The Mystery of the Meanest Teacher: A Johnny Constantine Graphic Novel

DC Comics. Jun. 2021. 160p. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781779501233.
Gr 3-6–The latest of DC Comics’ efforts to rebrand decades-old intellectual property for modern tweens, this graphic novel repackages the publisher’s violent, antisocial occult detective and warlock John Constantine as Kid Constantine, a jaded, misanthropic blond 13-year-old magician. When self-centered Kid’s talent for finding trouble and penchant for overstaying his welcome among his demon acquaintances in the UK get him sent across the pond to a U.S. boarding school, the not-quite antihero reluctantly befriends magical misfit and fellow student Anna. They team up with the rhyme-obsessed demon Etrigan (another reimagined DC character) to investigate the mystery of the titular mean teacher, Ms. Kayla, who may be a witch out to destroy the world. Charm’s character design offers nods to the title’s DC roots but will still appeal to new comics readers. The palette is bold and varied, from muted beige to neon green to deep blue. North’s writing is light and quick, packing in a lot of plot but little character development. And though the story is amusing at times, it’s ultimately shallow and pat, concluding with a barrage of hollow lessons on friendship, responsibility, and the dangers of stereotyping. Kid is white, Anna is light-skinned with dark hair, and Ms. Kayla is Black. There is racial diversity among background characters.
VERDICT This tween-focused tale is best suited to die-hard DC completists who won’t mind seeing a classic character stripped of his dark backstory and complex motivations.

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