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John Constantine: Hellblazer #2 Review

‘Better to stand behind a tiger than in front of wolves.’

The angels of Peckham Rye Common are continuing to hunt their prey and John Constantine is just as confused as ever as to what their mission is. Luckily, he has gained a few new allies since he arrived in 2019.

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This issue did a great job of furthering the mystery of the killer angels and allowing John to play detective. We also get to see how he continues to adapt to being in a more “woke” time than he’s used to. This version of John has mostly been seen by readers either in the gritty Vertigo years of the character or at the very end of all things, so seeing him at least making an attempt to smooth out his rougher edges is a nice touch.

And it’s a good thing, too, because John is constantly running afoul of people who simply haven’t the time for his particular brand of BS, which also handily introduces us to some new cast members. Everyone feels like they have their own unique voices and points of view, thanks to the sharp script from Si Spurrier. Even the street slang, which can occasionally become an embarrassing trap for a lesser writer, feels authentic and not overdone.

Aaron Campbell’s artwork is uniformly brilliant, particularly during a few sequences in which the character of Noah tries to use sign language to come down on John. This is represented as a series of frantic panels with Noah’s current pose laid over them. It’s a clever visual that shows how out-of-sorts Noah feels in his current situation. To Campbell and Spurrier’s credit, Noah is never seen or treated as a punchline. Actually, the reader is uniquely privy to the fact that Noah is more perceptive than JC can imagine, summing up the central conflict of this storyline in one hand-signed line: “Better to stand behind a tiger than in front of wolves.”

Everyone has drawn their lines in the sand. Even in 2019, survival isn’t as simple as getting a job and making things work for yourself. Some people don’t have those options, and John needs to remember to check his magically-aided privilege.

A few sequences, like a magical standoff toward the end of the issue and John’s many nightmares, take on the appearance of hazy fever dreams thanks to the lovely combined efforts of Campbell and colorist Jordie Bellaire. It’s easy to understand John’s concern when it feels as though the page is being swallowed by something we can just barely make out.

While the introduction of real life occult theories and historical figures are appreciated, there are a few elements in this issue’s plot that don’t quite hold together. These are mostly based around coincidences that feel a little too easy, such as when one character happens to mention an anecdote that almost cracks the case for John. Still, we also get to see several smaller threads (even elements of other Sandman Universe titles) ramping up into something bigger, so the majority of this issue is a solid continuation of the case at hand.

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John Constantine: Hellblazer #2
Is it good?
John's investigation into the killer angels continues to evolve, incorporating elements of the wider Sandman Universe in interesting ways.
It's great to see John get a bit of push-back for the comments he makes and his general demeanor. People already seem to have his number, which makes the stakes a bit higher
The dialogue is smart and never feels artificial, even when dealing with street slang
The artwork is equal parts gorgeous and grotesque
The introduction of a certain character helps make things feel much more connected to the future of the Sandman Universe
A few of the plot developments feel just a tiny bit too tidy

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