New on Blu, a Third Volume of DC Showcase Animated Shorts Featuring CONSTANTINE: HOUSE OF MYSTERY

A half-hour postscript to the Universe-concluding events of APOKOLIPS WAR leads a new collection of DC Shorts

Constantine: The House of Mystery (26:42)

About a year ago, the DC Universe release Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, an extremely ambitious post-apocalyptic “Endgame level event” film which culminated the New 52 film series that began with The Flashpoint Paradox in grand, violent, and devastating fashion. Amazingly, it was the supernaturally gifted John Constantine, rather than more conventional superheroes, who came to the forefront of the final tale, aiding a depowered, Kryptonite-infused Superman in leading scattered remnants of the Teen Titans and Suicide Squad in a final assault on the villain Apokolips and his forces. Among these foes, the corrupted Justice League, whom the villain had cybernetically brainwashed to join his legions.

Constantine: House of Mystery is a post-script to the Universe-rewriting conclusion of Apokolips War, showing how Constantine is altered by these events and is impacted by the timeline “reboot” that takes place. After briefly recapping the conclusion of Apokolips War, the film goes into a thoughtful character exploration of the eternally haunted John Constantine, with a confused John repeatedly waking up trapped in the House of Mystery in a bizarre Groundhog Day-esque cycle of reliving horrors over and over again. It ends on a pretty weird (but in-character) note that’s hopefully not the last appearance for this version of the fan-favorite hellblazer.

The 27-minute film is the leading feature of a new collection of DC Animation shorts, hitting Blu-ray this week.

As a package, it’s a bit tough to recommend. At the most basic level, it’s certainly a nice package of shorts, which range from “okay” to “really great”. But since the three additional shorts have all appeared on other recent DC Animation releases — and I think many fans would already tend to collect these — there’s not much that’s actually new here.

New to this disc is the leading short Constantine: House of Mystery, which is lengthier than the usual 15–20 minute range, and an accompanying 16-minute bonus feature, One Story at a Time, which describes the making of this wave of shorts.

Had there been a 4K UHD disc version of this release, that would at least offer an upgrade incentive for the previously released shorts, but for now there are only Blu-ray and Digital VOD editions.

This release is a follow-up to the earlier DC Showcase collected volumes Superman/Shazam! The Return of Black Adam and Batman: A Death in the Family, each of which similarly headlined a new, meatier 25–30 minute short packaged with a few previously-released shorter ones.

The other three shorts on the disc do share some thematic commonality in that they’re each trying to demonstrate a particular vintage stylization honoring cartoons and comics of yore. I’ve reviewed them all previously with the original home video releases, so I’m simply reposting those comments here.

Kamandi: The Last Boy On Earth (18:03)

(Originally released with Justice Society: World War II)

This DC Showcase Short features the story of Kamandi, a boy who survived the apocalypse in bunker “Command D” from which he took his name, and exited to find a new world of monsters and mutants. Based on the comics series that began in 1972, it’s reminiscent of the Planet of the Apes films (1968–1973). In a nod to the comic books, it’s presented in a style that clearly evokes the artwork of Jack Kirby, and the ending offers a surprise twist that reveals more about this strange world. It’s a fun, pulpy short and I love seeing DC continue to dig into their weirder, lesser known stuff and present it anew.

The Losers (16:04)

(Originally released with Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One)

The latest DC Showcase adapts a lesser-known WWII-set comic to the screen (best known under its loose Vertigo reboot, which was adapted to a feature film). A team of commandos encounters a mysterious island packed with savage dinosaurs and a discovery which could change the outcome of the war. The concept is pretty cool; the execution quite violent for my taste (machine-gun violence to animals, animal violence to humans). It feels more like a random episode of a (very bloody) cartoon than a short film. It’s not one I’m likely to get the urge to rewatch.

Blue Beetle (15:30)

(Originally released with Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two)

One of the most entertaining of these shorts that I’ve seen, Blue Beetle directly parodies the style of the 1967 Spider-Man series in a team-up investigation with The Question that involves hippies, a soda recall, and an emotional manipulation device. The stylization is pretty spot-on, and the film is quite funny and enjoyable. With appearances from Captain Atom, Nightshade, and Doctor Spectro.

The Package

Constantine: The House of Mystery DC Showcase Animated Shorts Collection arrives on Blu-ray May 3 from Warner Brothers. The Blu-ray also includes a Digital Code for Movies Anywhere copy. My copy came with a metallic slipcover. I’m not able to redeem the code in advance of the release date, but the MoviesAnywhere listing indicates the additional shorts are also included (Update: Confirmed the digital copy includes all 4 films as well as the bonus feature).

Special Features and Extras

DC Showcase: One Story at a Time (16:02)

Creators of the four shorts describe the selection, stylization, and making of this wave of films under the “Showcase” branding, which highlights lesser-known, and often vintage, properties of the extensive DC library. It’s a fun conversation that shows a lot of appreciation for DC’s history as well as the animation process.

Final thoughts: The new material is compelling, if a little thin. Definitely worth picking up for fans of the Constantine and Justice League Dark throughline or anyone who wants the shorts collected in one volume, but a harder sell for anyone who already owns three of the four shorts, in which case maybe wait to pick it up on the cheap or catch it on HBO Max.

A/V Out.

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