Constantine Distorted Illusions by Kami Garcia and Isaac Goodhart
DC, pb, £12.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
John Constantine isn’t doing much with his life, at least not as far as his mother and stepfather believe. Being the lead singer in a band isn’t enough when your dad and stepdad are world-class magicians. Given the opportunity to study magic at the best school in the world with Marguerite Delphine, John only accepts because his best friend, Veronica, is in the same city, and she needs a singer. He doesn’t need to be taught magic by some establishment lackey. John’s already got all the knowledge he needs. But when John messes with things he doesn’t understand to prove how little help he needs, Veronica is hurt. Only swallowing his pride and asking Marguerite for help will save Veronica as John learns there is more to magic than using it.
I’ll start my review by saying this origin story won’t be for everyone. The hardcore Constantine fans, who already know and love him, might find this teenage Constantine a little too sanitised for them. But this book isn’t aimed at them. It’s aimed at a new, younger audience who haven’t met Constantine before, so that needs to be taken into account when reading it. The elements of Constantine are all there, a rebellious man who has no respect for authority and places friendship above all else. This Constantine, however, doesn’t understand the rules well enough to understand which can be broken and which can only be bent.
The story is set in the 80s, which is reflected in the artwork and the characters’ clothing. It feels like that famous A-Ha video, so the art is authentic for the time period. Black is used to good effect, creating bold outlines for characters and objects, as well as atmosphere. Many panels happen at night, so black is used to blur the lines between the panel borders and the scenes. The panel borders are altered throughout the book, adding context to their scenes. For example, in Chapter 7, called Butterflies, Bands and Betrayals, the borders are elaborate curls forming butterfly wings.
The story is not the most groundbreaking, but it is solid, with John playing the protagonist and antagonist. Without his arrogance and disdain for the establishment that trained his father figure, there is no story. By the end, John has learned to appreciate the people around him in terms of their knowledge and their support of him, so we have a good ending that sets up for more of John’s antihero shinanigans but without this misadventure carrying on.
All in all, a strong introduction for YA readers to everyone’s favourite Liverpuddlian magician.