If you read our Guide to the DC Relaunch (of course you did!) or kept up with last year’s Brightest Day, you’ll know that the classic character Swamp Thing is currently poised to make his comeback to the mainstream DCU. Though his new series, shepherded by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette, launches in September (with 51 others), Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing acts as a bridge between the current and future DC status quo, showing (presumably) how the character will integrate himself in the world of Superman and Batman after a few decades away.
Swamp Thing hasn’t come alone. He’s brought along John Constantine, the occult detective created by Alan Moore in the late 1980s. That’s another character soon to be given a mainstream DCU spotlight, this time in Justice League Dark. Though Swamp Thing’s played in the DC Universe off and on since his creation, Constantine’s been more or less in his own world, crossing over only a few times in Moore’s Swamp Thing. The challenge of Brightest Day Aftermath, then, is to (re)integrate those characters into this iconic comic book universe organically.
I have to say, I’m not sure how organic this book is (is that a pun?). In particular, the plot device that convinces Constantine to team up with Batman is pretty flimsy. Honestly, though, I feel like that’s forgivable. Writer Jonathan Vankin (a former Vertigo editor) crafts a really fun script that pretty aptly merges two disparate worlds, even if the mechanics of it are a little wonky. There may be a few too many “me”s instead of “my”s in Constantine’s dialog, and some of his scenes with Batman may be a little jokey, but for the most part I really enjoyed reading this comic. For a longtime Vertigo fan like me, it’s nice to see how characters like Constantine would relate to a more traditional comic book world if given the chance. In early interviews Vankin stressed that this Constantine’s not quite the same one still hanging out in Hellblazer (now DC’s longest-running consecutive series!), and I think we see a glimpse of that in his interactions with the Dark Knight. Is Constantine a meta?! Time will tell.
Artist Marco Castiello does a pretty good job here, though I feel like his work grows more sketchy and less well-defined as the book goes on. Art-wise, I think the real star is colorist Barb Ciardo, whose palette employs the whole spectrum as necessary, lending the perfect tones to scenes as divergent as a quiet day on the outskirts of London to a violent night in Gotham City. I will say that Castiello has a couple visuals I really love; in particular, the book’s first two-page splash is really sharp and does a great job at conveying the scale of the threat John Constantine now faces.
I’m really not sure how readers will take to classic Vertigo characters cohabitating with DC proper. I’m personally excited for the concept, though of course it could go terribly wrong. After one issue of Brightest Day Aftermath, I’m still not really sure what to think about it, although, like I said, this book is totally enjoyable. By the way, I almost never talk about covers, especially variants, but the alternate cover by J.G. Jones (pictured above) is incredible. It’s absolutely worth the upcharge your retailer probably put on it.
I’d like to close this review with some amusingly meta words from Constantine’s narration in this book. He’s certainly talking here to DC’s audience, some of whom grew agitated beyond any level of reason with the news of the pending relaunch:
Mind you, if it isn’t one crisis, it’s another. I’ve seen it before and, to be honest, it seemed like a bit of a laugh to me. Always believed evolution moves in leaps and bounds anyway. It’s not some gradual process of endless continuity. Sometimes the world needs a good kicking. It’s healthy. And we all just crack on as normal in the end.
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more