Constantine now has his post-Rebirth series The Hellblazer, but Constantine: The Hellblazer Volume 2 is what sets up John for his new London adventures. Is it good?
Constantine: The Hellblazer Vol. 2 (DC Comics)
DC’s Constantine has been through a lot of facelifts over the past few years. After the cancellation of Vertigo’s Hellblazer, DC published Constantine #1 in the fourth wave of the New 52. Two years later, Constantine was canceled within the New 52’s ninth wave and was replaced by Constantine: The Hellblazer. Unfortunately, just over a year later DC committed to Rebirth and John Constantine’s tale, which has now come full circle, resides within the pages of The Hellblazer. However, the middle series, which only lasted two volumes and was co-written by Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV, could be considered a diamond in the rough (the “rough” being a publishing disaster).
“The Art of the Deal” continues the story of John Constantine and the development of his relation with his new boyfriend/love interest, Oliver. The main focus however, is John’s attempt to stop the Hell lord, Neron, from taking over New York City, a task that requires a team-up with Papa Midnite. While Neron is portrayed as a demonic businessman who does in one instance shout “Let’s make Hell great again”, the demon and the title of the volume aren’t a reflection of any political commentary, but simply a superficial, though humorous, comparison.
This arc is great for the long-time Constantine fans as well as those just getting into the character. The storyline is fast paced as John is constantly on the run, whether it’s through Papa Midnite’s casino, the streets of New York, Los Angeles, Hell and even other dimensions. There’s a huge cast of characters, featuring the new and old faces dedicated to the Constantine series as well a few members of the Justice League Dark. Doyle and Tynion do a great job of writing John’s wit and pessimism and while the parts of the story arc’s conclusion fall a little flat, the collection as a whole is quite entertaining. I was actually surprised at how dark the storyline got at times, which is exactly what a Constantine title deserves.
Though this story arc is wedged in between two major series transitions, this volume can be read independently (and I can say that confidently because I’ve done just that). In fact, this volume is the prime reading prior to starting the Hellblazer: Rebirth series. Not only does this arc explain how and why John has left the states and infamously returned to London, but it describes the major baggage he’s carrying with him which may play a major role in the current series. The collection is also a pretty good deal considering it’s the final seven issues of the series including the Hellblazer: Rebirth #1 issue.
Is It Good?
“The Art of the Deal” is not only reader friendly, but it displays everything a Constantine series needs. Tynion and Doyle are able combine the humor of John’s quips with the darkness of eternal damnation for a roller coaster of a storyline that starts in New York and takes you through several major cities and even different dimensions by the time you’re done. With good writing supported by Rossmo’s imaginative art and a series of different colorists, this volume is a great pickup.