Two issues in and already Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes have added two new mystically-powered beings to the DC Universe, racked up a considerable body count and more as they bring the Spectre to meet with John Constantine in “Constantine” #2. The upside to the not-quite-as-new-as-it-used-to-be New 52 is that there are still untapped corners and notions, properties and names just waiting to be pumped full of new life and put in front of new eyeballs. Jeff Lemire has done that with great success throughout his work on “Justice League Dark,” but with Fawkes by his side for “Constantine,” it seems like the challenge is to introduce a new character each issue. Of course, this is only the second issue.
Fawkes and Lemire build on last issue’s quest for Croydon’s Compass by sending Constantine off to Myanmar, like a mystical Indiana Jones, leaving a trail of broken lives in his wake. The compass is a supernatural artifact with the ability to divine locations of other similar artifacts, however the compass has been broken down into its three components: needle, dial and lens. Those pieces are hidden across the globe and Constantine aims to find them before the minions of the Cult of the Cold Flame can do likewise. In the forty pages between issues one and two, the writers have introduced 3 new characters, brought in a character introduced in “Phantom Stranger” and given the title’s namesake a quest that will surely power a few more issues. This strikes me as rather not unlike James Robinson’s work on “Earth 2” in that the writers appear to be given more leeway to craft adventures and new landscapes. Fawkes and Lemire have even established that Constantine is a rogue, a cheat and a scoundrel but keep his sharp wit in place, helping this title avoid collapsing under its own weight. Furthermore, a theme is appearing throughout this series in that magic always comes at a price as Constantine gets knocked down and out and kicked in several different ways while he’s down.
The art from Renato Guedes is rock solid as he uses some intriguing panel layouts and page compositions. Guedes crafts one page with an image in the middle, jutting out of any conceiveable panel borders, but that image itself is parsed into segments to illustrate Constantine’s lonely, dejected walk as he tries to gather his wits. The coloring is a bit bright, but seems to be shading slightly darker than last issue as Marcelo Maiolo settles into the tone of the character. Maiolo contributes some wonderful textures to the story, adding depth to Guedes drawings and truly partnering with the line art to produce strong and frequently disturbing visuals. The appearance of this reborn Mister E is chilling and contemporaneous with the unnecessarily fussy influence spilling in from the rest of the DC Universe. It works in this story and helps establish a wide range of characters that are populating the panels of “Constantine.”
This isn’t the Vertigo version of the character, but this is a decidedly darker book than “Justice League Dark,” despite the two books featuring the same characters rooting through the same corners. This is Vertigo’s sensibilities and darkness in the grander, brighter DC Universe sandbox. Lemire’s work on “Justice League Dark” encouraged me to check this book out, but “Constantine” #2 has sold me on the series going forward.