By: Jeff Lemire & Ray Fawkes (story), Mikel Janin (art), Jeromy Cox (colors)
The Story: Constantine telling the truth? Good Lord—this world is all wrong!
The Review: You know what point of conflict I deeply wish will just go away from comics—or any other kind of story—forever? The whole “science versus magic” debate. Besides the fact that it’s just been done a thousand times, I find the whole argument forced and ridiculous, mostly because the skeptics often deny the existence of magic as they watch it happen right in front of them. From a purely storytelling perspective, it just has no juice left in it anymore.
So while I appreciate Lemire and new writing partner Fawkes avoiding the argument itself, I still regard a plot revolving around the tension between science and magic with a little wariness. To their credit, Lemire-Fawkes seem to find a very nice middle ground between the two opposing forces, where science has a place in understanding the effects the magic, though it remains completely baffled as to the cause. Even in a world where science has clearly mastered the planet, it continues to refer to magical occurrences as an “anomaly” or “disordered energies.”
Whatever world our heroes have landed on, it’s not simply a case where, like the real world, magic has been marginalized. Zatanna’s senses alert us to the problem: “[T]he whole place is overflowing with magic! Wild magic!” That power is loose and unbound, presumably seeking out anyone and anything to work on, which may explain the bizarre, unpredictable changes it wreaks on the JLD.
Unpredictable, yes, but random? You’re not so sure about that. It can’t be a coincidence that every alteration to our gang has the distinct flavor of irony to it, right? Spoiler alert—with the immortal Xanadu turned old, the unnatural Orchid becoming monstrous, Deadman returning to the living, and so on*, something else is afoot in this world beyond the strangeness we can see.
The most significant changes, appropriately enough, are to our leads. As a major Zatanna fan who’s always been a little disappointed at the uneven and unflattering way writers have handled her standing in the DCU, I’m psyched to see her receive a huge power boost—even if she still gets owned in the end. I suspect, however, that people will be far more interested in this world’s effects on John, who for once seems at a loss of deceiving words. Constantine purists, already pissed at the cancellation of Hellblazer, may be outraged by the semi-whimpering, true-to-his-feelings John here,* but I think it’s delightful, frankly. Let’s be honest; haven’t all of us wondered at one point or another what it’d be like if Constantine couldn’t lie? I find that much more intriguing than whatever trouble the JLD will get up to in this hostile world.
As soon as I saw Janin’s work in this issue, colored by new guy Cox, my immediate thought was, Oh, that’s much better. True, I still see the tiniest shades of artificial, plastic tones in the characters, but that’s a vast improvement over the pale, waxy, almost sickly hues Ulises Arreola gave us all year. Flesh tones look mostly natural, allowing you to focus and appreciate the nice touches of personality Janin gives the cast on top of their great designs.
Conclusion: Besides the noticeable boost to the art, Lemire-Fawkes deliver a fairly solid script that gives a new spin to an old plot.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * Frankenstein, true to form, remains unchanged (read: surly). It’s comforting to know that even if the entire DCU crumbles, ol’ Frankie will still be there, fighting the good fight and quoting some crap poets.
* And you know, there’s every possibility that he may just be faking it for the sake of fitting into the new world. Why else would the effects on everyone else be physical and his merely psychological? Certainly, you can’t put that over him.