Where does John Constantine's origin fit into DC's New 52-niverse?
Justice League Dark #0 (Jeff Lemire, Lee Garbett, Cam Smith)- Ah, John Constantine… Everyone’s favorite chain-smoking, trench coat-wearing, filthy-mouthed, Liverpudlian occult detective. Already established as the lynchpin of the New 52’s new team, Justice League Dark, how did he come to become such a… well, bastard? In this origin story of sorts, Jeff Lemire, Lee Garbett, and Cam Smith give us a glimpse into Constantine’s troubled past and quest for knowledge and power. There’s spoilers, just so you’re aware, but your loss, mate.
Our story begins in New York City with Constantine in search of his idol, Nicolas Edgar Nolan (not sure if that’s homage to something). At the nightclub, he not only meets Nolan, but up-and-coming conjurer Zatanna. Constantine saves Nolan’s life from assassins, and the three become close companions. Soon, Nicky, as he’s called, becomes obsessed with certain magical books, driving himself inward and driving Constantine and Zatanna closer together. They kiss, angering Nolan. He leads the two into a trap intending to kill them. Constantine’s cleverness and adaptability allow them to escape, but at the cost of his mentor’s life. He then takes Nolan’s trench coat, claiming his place as the new “king” of occultists.
The story, while a tad cliché, is written well. Constantine is shown as confident if a bit smug but still respectful of his elders. It’s hard for me to imagine him looking up to anyone, but I haven’t read very many of his stories apart from the early issues of JLD. Zatanna doesn’t serve too much purpose in the story aside from connecting the two prior to the events of the current series. The story is told through Constantine’s eyes as he describes his adventures with Nicky and Zatanna. I imagine it would be fun to hear the story told by a proper Brit, with the right accent and attitude, since Lemire gives Constantine some nice depth and humanity in his dialogue.
The artwork is as you’d want from a book about magic; dark, mysterious, but with careful use of color and design. The magic sequences are very cool to look at, with colors and spells weaving in and out. A particularly nice panel is a scene showing our heroes in a bar after several scenes of fighting; the fights are all in darkness with blue and purple hues and shadows thrown over them, but afterward they’re in a brightly lit bar with a golden haze around them, almost as if these were their “golden days”. I’m over-analyzing, but hey, it’s what I do.
Overall, I’d say this is a nice place to pick up on the series if you want to give it a go. I know I’m certainly considering doing some subscription shuffling…