked this well enough to check out #2.



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