Constantine is a series that, much like its main character, is caught somewhere in the chasm between good and bad. Judging it can be a difficult task, as the series has a lot of potential that it often fails to live up to, but can keep the reader engaged because nearly every issue seems to be planting more seeds for future plot developments. This issue is a prime example of that. It’s pretty much nothing but looking into characters and planting seeds for the future of “Forever Evil: Blight”. So how does it do at these things?
Ray Fawkes really brings his A game this time around. At the end of last week’s Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger #15, Constantine has a little rant that basically amounts to the old question; “Why does God let bad things happen?” The Phantom Stranger decides it’s high time to find out, and whisks the Justice League Dark away to Heaven. This issue sees the team meet Zauriel, the Spectre, and Dog (the Voice of God taking the form of a Scottish Terrier), the third of whom is now making his first appearance outside of the Phantom Stranger’s solo series. Zauriel just wants them all to leave, as they are breaking all of the rules by being at Heaven’s border, while the Spectre wants to destroy them all because, well, that’s what the Spectre does. However, as Constantine is defiant and crude to everybody, even God himself, Dog decides to answer Constantine by taking a look at his character and showing him the character of all of his teammates.
This is a really strange issue to read, but an interesting one. It presents an overall bleak view of the members of the Justice League Dark, but it does so because of Constantine’s overall bleak view of the world. The bulk of this issue is Constantine talking to Dog about the world and evil. In a lot of ways, it probably rings truer to the history of the character and is the closest thing to the original Hellblazer stories that anything else we’ve seen in the New 52. There’s still some action, but the issue is more focused on things people say than on any one thing anybody does. It’s the kind of non-standard adventure Constantine is more well known for, and really, it works.
The only real problem with this story is that it doesn’t do much for the “Blight” story. We don’t see Blight or more of the Crime Syndicate’s plan or anything, but there is one bit of major progress at the end of the issue, so that’s all forgivable. This issue has a much bigger problem anyway: The artwork is really weird.
This issue is pencilled by guest artist Beni Lobel, and the quality of the artwork is just all over the place. Sometimes, the artwork is really high quality. The characters are all exactly on-model, with great detailing, proportions, etc.
And then other times they look more like guys you’d find in the local diner right after going to Synagogue on Saturday.
In the interest of fairness, one could argue that portraying the Phantom Stranger as an old Jewish man is rather appropriate, given that he’s Judas (even though Jews from that time were not white people, but hey) but it still looks ridiculous. It’s really crazy how the quality of the imagery drastically changes from page to page, or even varies between panels on the same page. A ludicrously big nose or bizarre facial expression can throw off the seriousness of a scene. Even some of the poses the characters wind up making can be really bewildering.
I did not realize that God rolled with a posse through the Golden Gates.
It doesn’t ruin the book. On the contrary, it makes it really entertaining and outright funny at points, but it certainly ruins the gravitas that the scenes try to convey. Another problematic thing with this book is that it’s not very colorful. The characters go to Heaven where all the golden light casts a lot of shadow, and really washes out a ton of the color on these characters. It’s unclear if this is due to artistic direction of Lobel’s or if it was colorist Brad Anderson’s choice, but there’s just more than can be done with color here that, frankly, isn’t.
This is probably the best issue of Constantine yet. It’s a case of the big event that a comic series ties into being used to serve the series itself. Constantine’s discussion with Dog is a reflection of how Constantine views the world, and this book provides a lot of insight to his character that’s been missing in previous issues. Sometimes, words do speak louder than actions.
Constantine #10 is available from physical and digital retailers for $2.99 USD.