John Constantine meets his match, only she’s smarter, more ambitious, and sadly, more effective at his own game than he is… Your Major Spoilers review of The Hellblazer #9 awaits!
THE HELLBLAZER #9
Writer: Simon Oliver
Penciler: Davide Fabbri
Inker: Jose Marzan, Jr./Karl Kesel
Colorist: Carrie Strachan
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Editor: Kristy Quinn
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in The Hellblazer: “The Smokeless Fire” part three! Magic is all very well, but in the City of Light John and Misabel’s hunt for the missing journal has become a battle of wits-and Constantine may finally have met someone more slippery than he is. Meanwhile, Marid’s plan moves into London’s corridors of power… and an Angel loses his wings.
CONSTANTINE WORKS BEST IN TIMES OF CHAOS
I remember reading classic Hellblazer stories back in the day: A time when Reagan and Thatcher’s influence made for a strange, paranoid world full of people who cared about nothing but their money and their influence, and John’s mucking about in corridors of power made him seem like a foul-mouthed Robin Hood working against real, awful forces. This issue brings that feeling back in ways both big and small, as John and Mercury are in Paris searching for an ancient journal with unexpected properties. Working against them is a highly placed British government official who insists that he has the actual reins of power, mocking the Prime Minister as an ineffective tool, while John references the sitting President in the same terms. As the issue continues, we find that the power is actually in the hands of a fallen angel, who has been lying about the state of the afterlife, leading to a gruesome end for him, and the possibility of a coming apocalypse entirely due to human failings…
YOU CAN’T DO THAT TO A SWAMP THING #36!
One scene that has me both amused and irritated comes when the search for a journal ends up in the back room of a bookstore, full of comics. John remarks that he’s not the superhero type, throwing aside one book as a joke, a book which a close-up reveals to be Saga Of The Swamp Thing #36, the first appearance of the John Constantine character. On the one hand, it works to offset this incarnation from the more superheroey New 52 Constantine (which the liberal use of blocked-out curse words effects as well) but it’s almost TOO metatextual for my tastes. Unless we’re going back to a “Comics on Earth-Prime reflect the DCU” model, but that’s probably more than the one-panel joke was meant to imply. Still, it’s an effective issue and an effective story, thanks both to its real-world ties and the use of an older-feeling, more cynical Constantine and having characters as clever and amoral as he is working against him. The art is also well-done, with Fabbri’s John reminiscent of the 40ish version we saw during the Garth Ennis days, even referencing his age and poor health due to excessive smoking as the events play out.
THE BOTTOM LINE: GOOD OLD JOHN CONSTANTINE
Maybe it’s nostalgia goggles, maybe it’s the casual references to Trump and Brexit, but this was as enjoyable an issue of Constantine as I can remember in some time, bringing back the days when Delano and Ridgway reminds us that voting Tory would be hazardous to everyone’s health. The Hellblazer #9 feels familiar in a good way, with a fresh enough take to make it still exciting and suspenseful, working as much of the Vertigo violence and profanity in as they can while playing within the confines of the DCU, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall. As a fan from the very beginning, I can tell ya: This is good Constantine.