Hotter Than Hell...Blazer
In the wake of the Constantine television series being cancelled, I wasn’t much for holding out hope for a resurgence of Hellblazer anything, mostly because I just wasn’t sure it could be handled the way it needed to be, or that the character maybe has just lost something in it’s appeal with time. I was intrigued, in spite of that, by this new Constantine series- even though I have said previously more times than I can count how I have been burned time and again by DC’s new series, left waiting for more story after six issues that so often never comes… So it was with a bit of reservation that I stepped back into the fray with John Constantine, after I had been quite enamored with his portrayal in “Justice League Dark”, and had been re-reading his appearances in the classic Alan Moore “Swamp Thing” series.
And so, it is time, “Once more unto the breach”, as they say…
The issue first drew my attention with the cover art- but I ended up picking up the variant cover art at the shop, which really felt like it fit the tone for the series quite well. I really liked how that version of John was tinged in red light (as though he was standing in the heart of some seedy, Red Light District and luxuriating in it. I also really liked that he was smoking on the cover, and he even makes a point to “borrow” cigarettes and smoke them in the story. That was a big part of the television iteration of the character that didn’t sit well with me, even though I understood the WHY behind it.
The issue opens VERY bluntly, with a bloody, naked Constantine standing in front of some absolutely mortified shopgirl. Who wouldn’t be struck dumb by such a sight- a tall, thin man covered in blood, and what he himself described as “that little bit of goop on my shoulder that you’re terrified’s a bit of brain…”. The swarthy but charismatic John is in full-effect from the first moment in this issue, and I love every minute of it. I think that Ming Doyle and James Tynon IV have really come together well to craft a fun, dark, engaging story- and Riley Rossmo is an artist that I have really enjoyed seeing for a while now (Bedlam, Cowboy Ninja Viking, The Curse, Rasputin- to name a few) and their collaboration on this issue was a very positive one.
I think that Constantine may have found his new home, and I would like to see this series continue on well past the 12-issue mark. I think that the “dark” corner of the DC Universe needs to have more independent stories told in it, because I was thoroughly enjoying Justice League Dark until it became inundated with tie-in issues that detracted from the tone and the standoffish feeling that I got from that book- it always felt as thought it should have been considered an entity unto itself, and I loved that.
This story was an odd one, and was fairly straightforward, I doubt many people would not see the big “twist” at the end of the issue coming- but that isn’t what really gives this issue it’s weight. It is the moments in-between. The time when John is just being himself, flirting with a burly, male restaurant owner, having a very public sexual encounter with a demon being two very different, but very “Constantine-like” moments from the story. I am sure that a lot of people will make a big brouhaha over him flirting with a guy; but as a big man with a lush thicket of facial hair, I can assure you- we are very irresistible to anyone, even fellas who have seen some really messed up demonic crap…
I loved the two-page spread that changed the orientation of the layout, and that even changed the pace and direction of the reading as the characters descended the page. I thought it was a bit of a ham-fisted idea for the “club” to be such a literal interpretation of Inferno. I would have liked a bit more subtlety there, but maybe the blatant nature of the club was intentional- I don’t know. I just enjoyed reading it, and the dialogue as it progressed was also really fun, and it felt very natural for these two people to discuss things in that manner.
As I said, the ending was a very uninspired twist, and it was one I thought John should have seen coming, but maybe there will be further information revealed that explains his clouded judgment or his willingness to be drawn in so easily by Blythe, when he could have stayed behind and had drinks with the handsome Oliver. I hope that we see more of John and Oliver, or at least more fun, flirty interactions with Constantine and any and everyone- that is a big part of who I see this character as, being a trench coat wearing swinger, a skinny blonde loverboy looking for a good time, wherever that may be. The very end of the issue, though, was a turn I didn’t see the book taking. The idea that these spectral sidekicks of John’s are to play any sort of role in what he does is really interesting- I imagine they will be a more emotionally tethered version of Ben Franklin from Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn’s recent “Deadpool” run. I am eager to see where this story goes from here…
I think that this book, along with some of the other new books that DC is rolling out post-Convergence have started to chip away at the ice around my heart, and the thaw is beginning. I have a renewed sense of hope for the future of DC, and there are more and more titles that I am reading casually that I have begun to want to continue to read beyond just picking up first issues for review. Things are picking up after the faltering of Convergence, and I think that books like Constantine, The Omega Men, Earth 2 Society, Red Hood/Arsenal and the brand-new direction of Batman have helped to really draw in new readers and to invigorate the readership that was lagging due to their last, less-than-stellar event book.
Constantine, The Hellblazer has a relatively low accessibility hurdle for new readers, though it absolutely can’t hurt to have a bit of background on a character like this. The story is pretty self-contained (and hopefully the series will continue to STAY THAT WAY) and things can only go up from here. If you were, like I was, hesitant to pick up any new DC titles the last few weeks, definitely let that go and pick up Constantine #1. It was a really fun and unique story and it really opens up a bigger world that has yet to be explored.