War is Hell. That’s something we have come to realise throughout history, but it’s still incredible to discover that John Constantine has been battling his own demon spawn for quarter of a century. His brand of selfish cynicism and drunken abrasiveness seemed a real antidote to Thatcher’s Britain, but in many ways, he was more selfish and self-centred than most of the ‘me generation’, a manipulative bastard at best, preferring to con friends and foes alike rather than apply true magic.
Since the last decade has been dominated by an unpopular, questionable war which has seen politicians demonised by the media and public alike, it seems topically poignant to have Constantine ensnared in the thick of the Iraqi conflict whilst taking on a centuries-old demon. Even more appropriate that the person telling the story is Hellblazer‘s original chronicler from his Vertigo series, Jamie Delano.
Reunited with his popular trench-coated anti-hero, Delano starts Constantine’s latest journey with a visit to the British Museum. Intrigued by an encounter with a mysterious Muslim woman, he soon discovers that her provocative actions have been manipulating him into the hands of MI5. Fully aware of his reputation, they manoeuvre him into doing a dirty undercover job for them in Iraq, where his beautiful accomplice is revealed as Aseera, the woman from the museum.
With the desert as hot as Hell itself and the dogs of war unleashed with savage ferocity, he’s led into the heart of the terrorist encampment where he’s confronted by an ancient, more malevolent threat which has been using the conflict for its own immortal amusement.
In true Constantine style, the solution has its own deadly, double-edged sting in the tail. At what cost to humanity’s future but, more importantly, at what cost to our mystical detective already much-bartered soul? With twisted manipulations of Lord Nergal on one side and Constantine’s deceitful trickery on the other, humanity is caught in the middle, but war brings out the demonic nature in us all.
Many writers have taken the reins of the character over the last twenty-five years, but Delano made him live and breathe even in a nicotine-induced haze, and he has lost none of his storytelling power nor the simmering anger of his social conscience.
For this special anniversary excursion he’s teamed up with the fellow Brit, Jock (aka Mark Simpson), whose artwork previously graced Judge Dredd and The Losers. His figures seem to crawl out of the dingy dust and entrails of the war-blighted land, moving the drama through splintered panels and washed-out colour .
Delano and Constantine may have parted company a long time ago, but still make a formidable team, an inseparable marriage till death or demonic destruction do us part.
Pandemonium is a darkly disturbing venture into the scabrous, violent underbelly of man’s inhumanity to man and a triumphant confirmation of Hellblazer‘s lasting popularity.
Hellblazer: Pandemonium is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.