Warning: SPOILERS for Legends of Tomorrow season 6, episode 12, “Bored On Board Onboard.”
It seems like Legends of Tomorrow has begun setting up a truly tragic ending for John Constantine in anticipation of the character’s departure at the end of season 6. Impressively, it also seems to be doing it with a subtle nod to one of Constantine’s most famous enemies from the Hellblazer comic books and one of the series’ most underrated storylines.
The events of Legends of Tomorrow season 6 found the infamous warlock depowered and sent on a quest for the mystic Fountain of Imperium. Rumored to be located somewhere in outer space, far from Earth, the Fountain of Imperium was said to increase the powers of any magician who drank from it. While John ultimately found the Fountain, he was unable to claim its power as only the truly deserving could drink from the Fountain and the conman conjurer was decidedly unworthy.
With the power of the Fountain of Imperium denied to him, Constantine had to seek out a new means of restoring his magical mojo and reclaiming his previous power levels. He found it in a rare blood potion, provided to him by one of the Arrowverse’s vampires now confirmed to exist post-Crisis. Already addicted to the heady rush that came from using magic, Constantine became increasingly dependent on the potion as Legends of Tomorrow season 6 continued and he began using his magic to increasingly showy ends. This set up the introduction of a new villain dedicated to John Constantine’s destruction, one who seems oddly similar to one of his enemies in the comics in both motive and origin: the Demon Constantine.
The Legends of Tomorrow season 6 episode, “Bored On Board Onboard,” found the Legends stuck on a slow ship ride back to Earth after the Waverider’s jump-drive burned out. Desperate to distract the team as cabin fever set in, Captain Sara Lance made everyone take part in one of Gary Green’s role-playing games. The game in question was a murder mystery game akin to Clue, called Beast/Slayers, which cast each player in the role of party-goer at a Victorian-era dinner party and pitted them against a shapeshifting beast who was hiding in their midst. Still riding a blood-potion high, Constantine decided to make the game more interesting by working a spell that placed the players inside the world of the game, where the Beast quickly began killing them off, one by one.
Constantine confronted the Beast alone, as it took the form of a hooded figure wearing the mask of a medieval plague doctor. When Constantine lashed out at the Beast and destroyed its mask, he was horrified to discover that the Beast had his face. The Beast confirmed that he had been formed from the darkest parts of Constantine’s soul and every self-destructive impulse Constantine had ever had in Legends of Tomorrow, drawing power from the blood-potion that was the only thing powering Constantine’s spells. While Zari seemingly stopped the Beast as it was strangling Constantine by stabbing it in the back, she later discovered that Constantine had a wound on his back corresponding to the one she gave the Beast. This suggested that the Beast was still alive inside Constantine and would continue working to destroy him and the Legends.
The idea of the Beast seems remarkably similar to the Demon Constantine, a villain who first appeared in the Hellblazer storyline “Critical Mass.” Written by Paul Jenkins with art by Sean Phillips and Pat McEown, “Critical Mass” pitted DC’s John Constantine against Beur, the demon who oversaw the mistreatment of every child who had ever been sent to Hell. This included Astra Logue, the young girl Constantine and tried and failed to save early in his career. After kidnapping the son of one of Constantine’s friends, Beur proposed a bargain, promising to release every child Hell held captive in exchange for Constantine’s soul. It was a bargain Constantine couldn’t refuse, even though he knew Beur wanted his soul as part of a larger scheme to revive the First of the Fallen, whom Constantine had outwitted and depowered in an earlier battle with Hell.
Naturally, Constantine found a way to honor the letter of his bargain while violating the spirit of the agreement and denying the Devil his due. With the assistance of Aleister Crowley, who Constantine had helped keep hidden from Hell for several years, Constantine crafted a golem in his likeness into which he implanted all the worst parts of his soul and the demonic blood he had acquired during a magical transfusion several years earlier. Constantine also gave the golem his memories of Kit Ryan, the best girlfriend he’d ever had, so the golem would have one good thing to hold on to. This created a being who, for all legal purposes, was John Constantine, having possession of all of the parts of John Constantine’s soul that deserved to go to Hell. While this satisfied the prophecy as to how the First of the Fallen would be restored, the demon king was ill-pleased to learn that Constantine had once again evaded his grasp and Beur was obliterated for his failure.
“Critical Mass” was a triumph for John Constantine, but it was still a bittersweet victory despite the knowledge he had finally saved Astra Logue. Beyond restoring his greatest enemy, the First of the Fallen, the golem John Constantine created grew into an entirely different threat. Possessing all of John’s darkest qualities and demonic blood, the golem was transformed into a true demon by the corrupting power of Hell. Resembling a decayed and rotting corpse, this Demon Constantine would reappear several times in Constantine’s life, either trying to rejoin his better half or replace him outright.
While the Beast of Legends of Tomorrow was created by accident and the Demon Constantine was the result of a complex ritual, the two characters have more in common than not. Both are the result of the unintended consequences of John Constantine meddling with things he didn’t fully understand. Both are also completely devoted to destroying John Constantine and everything he cares about.
While Legends of Tomorrow hasn’t directly adapted “Critical Mass” (largely due to John Constantine having already saved Astra Logue one season earlier) the story’s influence on the show is clear, even ignoring the key role Aleister Crowley played in the events of season 6. Given that, it seems likely that Constantine will be forced to confront his inner Beast as part of the season finale before the character leaves the series and the Arrowverse. The big question is whether or not Constantine will sacrifice himself to try and save his friends and the woman he loves, Zari Tarazi, or if his continued arrogance and secrecy will drive them away. Either one seems equally likely, for while the John Constantine of the comics is rarely afforded the luxury of redemption, it would be a fitting yet ironic capstone to the life of the Arrowverse’s Constantine if he were allowed to die as the hero he dreamed of being. Then again, it would be equally likely for John to save everyone in Legends of Tomorrow and still get kicked off the Waverider for his treachery endangering them all in the first place, forced to go his own way and walk down his dark path alone once again.