Jill Thompson: Jack and Master of All Trades

Artist/writer Jill Thompson has one of the most idiosyncratic bodies of work in contemporary comics ranging from important arcs on legendary comics series The Sandman and The Invisibles to more traditional superhero work like a run on Wonder Woman as well her own creator owned comic/children’s book/film series Scary Godmother. She has drawn everything from dying stripper gods to Romantic poets, Batman to Bart Simpson and even an all animal cast in her Eisner winning Dark Horse series Beasts of Burden with writer Evan Dorkin. She is also one of the few creators not named Neil Gaiman allowed to write The Endless in her Li’l Endless stories.

Constantine, Ep. 1.11 to 1.13 develops cast, but has plot hiccups

Even though it is riddled with plot inconsistencies and even some slasher film/supernatural show cliches, Constantine starts to find itself as a show in its final three episodes as it embraces being a mythology lite, episodic show with a few season finale reveals and plot threads that could expand its universe and heighten the threat level of the Rising Darkness from being a silly name that occasionally, almost does something bad every other episode. But its biggest strength going forward is its small, morally ambiguous ensemble cast that really benefited from showcase episodes like “Quid Pro Quo” (for Chas) and “Angels and Ministers of Grace (for Zed and Manny) down the stretch. If it continues (either on NBC or as SyFy’s Hellblazer), Constantine has a solid foundation with these characters and actors along with sense of atmosphere and setting in most episodes.

Constantine, Ep. 1.02: “The Darkness Beneath” brings Zed into the fray

With all the exposition and origin story trappings out of the way in last week’s pilot, “The Darkness Beneath” show readers what exactly John Constantine (Matt Ryan) does, other than con people, go to pubs, and chat with Chas (Charles Halford). This could be a typical case of the week type of episode, but writer Rockne S. O’Bannon manages to connect the monster to John’s past life, as well as some of the socioeconomic critiques that characterized early Hellblazer issues. He also introduces a new, improved female lead in Zed Martin (Angelica Celaya), who has an almost sultry chemistry with Constantine, and shows she can handle herself in a fight with the supernatural and then some. O’Bannon also doesn’t reveal his entire hand when it comes to her character, and the mysterious nature of her powers and connection to Constantine will be a intriguing mystery to follow throughout the season. “The Darkness Beneath” showcases Constantine as more of a con man than a pure spell caster, as well as someone who uses others to further his ends, even though they are positive in this case. He’s no hero. A few criticisms of this episode are that the citizens of the town exist as ciphers to move the plot, including a skeptical preacher (James Le Gros) who has some substantial screen time, and the director’s focus on pyrotechnics instead of terrifying imagery and chills.

Astro City # 8 Goes a Tad Off-Topic, to its Detriment

Since relaunching last year, the now Vertigo-published “Astro City” has largely been cruising along on a series of single-issue stories, often to its detriment. But Busiek and co have finally decided the time has some to tell a larger story, one that finally gives some attention to critically under-exposed Astro City heavy hitter Winged Victory in the process, and issue two of the story recently hit the shelves.

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