Holy Love Nonagons Constantine!
You thought love triangles made for good stories? Prepare to have your mind...blown. Okay, describing this story as just one giant love affair doesn't do it justice, yes, love is the motivation behind most of the character's actions but there's very little actual loving going on considering half the people involved in this affair are dead. Now, before you get excited no there's no necrophilia...but I'm getting off track, let's start at the beginning... (note inserted after review was written: skip the next two paragraphs if you just want the "condensed" version)
My habit for reading new comics I'm excited for (and trust me I was excited for this one) is to do all the stuff I was planning on doing that day until and then when my mind's cleared read the issue, so of course this meant I needed to do creator credits on the site. Well anyways, I flipped through the pages trying to not look at anything directly until I found the title page...well, I failed, the title page itself wasn't much of a spoiler seeing as it was an inevitable continuation of last month's cliffhanger (the cliffhanger was more of a why then a what's going to happen) but the first page, first panel in fact is what excited me...in a perfect homage to Shade, the Changing Man we saw a flashback to a scene from #44 (word for word accuracy) accompanied with Constantine's reflections on the matter.
Of course, you don't need to have read Shade to enjoy it, in fact there was one thing I found confusing because I'd read Shade...you see in this arc Kathy George (Shade's lover) is dead but in the series from the 90's the ending cliffhanger was that Shade had gone back in time to fix the events that led to her death and start a better life with her...however it seems that story has been retconned OR Kathy died in some way we don't know of yet (I suspect the former). Since Shade was cancelled prematurely it's always possible Peter had been unhappy with that rushed ending and this is his way of udnoing it but honestly I have no idea.
Since people complain about my reviews being too long I'll try and condense this... though I notice on other big comic reviewing websites official reviews are as long if not longer...and those Unscripted videos take more of your time...
There are three main characters to follow this issue: John, Shade (who are tied together throughout the issue) and Epiphany. As I said last issue I don't know much about what's going on with Epiphany but then again it's supposed to be a mystery and it's her story that creates the cliffhanger ending. But John and Shade, now there was a fine story to tell...a story of jealousy, as brought about by the aforementioned flashback to the first and only other time the two met. Oh and don't forget another awesome (although short) appearance from Lenny who said she was never Shade's friend but Kathy's...once again leaving the ending of the Shade series in question.
Anyways, my favorite parts of this issue were John's madness and Shade just being well...Shade...the conflicted crazy guy with superpowers. He still seems so detached from the world (as he has been since Kathy's death) and it felt so true to the character, his motivations seem pure but his methods are questionable. I definitely thought the art-style of Camuncoli and Landini was perfect for Shade considering the colorfulness that surrounds him. I mean Bachalo can draw trippy like nobody's business (see the recent House of Mystery #27 to see what I'm talking about) but this art was a perfect match for Shade.
Once again, I feel if you are not reading this you are missing out on one of the best titles of the year and if instead you are investing in twenty books all tied to some arc you want to follow I think you are missing out on the quality comics have to offer, just a straight-up good story. There may be a character returning but it's not an event or a marketing ploy, I'm the only one hyping it up it seems...and that's the way it should be, a story for the sake of a story. Why should we reward the titles that are confined to the grand scheme the executives are mapping out when we can support one writer's independent vision?
So...I part with my final plea...just look at the cover (the best of the year so far though some of the upcoming Hellblazer covers may outdo it at this rate of increasing perfection) and ask yourself, can I pass up such an epic work of art?
I give it five stars not because this comic is the #1 comic of all time but because it helps represent what I feel is the ideal comic, the type of comics that should represent the industry. Not the theme or the cast necessarily but the motivations behind it and the quality poured into it. And looking at the upcoming stuff I am ecstatic, this may just go down as my favorite Hellblazer run. Please stay on until #300 Peter!