The Cambridge Geek

Constantine: City of Demons

The Girl has long been an aficionado of the DC animated universe, though I've not spent much time in it myself. Obviously as a kid of the 80s/90s, I was more than a bit addicted to BTAS, but that's been more or less it. However, since we're off to MCM Comic Con as Constantine and Zatanna (I'm not going as Zatanna), she grabbed a copy of this and sat me down in front of it.

I have to say, I'm not annoyed at her for doing so.

Hellblazer is one of my favourite series, having read all of it, and vaguely missed the Matt Ryan series after it was cancelled. (It wasn't terrible.) They've let him keep being grumpy in this, which is pretty damn fun.

So, plot. Chas' daughter Trish is in a coma, which is somehow linked to both dark magic and a string of similar cases in Los Angeles. A bit of magical examination reveals that her soul is missing, and sends John and Chas to a specific address in Los Angeles, which contains the demon Beroul. Beroul can help them retrieve Trish's soul, but wants John to return a collection of demons (his competitors) back to hell as payment for the favour.

At the same time, Trish is defended by the Nightmare Nurse, who talks to Renee about John's history with demons and little girls, particularly his troublesome encounter with Nergal in Newcastle and the taking to hell of Astra.

As a reader of the comics, I actually found this a bit of an odd watch. It's been assembled from multiple different plotlines, with bits from the main Hellblazer run, elements of Justice League Dark and naturally some character elements from the live Constantine show. It even takes its title from a special back in 2011, but it's not linked to that run. What it is linked to, very heavily indeed, is All His Engines. It's trimmed down a little, introduces some new factors and removes others, and plays around with the climax, but it's almost a re-telling.

That's not a bad thing. All His Engines had some grim moments, and this turns that up to 11. I'm not sure if the idea here was to get away with more than they did in the live series, but this goes gory. The exemplar is probably Beroul's party, which has torture as the main source of entertainment. It has a particulary nice scene which makes use of old silent flicks to provide a good comedy/horror melding, that I rather enjoyed. Though it does go somewhat too far with the use of disco music.

"Hell, ya gotta have a live band."

The other major draw of this is Ryan, who is playing, once again, a foul-mouthed grumpy bugger, whose every second word is "nobhead". It's almost pleasingly nostalgic to hear an insult so childish. There's a fair bit of fun being had here, with demons in fluffy slippers, cheeky Dr. Strange references, and the laddish banter between John and Chas being as good as it ever was in the comics.

There's a certain amount of filler in this, with the middle third feeling like it ran on too long. I suspect part of that is due to it being an expanded set of shorts, but some of it must also be due to my history with the series. There's a fairly lengthy re-telling of the Newcastle drama, and as someone who saw that pop up over a hundred issues or so, it felt unnecessary. To someone new to Constantine it should be pretty gripping though, especially as once again it ramps up the ugliness factor from anything you'll ever get in a live DC series. It does feel like Hellblazer in the raw cruelty the show has. (I'd love to see a Tim Hunter in this style.)

Got a few problems for someone who has absorbed most of Hellblazer, but an enjoyable hour and a half regardless.

Score 4

Tagged: Film Animated drama DC Fiction DVD