The comics industry is facing a challenge. How does it get younger readers into characters that have decades of convoluted storylines and canon? Well, a book like The Mystery Meanest Teacher: A Johnny Constantine Graphic Novel, by Ryan North and Derek Charm, is a good starting point.
For one, it successfully manages to take a traditionally darker character like Constantine and bring him to an all-ages audience, without diluting or dumbing down what he’s about. Sure, there are still demons, magic, and scary situations, but it feels more like Goosebumps than Event Horizon here.
More importantly, The Mystery Meanest Teacher: A Johnny Constantine Graphic Novel doesn’t speak down to its audience. It understands when to be fun and when to be serious, as it explores the theme of friendship, revealing that the loner mentality is often a front for a deeper, hidden problem. Also, keep your eyes peeled as a few recognisable members of Justice League Dark make appearances here.
But none of this would succeed if the art was subpar or rushed. Fortunately, it’s the opposite here. The panels are strikingly illustrated and beautifully coloured, never once feeling as if they’re filler work while the artist waits for the next big Batman or Superman assignment. You can feel the synergy in passion between the art and writing here, as it all comes together in an enthralling way across all the pages.
What I found particularly appealing about The Mystery Meanest Teacher: A Johnny Constantine Graphic Novel is the fact it wasn’t trying to set up a whole bunch of other crossovers or big events. It’s a self-contained story that can end right here or continue if it wants to, but you can pick it up and enjoy without any further commitment. It’s welcome in an era when every comic book story has more tangents than a story told by a drunk at the bar.
As the Big Two attempt to figure out the way to reel in younger readers to their comics, they should look to The Mystery Meanest Teacher: A Johnny Constantine Graphic Novel for tips on how to do it well. Even if you’re just a casual fan of Constantine, you’ll be sucked in by the story and left smiling by the end of it all.