Before we dive into the show, I’d like to share a quick story with you. My assurances it will prove relevant. Growing up I had a natural aversion towards magical characters. Super science was one thing, it might be nonsense, but it was nonsense at least trying to pull however loosely from science. Magic on the other hand is and always was utter humbug. I felt that by trying to avoid supernatural material, even in my fiction, I was somehow doing the right thing. My logic I admit, was more than a little flawed. To this day I still think creators need to be extremely careful in making sure to avoid putting in medical quackery and scams that modern charlatans still use to fleece people, but you didn’t come here for me to get atop my soapbox, so let’s get back to the matter at hand. In my late teens I joined the National Guard and while training at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland there was an all-around geek culture store in the mall (sadly, it no longer appears to be there) in the nearby town of White Marsh that I would frequent. This time and that store would prove to be pivotal in my development as a reader and consumer of geek culture as this was when an up to that point mostly Marvel guy began to truly explore DC, and by extension, Vertigo. With money to spend, a burning need to broaden my horizons in this new and strange place, and ultimately the need to avoid boredom it was here where I first began to read the adventures of a character that is the most responsible for me giving supernatural media a chance, greatly improving my life. That was none other than that smug British bastard, the Hellblazer himself, John Constantine.
I bring this all up to illustrate Constantine’s importance to me. John remains my favorite magic-type character in all comics media. The fact that we share first names didn’t hurt my affection for him either. Adaptations of Constantine have proven problematic, creators either adding unnecessary changes or limited in how dark they can go due to network ratings/ restrictions. Constantine was constantly having to be watered down and that’s the way it looked like it was going to be, until CW Seed.
Constantine: City of Demons, which dropped its first five episodes on March 24, coinciding with the first day of this year’s Wondercon, is bar none the best adaptation of the character. It isn’t just Hellblazer, it’s Hellblazer done right; dark, nasty, and unapologetic. The animated web-series episodes are only six to seven minutes long, but they pack a mean punch. The main story is from the 2005 graphic novel All His Engines by Mike Carey and Leonardo Manco where John and Chas travel to LA to stop a soul-stealing demon. All His Engines is widely regarded as one of the best stories to ever feature Constantine.To provide color and context the series also pulls from several other notable stories featuring Constantine, meaning viewers new to the character get everything they need to know about John in short order. The series is written by comics staple, J. M. DeMatteis and he has succeeded in distilling Constantine’s complicated life and world into a series of easily digestible bits without losing any of the bite. Several story changes are present to help simplify and compress the plot, but nothing goes against the spirit of the original comics. John’s still a foulmouthed chain-smoking jerk, Chas, finally portrayed properly as British in this version, is still in over his head, and the monsters and demons are still horrifying.
Actor Matt Ryan is once again tapped to play John Constantine. First playing the character in the short lived series, Constantine, Ryan has reprised his role over the years on the Justice League Dark animated movie and CW shows such as Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow, the latter of which Ryan is set to be a series regular come season 4. Ryan just is Constantine for so many fans at this point and this show allows him to give us the John Constantine hardcore fans have been wanting for years. The animation is on par with any of the recent DC Animated movies and appears to be using the same character model as was used in Justice League Dark. Several more episodes are set to be released to finish the story with plans to release a full movie cut upon the series’ completion.
I am so happy this exists and can’t wait for more. This series hits that perfect balance of being something longtime fans and newcomers can both appreciate and get into. If you want to get in on this great series you can begin your journey down that dark road here and I’m including the first episode, which CW Seed released to YouTube below.
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