Book Review – Constantine vol. 4: The Apocalypse Road

  • Title: Constantine vol. 4: The Apocalypse Road
  • Author: Ray Fawkes
  • Artist: Edgar Salazar
  • Line: New 52
  • Characters: John Constantine
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/07/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Constantine Volume 4: The Apocalypse Road is the fourth and unfortunately, final volume of the New 52 Era John Constantine (Hellblazer) comics and graphic novel series. Fortunately, Constantine has been introduced again in DC Rebirth – but the first graphic novel collection of the newest series won’t be available until April. DC has, however, also collected the various Vertigo Constantine stories – so there is more to look for coming or available if you like the character and want to see different takes on him.

This story picked up after the cliffhanger from the last volume. John finds himself on an alternate Earth – an Earth where “John Constantine” isn’t a Mage of the Third (or as John says in this volume) Fourth Order. Rather, this alternate John is a rock musician. Mage John’s parents and his friends are still alive as well. Mage John is shocked by all this. However, no one is likely to survive for long – this alternate reality’s Earth has been invaded by aliens, aliens using an atmospheric gas to produce feelings of doom, depression, and helplessness to make it easier to subdue the population. And once that is done, the planet will be turned over to Darkseid to destroy at his leisure.

As John’s coming to terms with that, and meeting himself and his friends, and seeing his other path as potentially better but doomed – they realize he is a mage. At first full of anger, everyone from John’s parents, to his friends, to the other version of John, begs him to help them escape. Reluctantly, John agrees, but explains that Magic Always Has A Price. Unfortunately, no one really understands what that means. Mage John ends up paying a terrible cost, and makes a horrific sacrifice. However, his spell works and nearly everyone makes it back to our Earth. Unfortunately, Darkseid follows. John then pulls out the second spell in his pocket, metaphorically speaking. With it he manipulates Darkseid and saves our Earth. Again, the costs are very high.

At times this last graphic novel in the series felt a bit rushed; as if, knowing the series was cancelled they tried to wrap-up any loose ends. But it’s still one heck of a roller coaster ride and nothing that happened felt out of character. In fact, some of the darkest moments of the book were that devastating because they felt so realistic to the characters and their behavior. I highly recommend Constantine both this book and the entire series, and it’s companion series, Justice League Dark.

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Book Review – Doctor Who: Ghost in the Machine

  • Title: Ghost in the Machine
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Jonathan Morris
  • Director: Louise Jameson
  • Characters: Jo Grant, Third Doctor
  • Cast: Katy Manning, Damian Lynch
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/03/2016

**Spoiler Alert** I listened to this audio-play mostly on Halloween, then finished it on the first. It’s a wonderfully appropriate story for Halloween as it’s very atmospheric and creepy. Ghost in the Machine is part of the Companion Chronicles Doctor Who audios series from Big Finish. The audios always remind me of the Missing Adventures or Past Doctor Adventures books because they feature stories with older, previous Doctors, those whom are no longer with us for the most part. Uniquely for Doctor Who stories – the Companion Chronicles are often from the point of view of the companions, and not third-person.

In this story, Jo Grant leaves the wardrobe room of the TARDIS and enters the control room to find it empty. She examines the TARDIS console and finds they have landed and the atmosphere outside is breathable. So Jo decides to leave the TARDIS to find the Doctor. Jo quickly finds the Doctor comatose and a tape recorder with two words written on it, “use me”. Jo then makes a recording of everything she’s doing. She quickly discovers she’s in an underground base, a base where everyone is dead, and the power is off. She finds the exit but it’s sealed from the outside. She also finds the control room of the base.

In the control room, she finds a skeleton, and a series of tape recordings. She plays a recording which contains a warning, a warning that she is in terrible danger and she needs to leave: now. Jo, of course, ignores the warning as she tries to find out more.

Gradually, Jo discovers the research facility was researching sound, audio recordings, and using audio to bring someone back from the dead. And as you as listening to this as an audio recording this makes for a very creepy listen. Suddenly as she’s listening to the audio recordings of Benjamin Chikoto, Jo realizes that what Ben is saying is somewhat different each time. Then she plays back the recording of her own voice and hears herself saying things she didn’t say. Jo gets creeped out. Finally, Jo herself is captured and moved into one of the tape recordings, and her body is taken over by the Voice.

Inside the tape, Jo learns from Benjamin Chikoto what is going on – that the facility was researching sound and audio, that they found the very first audio recording: a wax cylinder of Thomas Edison reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. the recording also had a second noise or voice on the recording. By isolating that voice – they unleashed a monster. And Chikoto’s boss ordered the base sealed, resulting in the death of everyone there.

Also, inside the tape, Jo discovers the shadow following her is the Doctor. Since he had not recorded himself saying anything – the only way he can speak is to borrow someone’s body. He borrows Ben’s body and then Jo’s to explain part of what’s going on – and to formulate a plan.

The Doctor manages to execute his plan flawlessly – he and Jo escape, the Voice is destroyed by her own plots, and Ben? Poor Ben is erased – but by his own choice after years of being trapped in a half life inside a tape recording.

Ghost in the Machine reminds me very much of the British television series, Sapphire and Steel, particularly “Old Photographs”, but that is a compliment, not something negative. The story is creepy, atmospheric, and suits the audio format extremely well. It also feels very much like a two-handed play, with Katy Manning as Jo and Damian Lynch as Ben – though each also play other parts at times. I highly recommend this story. Give it a listen on Halloween!

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com

Click this link to order Ghost in the Machine on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!