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Third-episode verdict: Constantine (US: NBC; UK: Amazon Prime)

Posted on November 10, 2014 | comments | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerConstantine.jpgA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Fridays, 10/9c, NBC
In the UK: Amazon Prime

Three episodes into Constantine, the latest attempt to adapt DC's Vertigo horror comic Hellblazer in another medium, and we're seeing marked signs of improvement after a very variable first couple of episodes. The pilot (which was modified slightly for the transmitted first episode to get rid of Lucy Griffiths) wasn't bad, but it wasn't great: a PG-13 bit of horror, with a variably-accented, atypically moral John Constantine, that was about on a par with the average first season episode of SupernaturalMatt Ryan's Constantine is a watered down version of the comic book character: a non-smoking, generic working class Brit (accent says lots of places in the North, driving licence says Liverpool, slang says London), a man constantly acting like an unnuanced supernatural tough guy, rather than a mercurial amoral, trickster, prepared to manipulate and betray in the interest of the bigger picture (or himself).

Things didn't get any better with episode two. In fact, they got worse, as it was a truly dreadful, virtually unwatchable affair: a sub-Grimm bit of dullness, with Constantine chasing generic monsters in a mysteriously Welsh-obsessed Pennsylvania mining town. Bringing in anti-Romani racism just for larks, it was about stupid and soporific as it's possible for a show about the paranormal to get, without its writers having been trepanned first - and that's despite the show bringing in Angélica Celaya as a considerably more interesting replacement for Griffiths. 

But the third episode has given me hope. While the 'threat of the week' was the somewhat generic 'cursed LP', the general furniture of the story was a whole lot better. The script by BSG/Smallville veteran Mark Verheiden drew a lot on the comic to flesh out Constantine, bringing in his punk band background (a bit of time travel maths or a longevity spell might be needed to square that) and favoured adversary/supernatural bystander Papa Midnite and his Ace of Winchesters. There was humour and general bad behaviour, too, and the show should get Brownie points for both an excellent use of 'Anarchy in the UK' and a couple of Doctor Who references that included a dimensionally transcendental house and the Constantine equivalent of psychic paper.

Constantine is still a tame affair that uses gore as a substitute for true horror. It relies on the iconography of the comic to give us the TV version of Constantine, Zed, Chas and other characters, but without giving us any real meat to their bones or signs that these are real people with real pasts, rather than Very Important Things That Had Happened To Them. And its plot are generic at best, unwatchable at worst.

But the show's definitely getting there now. It's drawing on some of the comic's best bits to give us some things we haven't really seen on TV before. Constantine is doing proper Hellblazer-esque magic. And we're getting a proper roster of characters built up.

If it's to survive in the ratings and be something more than Supernatural meets Grimm, the show needs to put on its big boy pants and truly embrace the darkness and Hellblazer's combination of heresy, politics and the personal. That's assuming its got any chance of attracting back anyone who watched its offensively poor second episode, which is unlikely. And, of course, one good episode doesn't mean everything that follows is going to be golden.

However, after the second episode, I was fairly certain I wasn't going to be watching Constantine after the third, so it might still be in with a chance.

Barrometer rating: 3
Rob's prediction: If it makes it to a season, I'll be surprised, two seasons and I'll be amazed, but some piece of dark magic might still save it

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Weekly Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman #35, Sensation Comics #12, Smallville Continuity #10

Posted on November 4, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Wonder Woman #35

It’s the end? Can you believe it? For three years, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang have been the creative forces behind the nu52 reboot of both the character of Wonder Woman and the Wonder Woman comic itself. And now they’re leaving – issue #35 is their last one.

It’s been a controversial ride, with Diana undergoing perhaps the most changes of anyone in the nu52 universe:

  • Her origin was completely changed so that she became Zeus’s daughter when her mother Hippolyta had had an affair with him (her previous ‘clay’ origin was revealed to be a ruse to keep Hera in the dark)
  • The Amazons were changed from a society of women living isolated from the world in a superior civilisation to one that went out seducing then murdering men for procreation before giving away their male babies in return for weapons
  • The gods were transformed from largely benevolent anthropomorphic beings, fit to be worshipped, to various zoomorphic creatures, personifications of office, and generally unpleasant individuals
  • Diana was eventually apotheosed to goddess of war
  • Most of the supporting characters from pre-nu52 times were removed, killed or ignored, to be replaced with male characters.

The controversy also continued in the manner of the storytelling, ranging from Chiang’s drawing style to the fact that the past three years have more or less been the same story, with minimal superheroics or even any real strength from Wonder Woman, and you can see why a lot of old school fans are happy that the ‘terrible nightmare’ is all over. Indeed, new writer Meredith Finch appears to be focusing on doing everything that Azzarello didn’t do, from including Wonder Woman’s new boyfriend Superman to having Amazon-centric stories.

But after the jump we’ll have a look at the final issue, to see what foundation Azzarello and Chiang have left Finch, whether it’s been all bad, and whether it concludes the story well and/or in the way I predicted.

Also after the jump, we’ll be looking at the latest Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman, the first of a two-parter in which Diana goes egg-hunting and Cheetah goes Diana hunting, and Smallville Continuity, which effectively founds the Smallville universe’s Justice League.

All go, innit?

Continue reading "Weekly Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman #35, Sensation Comics #12, Smallville Continuity #10"

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Weekly Wonder Woman: Secret Origins #6, Sensation Comics #11, Smallville: Continuity #1-9

Posted on October 28, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Secret Origins #6

This week sees the last issue of Wonder Woman from Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, the creative forces behind the character’s revamp for the nu52. However, before they go, they’ve one extra little ‘treat' for Wonder Woman fans as part of the Secret Origins series of comics, revealing – in their own inimitable style – why Wonder Woman left Paradise Island. And as usual with those two, it was both the best of times and the worst of times.

Also out last week was Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman, which gave us a pleasing team-up between Diana and Big Barda against some intelligent gorillas and their robots. Monkey punching! Yay!

It's a whole lot better than it sounds, I promise.

And lastly, Smallville: Continuity has apparently been including its Wonder Woman in the storyline for the past nine issues without telling me. Huh. So a brief recap of that story after the jump, too. See you in a minute!

Continue reading "Weekly Wonder Woman: Secret Origins #6, Sensation Comics #11, Smallville: Continuity #1-9"

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