By: Jonathan Vankin (writer), Marco Castiello (penciller), Vincenzo Acunzo (inker), Barb Ciardo (colorist)
The Story: You bloody well better get out of his way—the bloke’s John Constantine, like!
The Review: Considering the large scope and cosmic forces involved in Brightest Day, it certainly threw off a lot of people (namely me) when the title ultimately resulted in the official return of Swamp Thing and John Constantine to the DCU proper. Ignoring for the moment the left-field nature of this twist, you had to wonder what contribution these characters would make to the superhero community that warranted their reappearance.
After reading this issue, you’ll likely still be wondering. Vankin certainly has a love for John Constantine, as he spends far more time stocking J.C.’s dialogue to the max with Britishisms (“This bloke’s not even slowing down. Just bloody rude, the people in this city.”) than he does crafting a substantial plot. There’s a lot of Constantine being Constantine in the narration, but he communicates actually very little of import and he does even less.
Twenty-and-some-odd pages later, you find yourself where you started: John looking for Swamp Thing on the suspicion it has “changed” (if attacking and afflicting him with some mystically resistant, vaguely plantlike infection isn’t undeniable evidence of that). His theory for what causes this change is meant to be impressive, what with the dramatic final splash page and all, but anyone even slightly familiar with the character will come to the same conclusion a few pages into the issue, so really J.C. comes off looking a little thick.
It seems Vankin needs to take some time to clarify his plot ideas a little, because there’s a lot of stuff in the issue that makes no sense. John claims he’s looking for Swamp Thing, but when he gets attacked in the Kew botanical gardens by a bunch of foliage (presumably S-Thing’s work), he runs off, squandering what seems a perfectly good confrontation. Later, he connects himself and Batman to the Green, encountering Thing itself (Well, that was easy! you’ll think), but gets attacked and then fades out and they never again acknowledge the incident. Why, why?
And why does he involve Batman in the first place? Essentially, he wants to use Batman’s computer. How that will prove useful in finding an earth elemental, we’ll have to see. You’d think Zatanna would be better help in this case, particularly since she knows enough about the nature of his infection and has the power to slow its effects (something he can’t even do for himself). Instead, she arrives to drop some acidic remarks about Constantine’s less-than-admirable qualities as a boyfriend (I’d pay good money to see that break-up scene) and depart.
Castiello uses a thin, sketchy kind of linework that gives the issue a grounded, street-level look perfectly in keeping with John Constantine’s character. He doesn’t go for much stylishness, allowing the details to come through nice and clean, so even though the title stars both Swamp thing and Constantine, it’s still obviously a superhero series—aside from nearly a complete lack of action, of course—a good fit for either a Batman or Zatanna title
Conclusion: Everything you need to know about what happens in this issue, you can get from the title and the cover: John Constantine’s searching for Swamp Thing. Batman and Zatanna show up at some point (though Superman doesn’t). That’s it, see you next time!
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – I’ve known a good lot of people from the UK, and none of them ever said “mate” with the frequency their fictional counterparts do. But then again, most of them didn’t much like people in general, so maybe they never had a reason to.
– You’d think the first suspect that’d pop to mind when Batman notes an ecologically-motivated crime is Poison Ivy, but it never occurs to him. World’s greatest detective, my fanny.