By: Jeff Lemire & Ray Fawkes (story), Mikel Janin (art), Jeromy Cox (colors)
The Story: Why not have one last, pointless war during an apocalypse just to feel alive?
The Review: Now that we know the upcoming Constantine series will be helmed by Lemire and Fawkes, Justice League Dark offers a valuable preview of what you’ll be getting into should you choose to take a chance on DC’s mainstreaming of the Hellblazer. Frankly, I don’t know if this is such a good thing if DC really wants people to give Constantine a try. JLD doesn’t really have what it takes to impress the purely curious, and it certainly won’t impress the doubters.
Part of that is just bad timing. Our leading man is most definitely not himself, after all, in the current arc, and will be therefore unrecognizable to anyone who loved the chain-smoking, surly, and acerbic chap who drove Hellblazer to a monstrous three hundred issues. But even if those folks can accept the narrative circumstances that led to his emasculation, they probably won’t accept the facts about Constantine that this arc reveals.
I wonder if Lemire-Fawkes are keeping in mind that the whole appeal about Constantine is that he’s kind of rude and uncaring. Of course, he is a force for good at the end of the day, and he does have his sentimental, even compassionate side, but I doubt anyone cares to learn that he’s actually a softie underneath his cantankerous personality. That’s why displays of anguish (“I won’t leave anyone behind!” he protests at Xanadu’s predictions to the opposite) and poutiness (“Y’know, Brand…you really hurt my feelings back there. I thought you liked me.”) feel so unsettling and wrong, even for a non-hardline Constantine fan like me.
Deadman sums up our feelings best when he gripes, “Man, I like you so much better when you don’t give a damn about anything.” But that line also reveals what’s so confusing about this semi-sniveling Constantine: just because he can no longer tell lies, why does that mean he’s suddenly a heartfelt team player all of a sudden? Why can’t he be just as distant and abrasive, but with even less tact? I think, perhaps, Lemire-Fawkes realize their mistake in this choice of characterization, if Deadman’s line to Constantine means anything: “When we get outta this place, I’m going to pretend none of this every happened.” I hope we can, too.
But I have a feeling that this is a case where the writers don’t have as tight a handle on the characters as they should. Each of the JLD members feel less powerful and charismatic in some way. Even in Xanadu’s dire predicament, you’d expect her to have a trick somewhere (old age is, after all, no stranger to her, as Demon Knights #3 indicates). Zatanna, despite a massive power boost, still acts like she’s just a supporting character in this ensemble rather than a star in her own right. Only Frankenstein, basically a Lemire creation by this point, acts entirely like himself, which means being terrifying and indomitable even in the worst circumstances.
Janin has really flourished with Cox as his colorist, but there are aspects about his art that no amount of polish can solve. I’ve always regarded his work as overly posed, such that even in the most active scenes, you get the sense that everyone’s staying still. When characters fall or get thrown about, the look more like they’re suspended in midair. Other than that, Janin has always been a faithful, highly adaptable (how else can he draw both fantasy and sci-fi with equal credibility?) force for this troubled series.
Conclusion: As much as you want to like this title, it really hasn’t done anything to earn your favor for a long time, and it looks like it may bode ill for other projects, too.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Ugh. I am no thrilled that Timothy’s dad is in on this now. Every time a family member gets involved in these things, it almost always means their death is around the corner.