Kick em in the bollocks!
Taylor starts Year Three with a bang, by putting primary protagonist John Constantine at the centre of it all.
Bringing in old and new characters, he gets John’s interactions with them just right – especially the salient features of the con man.
Redondo and Xermanico share double duty on the artwork and overall it’s a very good looking book.
One of the problems in introducing the new protagonist is the lack of presence in earlier material. John Constantine has been absent since the start of Superman’s path of destruction, and Taylor tries to ensure an emotional connection with him from the start.
For those coming new to this character, it’s interesting to see how Taylor peels away the layers of Constantine. First, he’s presented as the distraught common man, a victim of Superman’s fights with the Corps, and then he’s transformed into something more complex and dangerous.
We first meet John Constantine in London as he surveys the destruction the War has brought upon – including a personal loss. The fight with the Corps had killed people left and right, and one such casualty of the war, a Green Lantern, had plummeted through the sky and taken out a house.
And that house belongs to Constantine’s hidden daughter – Rose. You already see the hints of selfishness permeating through Constantine’s interior monologue. It isn’t until something close to home has hit that he decides to take action against Superman.
But again, his grief at Rose now being a target of his enemies and anger at Superman are both natural reactions. And so, he decides to pay some friends a visit.
Zatanna and Dr Fate are at the Tower of Fate when Constantine shows up, seeking refuge for his daughter. After a fairly ambiguous conversation that provides nothing more than a few clues and a hundred questions (who is following them? Is Rose really John’s daughter?), John leaves to visit a ‘friend’.
Now those familiar with DC history will know that Batman and Constantine don’t see eye-to-eye and Zatanna is a dear friend to both, so I loved how Taylor played with a title given to Batman (‘world’s greatest detective’) and brought about a surprise reveal – Detective Chimp!
Following a conversation with Chimp, John pays Trigon a visit in Hell with news of his daughter Raven’s absence. As most who’ve played the game know, Raven is a follower of Superman’s regime and her disappearance from the first two years has been intriguing.
John mentions that a part of his soul is now in Trigon’s possession as well as the demon’s inability to hurt him physically.
Meanwhile, Superman and co have lost the entire League and he deduces correctly that it is magic that is working against them here.
Constantine picks up Batman in Gotham and after enjoying a laugh at seeing Batman and Detective Chimp in the back, John reveals the con he’s been playing – apparently Raven is now in his custody.
With Bruce and Chimp now in on the secret, John reveals what he’s looking for – a simple bloody revenge.
I loved how Taylor introduced Constantine in this issue. You get everything in small doses – his love, his brashness, his intelligence but most of all his ability to be a great con-man.
One of the greatest things about John is you never know who he is playing until the last second. There’s only one person John cares about, and it’s himself. And as you can see in the Trigon section, even his soul isn’t safe from his mechanisms.
There will be problems here. Trigon and Detective Chimp are introduced without too much fanfare or build-up, and most of the bantering will be lost on people seeing them for the first time.
Still, this is a solid entry to Year Three and establishes the board very well.
With a great introduction to the primary protagonist of this Year, John Constantine, Taylor hits most of the right notes in this first issue of Year Three.
Some characters are introduced a little too light on explanation and so problems may spring up, but overall both Taylor and Redondo (with a little help from Xermanico) bring their A-game.
So, I give it 8.5 out of 10.
+Constantine gets a great introduction
+Some nice balancing of humor and graveness
+The visuals are excellent
-Some characters are explanation-light and new readers will be a little lost