John Constantine: Hellblazer
Written by Simon Spurrier
Art by Aaron Campbell
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
Letters by Aditya Bidkar
Review by KrisK
After playing with the heroes in the DC, crossing their paths in events and with Justice League Dark, sandbox since Rebirth, John Constantine returns to his roots: the Sandman Universe. While it remains to be seen how much the Hellblazer will interact with the other titles, such as the eponymous Sandman and the infamous Lucifer, the move away from the DC heroes explains a lot. The current Justice League Dark title opened and remained with no Constantine, though he was the “leader” of the team for years. This helped free the character up for a return to the beloved Sandman Universe.
John Constantine first appeared in Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing. He soon received his own series from Vertigo. The Hellblazer series ran for many years. While Marvel’s Dr. Strange deals with some of the costs of magic, Constantine focuses on it as the main moral of the stories. All magic comes with a cost, and Hellblazer drives it home in bloody detail. The issues often remind one of the original Grimm Fairy Tales in the best way. Everyone pays, but John, it seems sometimes, striking a lot of fiery tempers between his allies. Notably, the first demonic foray into magic led to the damnation of an innocent little girl. The guilt pushes John onward, as he drinks and smokes the pain away.
He also represents one of the few queer male characters in DC, being one of the first open and practicing bisexual men in DC. He casually dates men and women, often simultaneously. While I would never say John is a role model for anyone, the normalcy of his queer relationships is refreshing in a world where gender identity swallows LGBT characters up.
With the New 52 relaunch, John Constantine fully entered the DC Universe. While he primarily played in the magic community, he crossed over for big events like Forever Evil. While enjoyable, the New 52 felt more like a DC comic than Hellblazer did with Vertigo. Rebirth restored continuity from the Vertigo days, but it felt like it stayed safer than its glory days.
The new John Constantine: Hellblazer returns to the glory days of the Vertigo days. (Not a slight towards the recent work, but the Vertigo days remain the gold standard. ) The book opens with a scryer using entrails to observe the deaths of drug dealers and addicts by beautiful and dreadful creatures. Jump to John Constantine getting evicted out of a bar for telling jokes about the royalty. He flirts with the bouncer, before he runs into an old acquaintance he accidentally got cursed with a pox spell 15 years ago. The spell worsened with time, despite modern medicine. The man pulls a knife, but the bouncer lays him out with her elbow. The bouncer asks the pox-ridden man about Constantine while John wanders off. He doesn’t make it far before he is kidnapped though, and the two stories converge.
Simon Spurrier proves he fits Constantine wonderfully. He captures the tone of the Hellblazer days perfectly. Aaron Campbell draws a gory, glorious comic that absorbs all the grit of the London Underground. And Jordie Bellaire is perfect for coloring this book. Bellaire brings A+ level skill, drawing on both their coloring and horror writing expertise. Finally, Aditya Bidikar puts clear thought into every line of dialogue, so that you can hear the emphasis and the volume of the speakers effortlessly.
Verict: Buy! You couldn’t ask for a better Hellblazer comic. Spurrier, Campbell, Bidikar, and Bellaire create a horrifying world I didn’t want to leave.