Saturday, June 28, 2014

Constantine, Volume 1: The Spark and the Flame


Done with another one! My wallet thanks you, DC.
  Wow, was this bad stuff. This could very well be a bitter old man reacting to change with an outburst of "EVERYTHING WAS BETTER IN MY DAY! HEHHHHHH!", but then again, this could just be really bad, lowest-common-denominator shit. I'm going with the latter.

 I've been reading John Constantine since, literally, day one. I bought his first appearance in SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING at a newsstand (Or "Candy Store", as we called them in The Bronx...) the day it was released, walking home from school. I followed him through Swampy's book, written by Moore and later Rick Veitch, into his own book, and while there have been times when I gave up on his HELLBLAZER title, I always came back to try it again when a new writer came aboard.  I was disappointed when DC cut the cord on John's Vertigo title, but I was also open-mined, thinking back to the amazing way that Alan Moore integrated John and Swamp Thing into a CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS crossover issue, something that had no business working, let alone working beautifully, in the middle of a long-running Swampy story arc, no less! If Moore could make John Constantine stand alongside Batman and Superman, well, that showed that it could be done. Why not let DC give it a try?

 OK, I was wrong. THIS is why you don't let DC give it a try.

As I closed the last page of this book, it finally clicked with me why I dislike "The New 52" so much: It's all 1990's Marvel. This is EXACTLY the type of awful, God-forsaken shit that Marvel might have tried to do with Son Of Satan or Dr. Druid in the early '90's. Most of the people steering the ship at DC are 1990's Marvel refugees, and almost all of "The New 52" has that 1990's Marvel stink of "Desperate to be hip" shit about it. CONSTANTINE, VOLUME 1: THE SPARK AND THE FLAME is an awful, ugly book, and while part of me mourns John Constantine, part of me is happy that I'll be saving the cost of following another ongoing title. (Dropping DC books has been a trend for me, of late.)

 CONSTANTINE is written by Jeff Lemire, who I just don't get- DC is putting waaaay too many eggs in the Jeff Lemire basket for my tastes. He's assisted by Ray Fawkes, who isn't bad or good, but, even worse, is blah. The art, by Renato Guedes & Fabiano Neves, is angular and ugly. John Constantine is a horrid, unlikeable coward, completely missing whatever spark he had at Vertigo that made him a loveable rogue that you rooted for nonetheless,

 This is where I rant on and on about why "The New 52" isn't working for me, so skip this paragraph if you're sick of it. I won't hold it against you- I'M sick of it. Not only is John himself changed beyond recognition, but Lemire has also changed Sargon The Sorcerer and Mister E. into awful new characters. Sargon I can tolerate, because I was never that attached to him, but Mister E. is so far removed from the coldly calculating pragmatic lunatic that Neil Gaiman served up in THE BOOKS OF MAGIC that it actually hurt to read him. He's now a hopped-up blind hillbilly magician who talks like Rhett Butler playing Doctor Strange. Ugh. Plus, the book stops dead for the obligatory JUSTICE LEAGUE: TRINITY WAR (Review HERE) crossover that is never explained at all. (Would a text recap kill you, DC...?) John Constantine becomes Shazam. Ugh.

 On the plus side, there are two really nice covers by Juan Jose Ryp, so that was something I enjoyed, at least. Otherwise, this is a fucking dreadful, ugly mess, and I'm dropping this book like a hot potato covered in hot shit. DC does it again!

 CONSTANTINE, VOLUME 1: THE SPARK AND THE FLAME collects issues 1-6 of CONSTANTINE, complete with all covers and variants, and a small sketch gallery.