His TV show may be gone, but John Constantine isn’t dead yet.
Or rather, he *was* dead, but he got better? Just forget it, your Major Spoilers review of Constantine: The Hellblazer #1 awaits!
Previously in Constantine: The Hellblazer: Originally appearing just in time to explain to the Swamp Thing that he was an Earth Elemental (and also, what an Earth Elemental was), John Constantine has been an ever-present figure in the background of many a crossover since, pioneering what would become the Vertigo imprint, and even making it to the big-screen (heavily adulterated and Keanu-fied, but still.) What does the newly-minted DCYou have in store for the magus from Liverpool?
THEY GOT THE PARLANCE DOWN
I was 17 years old when Hellblazer #1 came out, and in those days, spotty distribution and limited spending money meant I had to gather the first twelve issues of that series bit by bit over a number of years. Having bought the character’s first appearance off the stands (that was a few months earlier, in Swamp Thing #36), I have opinions about how a Hellblazer story should go. This one begins with John Constantine, naked save for his socks, covered in blood and gore, walking into a dry cleaner with a bemused ‘It’s not what it looks like.” We never really find out what it is that has left him in such a state, but since much of the character’s history has involved the proverbial Noodle Incidents, I’m really sort of fine with that. John is still haunted by the ghosts of his past, but now it’s a very literal haunting, as his old dead friends (led by 1988 Hellblazer #1 casualty Gary Lester) are following him about and yammering endlessly at him. This issue is a very smooth read, full of character bits for John (stealing an unpleasant jerk’s wallet, using the money to buy food, hitting on the waiter), leading to a literal demon arriving to throw a wrench in the works…
THE OL’ DOUBLE-CROSS
Still, anyone who has ever read an issue of Hellblazer and/or Constantine should probably know that John and demons never end well, and this story’s mean-spirited punchline is entirely in keeping with all that came before. Riley Rossmo’s previous art gigs, on ‘Proof’ and ‘Cowboy Ninja Viking’, have already given him a strong Vertigo-style vibe to his artwork, and this issue puts that to great use. The only downside is a slight sketchiness to facial expressions, one that has a slight blunting effect on the emotional power of several scenes. Still, the final page cliffhanger is pure Hellblazer, and John is allowed to openly flirt with a hot guy for the first time that *I* can remember, even though his bisexuality has been subtext in the book since at least the 90s. There is a clever setpiece involving a demonic night club, as well as some super-gross hellish creatures on display, and John walks blithely through it all, getting by on his charisma and a huge bag of luck, making it pure Hellblazer…
THE BOTTOM LINE: A NICE RE-INTRODUCTION
While it’s a shame that his TV show got the axe, this relaunch/vamp/boot/imagining does the trick for me, giving us the dark and dangerous, but oddly funny and inappropriately sexy adventures of the world’s snarkiest paranormal investigator. Constantine: The Hellblazer #1 has the best title John’s adventures have ever carried (save, perhaps, ‘The Horrorist’ back in the day), with a strong showing, clever dialogue and mostly successful art, earning a better-than-average 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.