This whole thing where the Crime Syndicate appears on the cover of “Forever Evil: Blight” comics without appearing the comics themselves is getting kinda old. Still, as comic books have taught us, you really cannot judge a book by its cover, because the cover often lies. Anyway, J.M. DeMatteis has set some excellent groundwork so far in “Blight” with Justice League Dark and Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger. Now it’s Ray Fawkes’s turn to take over with Constantine and Trinity of Sin: Pandora. So, does a change of writers keep the story moving smoothly?
Oh boy. This is a very problematic issue. The majority of it is action; a newly formed Justice League Dark fighting Blight who has crossed over into the material realm by possessing Chris Esperanza, a member of the Phantom Stranger’s supporting cast. The problem is that ACO’s art really fails to convey that action well. There is a TON of big magical action happening here, and the art style doesn’t really suit it. When characters are just standing around talking, it’s not that big a deal, but once anything visually demanding happens, it just falls aparts. ACO seems to draw characters as these big, blurry blobs with lots of rough outlining and random sketch marks to add detail, but it just doesn’t look good overall. This is the original Blight design of Mikel Janín’s showcased when Bob Harras first announced the crossover:
This is how he looks in the comic as drawn by ACO.
You can somewhat tell that some of it is supposed to be bones and scales, but it doesn’t really match the character’s design that we’re be seeing for most of the crossover, and everything is drawn like this. ACO leaves the reader to fill in the blanks, with everything being big shapes with minimal features, and it really just doesn’t look good. Overall, it just seems like ACO is being lazy. ACO did the art for last month’s issue of Constantine, and it was a lot more detailed and better looking than this. That issue was basically one big action scene, as well. It’s hard to tell what the reason for this is, but as there are two pages where Beni Lobel does the art instead, and those are much better, much more detailed, and more on model for the characters. It’s safe to guess that ACO ran out of time and had to rush the art. Brad Anderson’s colors just seem to be trying to go along with the art style, and while it’s a noble attempt, it just doesn’t look good overall.
I have no idea what this is supposed to look like, but whatever it is, it doesn’t.
As mentioned, there are a couple of pages done by Beni Lobel, and they look great. Characters are all on model, everything’s a lot calmer, and it’s all visually impressive. Anderson’s colors work a lot better with the more detailed artwork.
It kind of looks like they’re playing Dance Central.
As for the story, not a lot happens here. The point of this issue is just to illustrate how powerful Blight is, and that it’s going to take a lot to bring this new threat down, as he’s just as dangerous in the physical realm as he is in the mental one. Blight as a character is still hard to get a hold on, but we’ll likely get to figure out his personality soon.
A lot of the issue spends time exploring the Constantine/Zatanna relationship that’s been present in the New 52 from Constantine’s point of view. Everything that’s said is pretty true, but the problem is that the biggest focus is pretty obvious: Constantine is trying to hide his feelings from Zatanna. However, where previously this has been characterized as Constantine trying to protect Zatanna after the events of the first few arcs of Justice League Dark, it’s shown here as Constantine doing it so he can know what Zatanna really thinks of him.
In a lot of ways, this feels true to the classic spirit of Constantine; John manipulating those around him. At least it’s something new with Constantine’s relationship with Zatanna, which has started to get a bit stale.
The last part of this story is another brief, two-page aside in which we get to see some villainous plan involving magic users of the DC Universe being abducted. Here, we see it’s not just heroes, but also villains getting caught up in this, and that the Crime Syndicate is involved. We still don’t know much, but it’s really interesting, and what is seen in this issue is really cool.
This is a case of bad art ruining a book. Constantine #9 could’ve been a really impressive issue full of great-looking action, but instead is just a big ugly mess. The story keeps the reader interested if they were already interested in it to begin with, but not a lot happens in it, and the art certainly does it no favors. Hopefully the next issue of Constantine will have better artwork, because this is just atrocious.
Constantine #9 is available from physical and digital retailers for $2.99 USD.