Matt Ryan is back as everyone’s favorite rule-breaking, chain-smoking, beer-drinking warlock: John Constantine! And this time, he’s animated! In the CWSeed’s new web series, Constantine: City of Demons, has John attempting to save the soul of his best friend Chas’ young daughter who has been imprisoned within the heart of the demon Beroul. There are five episodes up for streaming on this free service, and I have to say, that I’m excited again to see, or in this case, to hear Matt Ryan voice one of my favorite comic book characters of all time.
I solemnly swear that there will be no spoilers in this review of the first five episodes. So, for those who haven’t seen it, read on without fear!
So, as I said, there are five episodes up on CWSeed, and there are seven more planned to air at a later date. They’re short. That’s my big complaint right now. The episodes are between 5 and 7 minutes long, which means that I can, and have, binged the entire series as it stands now during my office hours – on more than one occasion. That’s not a bad thing, but I do find the quick transitions between episodes annoying. I like to imagine that this is similar to the old radio serials.
(Aside: As someone who grew up (and earned two college degrees) before streaming became a big thing, it says a lot about how accustomed I’ve become to the immediate gratification of streaming that I get impatient having to wait for episodes.)
So, that aside, let’s talk about the show. The plot is simple and straightforward. The demon Beroul has captured the soul of Chas’ daughter as bait to lure John Constantine into his service (temporarily at least). This isn’t an unusual plot for a storyline involving the British warlock. It’s not original or groundbreaking there, but it’s solid. It’s what we expect from one of these storylines. Also, it’s done a nice job of handling the conflict from John’s past that propels him onward in a quick and digestible manner that I feel newcomers to his story can easily grasp.
The animation is nice and stylized in what, to me at least, feels like a grittier version of the great Batman: The Animated Series‘ animation. Personally, I would like something a little “dirtier” and grittier for John’s stories, but this does the job nicely. My biggest complaint is that a few of the episodes are so visually dark that it’s difficult to watch them on my computer screen without shutting all the windows and turning out all the lights. Now, when I’m home, that’s not an issue (and it does fit with the occult content of those episodes), but when I watch them at work, it’s not quite as easy.
The voice acting reminds me why Matt Ryan is probably the perfect man to play this role. I wasn’t sold on his casting when they announced him as John for the CW’s live series, but he blew me away after one episode. That series deserved far better, but that’s another post for another day. The voice acting is spot on in this series.
I know I’m heaping praise on this series, but I really do love what’s being presented thus far. Like I said, the story isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s solid. For those who haven’t delved into the depths of the Hellblazer universe, I think this is a good entry point. Now if only we could get appearances by Zatanna and maybe even Lucifer (voiced by Tom Ellis).
Rating: 3.7 out of 4 bats.