By: Jeff Lemire (story), Mikel Janín (art), Ulises Arreola (colors)
The Story: Dear Lord—you never leave John Constantine alone with an unopened box!
The Review: It seems a tad unfair to harp on the deficiencies of Peter Milligan’s writing on this title, which feels not unlike beating a dead horse, but reading this issue made me realize just how monotonously, well, dark his run was. It started out on a low note, and each month things only got progressively grimmer until you felt mired in it. After a certain point, too, it just got to be dull; indifference kicked in as a coping mechanism and all that darkness slid off your back.
Lemire brings an entirely different tone to his JLD. Though largely contentious and pessimistic, the team doesn’t wallow in negativity, and their unusual lifestyles offer grounds for some oddball humor. Case in point: N’aall, the House of Mystery’s demon caretaker, who, “due to a rather embarrassing set of circumstances I don’t care to relive,” must serve Constantine in a butler’s outfit, including old-timey eyeglasses and vest. You can almost hear the British accent he had to affect per his master’s whims.
N’aall is a funny example of something Lemire brought back to this series to its great benefit: John as master manipulator. In the eight issues Milligan wrote, our favorite member of the Trenchcoat Brigade used more elaborate spellwork than practically his whole career in Hellblazer. Here, we see him going back to his classic M.O., tricking people into doing his dirty work rather than doing it himself—or even just asking politely.
That’s kind of the double-edged quality of John’s personality, the thing which makes love-hating him so natural. He may seem loose and flippant in the way he approaches things, but he’s something of a tyrant, our John. What he wants, he will one hundred percent get; he leaves nothing to chance. Hence his leading the team to the House of Mystery, where they are bound to him indefinitely, even though some of them protest, “But we would have helped you anyway!”
And by “some,” I really mean just one, and of course that one person is Zatanna, the only person in the world who retains some affection and trust for John, much to her own disgust. As a huge Zee fan, I love Lemire’s portrayal of her as honest, even innocent, despite her overt sexuality. While her ex-boyfriend might take center spotlight on this series, you can see how she’ll soon become the title’s emotional and ethical center once when the bad stuff comes down.
By Xanadu’s estimation, things are certain to get very bad down the line. Whether these Books of Magic are just tomes of knowledge or the source of all mystic power, they seem too much for any one person to handle, even John himself. His hypothetical corrupted self warns, “There is only one who is pure enough to possess them. You have to find him…” Besides a gender, we have no further info on this person’s identity, though I’ll go out on a limb and guess it’s Rex the Wonder Dog. No judgments in brainstorming, guys.
With a livelier, more varied script, Janín offers a livelier, more varied display of art. Instead of being limited to panel after panel of taut facial expressions, he gives us the many colors of John’s sneers, the sulky pout of a demon, and the mixture of outrage and hurt that is a good woman scorned. I still have my reservations about Arreola’s colors, which have a pasty quality that doesn’t quite match with the characters’ photo-realistic appearances.
Conclusion: Though I still think, with some regret, on what this series might have been had Lemire wrote it from the start, I’m more than ready to enjoy a solid occult title from here on out.
- Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: - If nothing else, Lemire should get props for making Dr. Mist a total badass, even with his habit of calling people “my dear.”
Filed under: DC Comics, Reviews Tagged: | A.R.G.U.S., Andrew Bennett, Black Orchid, Boston Brand, DC, DC Comics, Deadman, Dr. Mist, Felix Faust, Jeff Lemire, John Constantine, Justice League Dark, Justice League Dark #10, Justice League Dark #10 review, Madame Xanadu, Mikel Janin, Steve Trevor, Ulises Arreola, Zatanna, Zatanna Zatara