The Spark and the Flame, Part 1: The Price We Pay
4.5 out of 5
Where we've come from:
This is the first issue in John Constantine's brand new series. Keep in mind that I have not read any of DCU John's adventures in Justice League Dark.
Where we are:
Constantine is met by an acquaintance of his, a young man who is plagued by unwanted divination. While John expresses great concern and guises any ulterior motives, he uses the young man's vision as a means to determine what dark or occult threats might be arising in the world. The vision leads the pair to a Norwegian ice palace on a quest to find the three pieces to an ancient compass with the power to lead its wielder to other magical artifacts.
As a disclaimer, I'm one of THOSE guys. I've been reading Hellblazer for a couple of years now, and was understandably upset at the news of its cancellation and replacement, but I tried to open the pages of Constantine with a relatively open mind.
My first hesitation started with the cover. It's hard for me to imagine a Constantine that fires "magic blasts" as weapon or power. Luckily, this didn't happen in the issue, and I was, for one, pleasantly surprised by the issue as a whole.
The brief introduction was just enough for anyone that is familiar with the character via either JLD or Hellblazer, but I believe that it's just vague enough to interest a new reader. The story jumps right into the stuff of it, and I won't bore you with details.
The book's art (by Renato Guedes) could actually be quite chilling at times. The intensity of his faces, especially the eyes, very well portrayed the horror that one might expect from this series. And though his layouts were artistically gritty, they were detailed. Guedes also clearly worked very hard developing his Constantine. With only slight alterations in his face, Guedes is able to convey the evanescent and hardened emotions of John Constantine.
The plot and script of the book were as one would expect. They were dark. They were foreboding. They started with an explanation of magic, and how it's bad because at its core, magic is cheating the world of its primary rule: cause and effect. The catch comes later when, although you cheat this primary foundation of the Universe, the Universe expects payment and always collects.
I must admit that, at first, I had every intention of giving this issue a mid-grade score. But upon writing this review, I surprised myself. You see, Constantine knows that living the way he does comes at a price. The Universe expects payment for what it is owed. Late in the issue, someone pays, but it is not Constantine. My first thought was that this was faulty reasoning on the part of the writer, as the life John leads did not come back to him. But it came upon me that this is not the reasoning of the writer, but of the narrator, a twisted and self-regarding reasoning that rationalizes the ruination of a life due to his inaction or indifference.
I ended this issue unafraid. It had fine dialogue and good art, but these aspects came second to what I want in a good horror book. This horror story didn't frighten me, and I was disappointed. But upon looking at the character that Lemire and Fawkes have introduced as the New 52 Constantine, I realized that the horror was not meant to come from the story itself, but the man in it.