Like several other series, Constantine will be part of the upcoming crossover between DC’s Dark family of books, “Forever Evil: Blight”. And as the character Constantine has, indeed, already started to take action within the pages of Justice League Dark, Ray Fawkes needs to wrap up the story being told in Constantine’s own book. So, with one final issue, can we put this Cold Flame business behind us and clear the path for the wider DC Universe?
This issue is just cool. For the most part, it’s one big battle between John Constantine and evil wizard Mr. E, all part of the Cult of the Cold Flame’s rise to power. The villains Constantine fights are interesting because, as this issue shows, they’re all as tricky as John himself. Everybody is playing at some game, and you feel like none of the allied characters can trust each other. Pretty much every character in this story is filled to the brim with treachery, meaning anything can happen at any time and it will feel organic. With a character like John Constantine, whose adventures are known for clever writing, last-minute spurts of genius, and the plot being viable to turn in the other direction at any time, that’s a really good thing.
Did I forget to mention that Constantine is naked for most of this issue? He is.
Constantine’s characterization in the New 52 in general has been a strange one, where writers want you to feel like the character knows everything and is always on top of a situation, while at the same time trying to construct this sense of danger with him, which are kind of competing ideas. When someone writes him like Geoff Johns did in “Trinity War”, you wind up with this boring perfect guy, kind of like whenever Batman is badly written. At the same time, you don’t want a character like Fawkes and Jeff Lemire presented in Justice League Dark’s “Death of Magic” storyline, where he was magically altered to be unable to lie and just fell apart immediately, and thus becomes totally useless. Ray Fawkes finds a balance that feels just right, presenting a Constantine who knows about half of what’s going on, has ideas and some understanding towards more of it, and is still missing integral information. This creates a character that you feel can win, but you’re never quite sure how it’s going to happen, and it makes for a thrilling and fun read.
The art in this book is good. The colors are done by Brad Anderson, who also does the coloring for Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger, and in a lot of ways the books look similar. There are bold, vibrant colors, which give everything a flatter, less realistic feel, but don’t actually detract from the dark nature of the story thanks to the slightly gritty pencils and inks of ACO. Lots of dark shadow, lots of empty space filled in with sketchy black textures, and then it’s all mixed with these vibrant colors and you have a book that works tonally while still being visually appealing. It’s a good mix.
The storyline just abruptly comes to a pause so it can bring John back to his big scene at the end of “Trinity War”. If you’re reading this and then hoping the next issue will bring a resolution to this Cold Flame plot, you’re in for a letdown, because the whole story arc just comes to a grinding halt to bring the series into “Forever Evil: Blight”. It’s been implied in some solicits that characters from Constantine will appear in “Blight”, but until then, it’s an annoying time to not be focusing on the main story. Still, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
While a good issue overall, Constantine is a series that continually feels like it’s failing to live up to its potential. Please note that this is not a comparison to Hellblazer, which was tonally different and allowed to play with fewer rules. Constantine has felt like it’s been building up to something great since the very first issue, but the Cold Flame storyline as a whole is starting to wear thin. There have been a lot of masterfully executed long-awaited fights in DC’s books lately, such as Swamp Thing vs. the Seeder, and the Phantom Stranger vs. the Question. These fights were really great, and worth being the central focus of the issues they appeared in. This issue’s Constantine vs. Mr. E, while good, doesn’t really feel like it deserved a full issue. This isn’t some great climax, nor does it feel like a huge turning point in the story. It’s just another piece of the big picture, and while an enjoyable read, there’s not much that’s special about it.
Constantine #8 is available digitally and physically for $2.99 USD.