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DC Showcase: Constantine - The House of Mystery and More on Blu-ray

  DC and Warner Bros have been releasing highly regarded and warmly welcomed cartoons for some years now, and on the Blu-rays have sometimes seen the feature length attractions accompanied by shorter works. With Constantine - The House of Mystery on disc there was the opportunity to compile four of these, the Hellblazer comic adaptation being the main show, but three additional, under twenty-minute efforts included to make for a satisfying collection of animation that has obviously been crafted with plenty of care and attention by those who respect the sources, despite many of them being fairly obscure.

First up is that Constantine toon, where the occultist character is surveying the damage wreaked by an apocalypse (there's an awful lot of those in comics) and deciding he has the spell power to turn back the clock and create a world where this never happened. With the use of The Flash's superspeed, which translates into time travel, he harnesses the magic necessary to render everything all right again, only not for himself. He winds up in another DC title, one from decades before, the horror anthology The House of Mystery which saw the house as a setting for a series of spooky supernatural tales. Now Constantine is trapped.

At first he thinks he will be fine, as he is with his friends and family, but then they begin behaving, shall we say, monstrously out of character and he realises he is being punished for his hubris. Voicing Constantine was Matt Ryan, the Welsh actor who had played him in a shortlived television series and now was continuing his association in animated form, he's good but the writer hadn't quite got the hang of British swearing, which sounds a bit odd. But though this risks repetition, it has a strong conclusion and also brings in DC godlike character The Spectre for our antihero to spar with, when he's not dying for all eternity, that is. It ends on a cliffhanger.

Second is Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth! which was a latter Jack Kirby invention, and not one of his more celebrated characters. With a visual style that adheres strongly to Kirby's vision, this illustrates the potential of the hero as he is indeed the last human alive in a post-apocalyptic world (see, there we go again) now populated by sentient animal men. It is notably very male, so there are no female characters at all, but Kamandi is sent on a test of his mettle by what look like extras from Planet of the Apes, along with some companions. It was basic trial business (not the courtroom variety) but engagingly related and could stimulate some belated interest in the comics.

Third was The Losers, like Constantine that was a comic that had been filmed (Keanu Reeves was a miscast Constantine before Ryan), but many liberties had been taken with the material on journey from page to screen. This restored the Second World War setting and took a loose platoon of soldiers on a last-ditch mission as ordered by the Chinese, led by their agent Fan (voiced by Ming-Na Wen), whereupon they are shipwrecked and have to investigate a mysterious island not on the maps. Thanks to a time anomaly, that island is inhabited by dinosaurs that prove an impediment to the mission going smoothly, especially when Fan wants to harness it as a catastrophic weapon.

Last up was a bit of fun, an adaptation of the Ted Kord version of Blue Beetle done in the style of a sixties TV cartoon. With a deliberately limited animation technique as per the era, and a selection of sound effects familiar to anyone who grew up watching stuff like this, this had the gadget-handy superhero initially coming up against the diamond-stealing Squid Gang, though they have a more powerful foe controlling them. To add to the novelty, Beetle teams up with Steve Ditko's latter day hero The Question, created when Ditko was reported going off the rails in his beliefs, but here presented with humour and sympathy. But really, it was the amusement factor of seeing the period invoked that made this a winner, catchy theme tune and all.

[The Warners' Blu-ray has an interview featurette as an extra.


Author: Graeme Clark.


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Last Updated: 31 March, 2018