It would be fair to say that I am something of a fan of John Constantine. I own most of the original Hellblazer run in single issues and what I don’t have in single issues I have in TPB. One of the prizes of my collection is a copy of Forty (aka Hellblazer #63, the first Hellblazer story published under the Vertigo Comics label) signed by Garth Ennis himself. I wrote an episode guide for the series on my personal website, religiously watched the short-lived TV series starring Matt Ryan and wandered many conventions in cosplay with a “#SaveConstantine” sign in my hands, after said show was cancelled.
As such, it can be taken as read that I have a bit of sentimental attachment to the man we call Con-Job, a bit of knowledge about him and some very strong opinions as to whether or not he is being properly written whenever The Powers That Be decide to try and give him a new comic series. Given all that, you know it means something when I say this about the new DC Black Label John Constantine: Hellblazer series.
Welcome back, Johnny. We’ve missed you.
John Constantine: Hellblazer #1 picks up right where last month’s The Sandman Universe Presents Hellblazer #1 special ended, but you don’t have to have read that to jump in with this issue. All you need to know is that John Constantine – con-man and occasional wizard – is back on the streets of London in 2019 and feeling very much like a man out of time. In a world full of vaping hipsters with PBRs, a man like John who still smokes Silk Cut and prefers a gin and tonic when he isn’t hitting the hard stuff sticks out like a sore thumb even before he starts telling dirty jokes in a pub.
To give you some idea of the content of this issue, DC Comics omitted the page with John telling said dirty joke from the official on-line previews of this issue, but did leave in the page of John being thrown out of the bar. It’s also dirty enough I dare not repeat it here, but it involves a member of the British Royal Family and an adult entertainment video.
In case it isn’t clear, this is not the happy, relatively sterilized Constantine you may have been used to seeing on Legends of Tomorrow or in the pages of Justice League Dark. Simon Spurrier gives us John Constantine in all his ribald and disgusting glory. There is cursing. There are insults. There would be lewd conduct and public indecency but the one woman John talks to in this issue will have none of it.
Spurrier also gives us a mystery in the fine Hellblazer tradition involving a park which seems to be under the protection of an angelic presence that smites any sinner caught using drugs or threatening violence within its boundaries. There’s also some social commentary on the racial situation in modern London, the gang problem and the general apathy of the system to do anything about any of it. Classic Hellblazer, in other words.
The artwork also evokes the spirit of the classic Vertigo Comics days of yore. Aaron Campbell presents a dark and detailed image of London, vivid and visceral all at once. Jorie Bellaire’s color art sells each scene, with blood red coloring the scenes of dark magic even as ethereal gold and white marks the presence of the angels. These effects are given in sharp contrast compared to the more static but solid colors used to depict the mundane world John usually inhabits.
Bottom Line: John Constantine is back and it’s like he never left. If you’re familiar with John’s misadventures, but kept your distance since he was brought back into the DC Comics universe, John Constantine: Hellblazer #1 will prove a welcome homecoming. And if you’ve never crossed paths with Constantine before…. well, I envy you the journey of discovery you’ll embark on with this issue.
John Constantine: Hellblazer #1 releases on November 27th, 2019!
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.