Or – “I’ve Been Putting Off Reading This One…”

I’ve been readin’ comics for a very long time.  Titles have come and gone, characters and universes swirling down the drain month after month, but Hellblazer has remained.  Since The Reagan Administration, I’ve been picking up every issue of this book (even the really awful ones) and I find the concept of a world without Hellblazer to be one that’s somehow a sadder place.  Still, time is an illusion, so they say, and lunchtime doubly so, and there’s no reason to dilly-dally any longer.  The end of one of my personal eras of comics is here, and your Major Spoilers review awaits!

Hellblazer300CoverHELLBLAZER #300
Writer: Peter Milligan
Layout Artist: Guiseppe Camuncoli
Finisher Artist: Stefano Landini
Colorist: Brian Buccallato
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Editor: Shelly Bond
Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in Hellblazer:  From the mighty Wiki: “John Constantine, the main character of Hellblazer, is portrayed as a kind of confidence man who does morally questionable things, arguably for the greater good. He usually triumphs through guile, deceit, and misdirection, but often makes more enemies in the process than he defeats. Indeed, it is a common theme in the book that Constantine is unable to effect any lasting change or enjoy unequivocal victories. While sometimes striving for the good of mankind, Constantine is often manipulative and a dangerous person to have as a friend, as the lives and souls of those around him become perilously involved in his misadventures. He takes pains to protect himself from direct attacks, but his friends and relatives are often endangered in order to strike at him. The spirits of deceased friends haunt him, individually or as an entourage of ghost.”  Also, last issue, he died and presumably went to Aitch-Ee-Double-Hockey-Sticks…

“YOU ASKED ME TO GO TO LIVERPOOL AND DIG UP THE BONES OF YOUR ANCESTORS…”

In recent months, Constantine has been up to some new tricks, having officially married young Epiphany, daughter of local crime boss Terry Greaves and reconnected with his lost niece Gemma.  John being John, he has also discovered (and already ruined the life of) an illegitimate son that he didn’t know he had.  After dying last time, we open with Gemma seemingly contemplating suicide, while the widow Constantine returns home.  Both women are trying to come to terms with the loss of the man who made their lives miserable…

…and then John walks in the door.  Writer Peter Milligan is a name that I trust, having read his work as far back as Skreemer (Go Google it, it’s far too hard to explain) and his recent run on this book has been interesting on a number of levels, and have been filled with terrible moments of awful anticipation.  As Epiphany and John get down to the business of conjugal relations, I get that familiar terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, knowing that something horrible is about to happen….

WH… WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

Of course, it’s just a demon in John’s form, and only the arrival of bastard son Finn keeps Epiphany alive, making it clear that John Constantine’s legacy will live on long after his thrice-damned bones are a’mouldering in the cursed earth, or something like that.  There are still a few twists and turns to be had, including a second seeming-resurrection, the final end of John’s business with his father-in-law, the resolution of Gemma’s story and a return appearance by an old antagonist from the Garth Ennis days.  The story even ends the way John’s story has to end: With a strange confusing sense of “WHAT?”, and a lovely tribute to the creators who came before Milligan and company on the book.  Visually, Camuncoli and Landini are great, giving J.C. the grizzled look of an old man, and haunted eyes that have become an instantly recognizable part of the character.  Their rendition of London looks like it takes place in our real world, and the horror of what happens to Finn, Epiphany and others is expertly expressed in their facial expressions…

BOTTOM LINE: BITTERSWEET ENDING?  WHAT EXACTLY WERE YOU EXPECTING?

I’ve read this issue about three times now, and I’m still not quite clear on what the Gainax Ending means, nor am I entirely sanguine with the market realities that led to this book’s death and upcoming resurrection back in the core DCU.  Either way, though, it’s a pretty fitting end for the life and times of the Hellblazer, being both a downer and kind of inscrutable.  It’s hard to believe that I’ve been reading this book for a quarter-century, the entirety of Major Spoilers intern Young Zach’s life and more, and that Hellblazer will no longer be a thing.  From the earliest Jamie Delano stories to the gawdawful Keanu Reeves flick, the adventures of John and his ever-dwindling list of friends have kept me company through the decades, and I still remember the utter horror of Gaz in the bath from 1988 as though it were yesterday.  This book isn’t the big send-off one might expect for the last of the classic Vertigo titles, but then I suppose that it’s technically not an end at all, what with Constantine getting another solo title in a couple weeks.  Hellblazer #300 is a strong issue, on a par with the book’s most recent run, with interesting art and some closure for the characters (if not the readers) earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  As much as I’m glad to see the New 52 meaning a higher profile for John, I’m saddened to see this book go away, as it was one of the last remnants of the great titles of the late 80s to get run through the chipper-shredder of the next big thing.  Here’s hoping ‘Constantine’ holds up that tradition…

Rating: ★★★½☆

DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!

Reader Rating

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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7 Comments

  1. February 24, 2013 at 12:15 am — Reply

    This issue I’ve felt like there could have been some additions, like giving Chaz one last real conversation, and one or two things being a little more clear. I am sad, because Milligan’s run was the first run of Hellblazer I’ve gotten into (currently digging back issue bins), and I would have liked to have seen more of THIS J.C. But in the end, it was an overall nice issue with good art, and some nice bits.

    Not to be that guy, but I think Finn was John’s sister’s bastard son.

  2. February 24, 2013 at 5:42 pm — Reply

    I also felt this book could have used a little more. Granted, I’ve been reading off-and-on through the entirety of “Hellblazer”, but I felt since this issue could have been used a few more shout-out’s from where John has been in the past 300 issues. Since he is technically dead through most of the issue, I expected to see some cameos from John’s less-fortunate friends, but that’s just what I was expected.

  3. AllenBT
    February 25, 2013 at 8:55 am — Reply

    I hate to say it, but I kind of thought the creative and editorial team kind of “mailed this in” a bit. The issue kind of struck me as a bit perfunctory for a #300 final issue. I don’t mean to say it was a bad; as a story it was fine and it hit some ok plot beats, but it had certain half-heartedness to it.

    Like the creative team had a sense of “here’s your 300th issue, wrapping up a great series…while those guys over there get ready for the re-boot; how do you think John will look with a Mandarian collar.”

  4. February 26, 2013 at 6:50 am — Reply

    I’m not sure if I could be satisfied with any ending to this series.
    I feel that Milligan’s run contained more than a few real gems of awesome interspersed with long tracks of beige.

    Hopefully John’s reincarnation as a New 52 solo character will breathe some much needed edge and bad-assery back into the property.

  5. March 16, 2013 at 8:35 pm — Reply

    A bit like the end of Sandman (too much like the end of sandman) where an angry lady calls on the fates to end the main character and not done anywhere near as well as Gaiman.

  6. Ross
    July 8, 2013 at 8:12 am — Reply

    I like to think that John is surprised to see us, almost like he wasn’t expecting to be found out.

  7. kingerz
    November 5, 2015 at 4:17 am — Reply

    A poor ending that was way to ambiguous. Left me disappointed after a LONG read.

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