John Constantine In The Twilight Zone

Constantine: The House of Mystery serves as the new lure in a collection of mostly recycled animated DC shorts. John Constantine (voiced by Matt Ryan) finds himself trapped in the House of Mystery as cosmic penance, facing an endless loop of his own death surrounded by friends and foes like Zatanna and Etrigan. It’s a solid tale befitting the character, rated R for serious violence and suggestive content.

The included DC Showcase shorts share almost nothing in common other than a focus on more obscure characters from DC. Three more excellent DC Showcase shorts round out the package, each unique and captivating in their own ways. Kamandi: The Last Boys on Earth! is awesome and dare I say, inspired. It’s a pitch-perfect animated adaptation of the great Jack Kirby’s artwork, paying homage to Kamandi’s wild comic book adventures as the last surviving boy on the planet. One of the best animated shorts ever produced by WB Animation.

Regular fans should find Constantine: The House of Mystery a pleasant, if fluffy, diversion

Blue Beetle is a glorious send-up of late 1960s Saturday morning animation and its hammy conventions. Using designs inspired by legend Steve Ditko’s art, Blue Beetle and the Question battle diamond thieves. If names like Johnny Cloud, Gunner, and Fan Long mean anything to you, The Losers fills your need for rousing adventure set in World War II. The Losers end up on Dinosaur Island, fighting the threat of a weapon vastly more powerful than any nuclear bomb.

The new Constantine short serves as an epilogue of sorts to Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, though it immediately morphs into a solo adventure for the British rogue. John Constantine is trapped by a familiar DC figure (who I won’t spoil) in the House of Mystery for eternity. Looking for a way out of his predicament, not everything is as it seems.

Exploring his new home, Constantine keeps running into friends like Zatanna. He even imagines being married to Zatanna and having kids of his own. Each looping scenario begins innocently enough before Constantine himself violently dies. Welcome to the Twilight Zone, John. Constantine’s devious wits will have to save him from this gruesome fate. The simple plot recalls some of the magical adventurer’s best comic book moments.

DC keeps romantically pairing Zatanna with John Constantine in various media despite tepid fan interest. It’s used smartly in this animated short, which is nicely paced like a 30-minute episode. There’s not enough meat on this story for a full movie but wisely fits the shorter length.

Regular fans should find Constantine: The House of Mystery a pleasant, if fluffy, diversion. Effective storytelling and a few surprises from familiar DC characters along the way make it enjoyable. But everything feels a little too light in tone for a John Constantine solo adventure. A lighter tone works wonderfully for the other three included DC shorts with their callbacks to other mediums.

Constantine House of Mystery Blu-ray screen shot

Video

Despite sharing a continuity with Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, a change in animation houses and new character designs for John Constantine are painfully obvious on the extended animated short. It’s a change for the worse and clear the animation budget for Constantine: The House of Mystery wasn’t lavish.

It’s a visual step down from most animated DC output. Nothing too out of the ordinary for modern animation. Primary colors are nicely saturated and the line art has a vaguely digital feel to its aesthetic despite being two-dimensional.

The thin, angular John Constantine design has already drawn fan criticism. This isn’t the most polished video we’ve seen from WB Animation and occasionally looks sloppy. Let’s hope this particular new design isn’t seen again. I wouldn’t characterize the animation style as a deal-breaker. It’s simply cheap fodder for direct-to-video animation without much soul.

Running a relatively lengthy 26 minutes for an animated short, the 1.78:1 video offers a colorful palette and vivid animated definition. WB’s AVC encoding is a little messy with minor banding indications and faint chroma noise. It should be mentioned that unlike most of DC’s animated films, the DC shorts are not available in UHD quality anywhere, including all digital services. Presumably the limited budgets dictated that choice.

The other shorts found on the disc feature tighter, better crafted animation. Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth! is a gloriously animated homage to Jack Kirby’s artwork with exceptional line work and bright, bold colors. Blue Beetle is delightfully inspired by Steve Ditko’s art and Saturday morning cartoon staples of the late 1960s. It’s funny how the headline animated short is the least impressively animated.

Audio

Constantine: The House of Mystery is outfitted with an active and immersive 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. Falling in line with DC’s newer animated output, there’s ample bass and a discrete soundstage filled with clean separation between channels. The Spectre’s voice booms with authority and all dialogue is nicely balanced. It’s an aggressive package of explosions and violence, heard in crystal-clear fidelity.

Optional English SDH, French, German, Dutch, and Spanish subtitles are offered in a white font. 5.1 Dolby Digital French and German dubs are provided.

Extras

Outside of the four animated shorts, the only bonus feature is a new featurette delving into their creation. It arrives with a glossy slipcover and MA digital copy which redeems in HDX video quality. The digital copy does include all four shorts. No UHD version has been produced for Constantine: The House of Mystery.

This release isn’t a good value at full price. The DC shorts are fun but largely inconsequential. Many fans already own three of them from earlier Blu-ray releases like Justice Society: World War II. There’s a surprising lack of bonus material to round out what is a lightweight package for DC.

DC Showcase: One Story at a Time Featurette (16:02 in HD) – This new piece takes a look at the roots of DC Showcase, paying close attention to the latest batch of animated shorts found on the disc. Included are interviews with producer Rick Morales and directors Matt Peters & Milo Neuman, as they explore the featured superheroes and villains, their comic book roots, and a focus on more obscure DC characters.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Constantine: The House of Mystery
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  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

A DC anthology of four animated shorts, three previously released as bonus features, are headlined by a new epilogue to Justice League Dark: Apokolips War with John Constantine trapped in the House of Mystery.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 41 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray: