Thursday, November 8, 2012

Constantine & The Shadow: The Names Stay the Same, but Nothing Else Does


Last night I read this. Ten minutes ago I read this. Now I'm all moody, grumbling and mumbling to myself.

I had been enjoying the hell out of Garth Ennis' take on The Shadow. I'm a fan of the old radio series, having innumerable episodes on cassette tape when I was a kid, and even though what Ennis was doing was a darker, more violent departure from that original show, it still worked for me. Lamont Cranston was perfectly smug, careful with his words, and brilliant. Margo Lane walked an interesting line between being a supporter of The Shadow and being kind of terrified by him. The villains were rich and nuanced, not even all on the same side as each other, but equally deserving of the titular hero's wrath. It was as much a war story as a spy story as a superhero one, equal parts noir, action, and political thriller. Not the greatest title I've ever read, not even something that blew me away, but definitely a strong, consistent book with a clear vision from talented creators that made me excited to see more.
     Enter Victor Gischler as the new writer on The Shadow #7. I mean, booooooooooooo. Here we have an issue that pays such little attention to what preceded it that, for the first time ever, I actually would've preferred if they'd started the numbering over again with #1. Suddenly Cranston is a wordy, awkward narrator, crowding the pages with poorly-written expository caption boxes. Gone is any subtlety or pacing, replaced by rushed explanations that lead to uninteresting scenes. Margo Lane disappears and is replaced by the less-than-two-dimensional and less-than-two-eyed pilot Miles Crofton, whose only purpose in this issue is to spew out his entire background story in a single, unnatural burst of dialogue and then transport Cranston from place to place. Which, let's face it, could've been done by anybody. And the bad guy, Red Raja, is equally underdeveloped, little more than a handful of archetypes flung together and given powers similar to those of our hero. It's uninventive dreck, basically, and dreck which makes no attempt to reconcile itself with the decent comicbookery that came before, and it's going to result in me dropping a title for which I've had growing enthusiasm for months.

So that's bad enough.

Now I have to learn that DC is canceling it's longest-running (because of the relaunch) and arguably strongest series, Hellblazer, and replacing it with the New 52 version of the same character in a new book called Constantine.

This is the worst New 52-related decision to date.

Because here's the thing about the John Constantine of Justice League Dark: he has almost as little in common with his Vertigo counterpart as I have with a motherfucking chimera. I don't know why I chose that analogy, damn it, I'm just pissed!
     Did anyone else read Justice League Dark #0? Talk about making me drop a title. I'd love to rant and rant and rant about it, but I know at least one person has already said it better than I ever could, so I'll sum it up this way: booooooooooooo. What's the point of naming a character John Constantine if you're just going to do whatever the hell you want with him? Is DC so afraid of trying to warm people to a new character that they really thought this was a smarter move? Or, even worse...does Jeff Lemire think that this is a strong interpretation of the character? Because it is not, and the last thing in the world I want to see is this new, watered-down version stepping in and replacing the Constantine I've grown to adore.
     But that decision has already been made, so what can I do? Certainly I'll cherish the remaining handful of Hellblazer issues I get to buy, and continue to work through the extensive catalog of back issues with which I need to catch up, so it's not as if I personally will never again enjoy a new story about the real Constantine. And I can "vote with my wallet," as it were, by steadfastly refusing to pick up Constantine #1 (or any other issue of that insult of a title). And I can write this little tantrum and stick it on the Internet.

Changing everything about a character is the same as creating a new character. Stop pretending it isn't, comicbook industry.

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