Book Review – Constantine vol. 1: The Spark and the Flame

  • Title: Constantine vol. 1: The Spark and the Flame
  • Author: Ray Fawkes, Jeff Lemire
  • Artist: Renato Guedes, Marcelo Maiolo
  • Line: New 52
  • Characters: John Constantine, Papa Midnight, Justice League Dark
  • Publication Date: 2014
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/18/2016

**Spoiler Alert** This is the first volume of the John Constantine solo series, but it is interwoven with John’s adventures as part of Justice League Dark as such at times I found myself having to realize where we were in John’s story – and that changes throughout the volume.

The first three issues collected in this volume are closely linked. Constantine is after Croydon’s Compass – a dangerous magical artifact that’s been broken into three pieces and scattered to the winds. Constantine wants it to prevent it from falling in to the hands of some evil magicians – but this is Constantine, so he probably wouldn’t mind having the power for himself. Constantine’s monologue explains both how his magic works (it has a high price) and Constantine’s point-of-view in using it. He obtains the first part of the compass, the needle, but his friend Chris dies – killed by the evil magicians hunting the compass and John. When he tries to obtain the second part, the face of the compass, he eventually succeeds but not before losing the needle to the bad guys. The third part of the compass is in London – and due to some sort of curse, John is physically sick and hurt the entire time he’s in London. As it turns out neither John nor the evil magicians can take the lens.

John then returns home to New York, only to face off against Papa Midnight. John gets beaten-up by Midnight’s men, but had cast a spell on himself – so the damage reflects back on Midnight’s goons. John then tracks down the man who had been following him on the behalf on one of the evil magicians, a man he’d see run a short-change con on a local business owner. John essentially mugs him, then donates the stolen money to the business owner, a friend.

The next issue ties in with the story of the Justice League trying to find Pandora’s Box for some reason – which also popped-up in Justice League Dark. John gets Shazam (Captain Marvel) to become Billy Batson, then uses a spell to switch their voices – so Billy sounds like John and John is able to become Shazam for a short period. They are attacked by a demon. When the spell is reversed, John tries to convince Batson not to touch Pandora’s Box – but Batson doesn’t believe him or even listen to what Constantine is telling him. John’s severely injured in the battle and the owner of the bar tries calling Zatanna but can’t get a hold of her. Then John is attacked by Chris’s ghost. John tells the ghost he was dying anyway because his brain couldn’t handle his power. Papa Midnight arrives. John has to convince Papa Midnight to save him, and John points out the danger represented by the Cult of the Cold Flame. Papa Midnight saves John. And John’s gone through Metamorphosis in Extremis for the third time – making him an even more powerful mage and magic user.

John Constantine is a fascinating hero – he’s an anti-hero who will sacrifice whatever it takes for his purposes. And those purposes are often the bigger picture. Constantine also doesn’t want to be the hero – but he has skills and those skills have one purpose – to fight the darkness. Constantine’s uniform is simple: black pants, white shirt, messy tie, tan trench coat. This is about as far from the brightly-colored uniforms of most superheroes as you can get. And despite his abilities at using magic, he’s a very human hero – his magic comes at a price, a price John will pay because he loves the rush. Yet at the same time, John tries to do the right thing – even though it often backfires on him. This is a promising start to a new graphic novel series that I think I will enjoy. First volume is recommended, though you may want to also read Justice League Dark to figure out what’s going on.

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