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John Constantine: Hellblazer #1 review: a horrific return to form

‘He’s seen it all before.’

John Constantine is back on the streets of London. He’s older, wiser, and less interested in putting up with everyone’s garbage than ever before. When a group of “angels” start skinning junkies alive, there’s only one man the gangs of London can turn to. But does he give a damn?

Right from the jump, this feels like classic Hellblazer in a way that feels familiar and interesting, but never like it’s trying to ape anything that came before it. The added wrinkle of having an older Constantine inhabiting the body of his younger self gives this story a unique flavor. While the JC of old would pretend that he’d seen everything and was unimpressed, this version genuinely has. This John has seen how it all ends, so the here and now doesn’t hold much that can surprise him. That’s why the horror feels cranked up a notch when the reader comes to realize that he’s still frightened.

DC

This first issue excels in establishing a mood. The artwork by Aaron Campbell pairs in beautifully grotesque ways with Jordie Bellaire’s colors. The juxtaposition of the rainy, grimy city streets and the otherworldly glow of the angels is horrific, while the evil than ordinary men do to one another is immersed in shadows that feel darker than pitch. To top it all off, Aditya Bidikar’s lettering makes a few of the more grotesque moments even more visceral, giving readers a few exclamations that are nearly as gory as the accompanying illustrations.

They say you can’t go home again, but this issue proves that Constantine really has. London hasn’t felt this hopelessly lost since the original Hellblazer series. And again, it never feels like this book is trying to actively copy any of that. It’s simply put JC back in his element.

Si Spurrier’s dialogue also goes a long way toward setting the tone for this new series. Aside from the many, many expletives, the foreboding narration gives us insight into the many players in this game. It’s a little disorienting, at first. We’re so used to being shepherded along in these stories solely by John, so it’s a pleasantly creepy surprise to follow along with someone else, someone who doesn’t have our anti-hero’s best interests at heart.

DC

This story seems to be setting some kind of massive conspiracy in motion, which should be interesting to see unravel as the story goes on. The one drawback to this issue’s story is that it does seem to pull away from the apocalyptic threads from last month’s Hellblazer Special. I know many of these plot points are going to be explored in future issues of The Books of Magic and that this storyline is meant to kind of reintroduce readers to the mean streets of London, but it did surprise me that not much of that special is referenced or alluded to in the events of this issue, at least not in any ways that seemed obvious.

I’m likely just being impatient, but hopefully we won’t lose any of the momentum coming off that special as this new mystery unfolds. All told, this is a fantastic reintroduction to the world of Hellblazer.

John Constantine: Hellblazer #1
Is it good?
This first issue feels like classic 'Hellblazer' at its finest. Fans should rejoice, but also cower in fear.
The artwork is incredible, equal parts dreary and fantastical
The story and tone feel appropriately dark and hopeless, but never like it's being forced. It helps that the comedic lines also land smoothly
Dialogue is a major factor in how well the mood is established, especially when it comes to the narration
The seeming lack of connecting story to the preceding special is somewhat disappointing, but the rest of the story is just so strong. I'm sure we'll get back to it in time
9.5
Great
Comments

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