This past Saturday, a day after the anniversary of the iconic occult detective’s first appearance, WonderCon attendees were treated to a special premiere of the first five episodes of the new CW Seed webseries Constantine: City of Demons at a panel with producer Peter Peter Girardi, series writer J.M. DeMatteis and Constantine himself, Matt Ryan. Shortly thereafter, all five episodes were released on via CW Seed, with five on the way for the show’s first season.
With the first five episodes out (each of which runs around six or seven minutes, making for a highly bingeable half-hour), it’s safe to say that this show has found its voice and tone a lot faster than 2014’s live-action Constantine series ever did. And, honestly, it’s a lot better than its NBC predecessor.
The series, produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC, Berlanti Productions, Phantom Four Films and Berlanti Productions, and animated by Digital EMation, Inc., is based on the 2005 Vertigo OGN John Constantine, Hellblazer: All His Engines by writer Mike Carey and artist Leonardo Manco, though it updates things a bit.
Set in the modern day, rather than the 2004 of Engines, City of Demons sees Constantine (Ryan), struggling with the spectre of a monster invading his mind, called on by his estranged best mate Chas (Damian O’Hare) to help save his daughter Trish (Laura Bailey) recover from the coma she’s fallen into. Constantine initally thinks it’s demon possession, but with the help of his fellow magic-user and ex-lover Asa the Healer, the “Nightmare Nurse (Bailey),” he determines that Trish’s soul is being held by the demon Beroul (Jim Meskimen) in Los Angeles. So off he and Chas go to the City of Angels, where they’re forced to make a shady deal, indeed.
The animated series hits the same notes as fellow Arrowverse webseries Vixen and Freedom Fighters: The Ray, mainly telling a highly engaging story about a character who can’t always appear onscreen in the Arrowverse due to scheduling conflicts, actor commitments, or storyline issues. The animation is very crisp, on par with the best of the DC Universe direct-to-video films, and it’s evident that great care has been taken by director Doug Murphy and his staff (right down to hiring DCAU vet Butch Lukic as a producer).The cast is all top-notch, too. Ryan continues to be aces as everyone’s chain-smoking, magic-using bastard, and O’Hare (who, funnily enough, plays a sillier take on Constantine on Justice League Action) perfectly captures Chas’ man-out-of-his-depth bewilderment. Meskimen oozes slimy menace as the disgusting Beroul, and Bailey (Critical Role) perfectly captures Asa’s jadedness.
But the show’s strongest possible recommendation for it? It understands the world and appeal of John Constantine better than Constantine ever did.
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