John Constantine has gone to some dark places, but John Constantine: Hellblazer #1, the new relaunch from Si Spurrier and Aaron Campbell, goes ink black almost right away.
I will confess that I’m not a fluent Constantine guy. I’ve gone through the first Hellblazer collection online, and I’ve seen him pop in and out of other stories. And, of course, I’ve watched most of his his various and sundry delightful television appearances. But I’m definitely not versed in John to call myself a fan: what I know are broad strokes. Big character beats.
You know who does know him, though, is Jamie Delano, the first wave British Invasion writer who took Constantine out of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and made him, in his own book, the icon he is today. And here’s what Delano had to say about The Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer, the one shot from October that reintroduced proper bastard Constantine to the world.
That’s a pretty ringing endorsement from the guy who probably knows best.
And while I’m not a big Constantine guy, I do know that I can tell you if I think a comic is good or not, and having seen these preview pages, I am prepared to say that this is some excellent comics.
Spurrier’s writing is something I’ve really enjoyed from almost the start of his career in the States – X-Club remains to this day extremely my jam – but he’s really grown as a writer in the last couple of years. The Dreaming is recognizably Spurrier, but at the same time, it fits naturally and effortlessly into the universe Neil Gaiman built. That trend continues here. His characters sound vibrant and distinctive, and you can kind of tell that he wrote them, but you also maybe wouldn’t catch it if you didn’t already know what Spurrier’s authorial voice sounded like. Hellblazer is really sharp and smart and thoroughly bleak and it’s run through with some absolutely jet black humor.
Speaking of jet black, Aaron Campbell and Jordie Bellaire knock this first issue out of the park. Every page feels so meaty and worked on. Campbell’s figures are perfectly lifelike until they’re not – John is consistent on every page, but the creatures are weird and angular and intimidating and gross. His body language sells the variety of emotional responses well from scene to scene. And there’s literally nothing more I can say about how talented Bellaire is as a color artist: even at a time when we are blessed with a plethora of talented colorists, Bellaire continually stands out as one of the finest. The cricket bat page in the exclusive preview we have for you is a perfect example. Sun going down in the background, so the lighting is difficult and odd, and you’ve got an ominous teen with a cricket bat creeping up on John, and then he gets cracked in the head and you get big pats of black evened out with a brush, and a burst of light trailing back from the impact following the bat’s trail. This is exceptional work. Take a look.