Edited by Robert Beach
W’s superhero TV universe is, by a wide margin, the best live-action DC Comics adaptation since Dark Knight. It started rough with the early seasons of Arrow adopting the horrible aesthetic of gritty realism in the setting but cartoonishly grim and one-dimensional characterization; however, ever since the third season of Arrow and about ½ way through season 1 of The Flash, CW has been knocking it out of the park in their shows. Arrow has developed into one of the best Green Arrow adaptations where they still embrace the idea of Green Arrow as a bit of a Batman rip-off and now drawing from the highly underutilized era of ‘70s globetrotting Batman.
Meanwhile, The Flash has turned into a powerhouse combination of engaging characters and superhero adventure. In a lot of ways, The Flash ends up a rip-off of its own as so much of the show is grounded in the style of ‘70s Spider-Man. Given that Spider-Man hasn’t been good in 10 years, The Flash copying his aesthetic and winning combination of melodrama and superhero action is fine by me. Now, they’re looking to rescue another hero as John Constantine has been confirmed to appear in a crossover episode with Arrow.
If you’ve never heard of John Constantine I don’t blame you. He’s a DC character invented by Alan Moore in the late ‘80s as a sort of supernatural conman. An English street mage and punk, his stories ran the gambit from urban fantasy to straight-up horror. He acted as one of the flagship characters for DC’s adult supernatural comics line Vertigo alongside fellow weird fantasy characters like Swamp Thing and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. His comic, Hellblazer, was one of Vertigo’s most successful and longest lasting series till he emigrated back to the mainstream DC universe in the lead-up to the New 52. Since then, he’s kicked around a few series with moderate success; although, the main DC universe’s aversion to more adult themes and imagery has left the character seriously adrift these last 2 years.
If you do know John Constantine it’s most likely from one of his two adaptations. The first was the film Constantine starring Keanu Reeves -- a pretty terrible film just on its own merits and a drab and drippy 2000s blockbuster still laboring under the visual influences of The Matrix and X-Men -- What’s more, the film jettisoned a lot of the key elements of Constantine’s character such as his wit, his self-serving nature, his punk era politics, and being English. The second incarnation of the character came last year when NBC produced a Constantine TV show in the style of their previous hit Grimm. The show was riddled with structural problems and even though Matt Ryan was a better Constantine than Keanu Reaves the scripts really failed the character.
There’s no way to tell how successful the Constantine/Arrow crossover will be with audiences, but I’m certainly hopeful for it. Ryan is a great Constantine who was just dealt a lot of very unfortunate scripts, so I’m glad he’s getting a second chance. If the episode is a hit, I wouldn’t hold my breath for a new Constantine show on CW, but I could see him getting upgraded to a supporting character on Arrow.
He’d be a great way to test the waters for more of the insane mystic elements of the DC universe before introducing them in full force. With Jay Garrick and Earth-2 scheduled to appear in Flash season 2, Arrow is going to have to pull out all the stops to stay competitive in season 4 and diving deep into the magic pond seems like a good way to do that.