The week of June 10th, 2015 was a rough one for Constantine fans. The executive producers of the show announced that – despite an amazing showing of support by a devout fanbase – no network had elected to pick up the series in the wake of NBC’s cancellation.
Photos were posted of the mill-house set being destroyed. And Matt Ryan expressed his sorrow that he’d no longer be playing John Constantine whilst thanking the fans for their hard work on the #SaveConstantine campaign.
The anxious eyes of a fandom in turmoil turned expectantly to the comics shops. What exactly they were expecting was up for debate. A new distraction? Another disappointment? Or maybe a snowball’s chance in hell that we might see something good? Something that would last? Something that would do justice to the legacy that we loved?
Friends, I am here today to deliver the good news!
There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not an approaching train!
Salvation is at hand and it’s in a little comic book called Constantine The Hellblazer #1!
This first issue proves a delightful homecoming for long-time fans of the Hellblazer series. There’s no sign of the superheroics or Dr. Strange-style shenanigans that dominated the recent Constantine comic book. This is vintage Vertigo-style horror.
We open upon John, naked but for his stocking feet, soaked in bits of blood and brain. It’s not his own, he’s quick to tell a panicky shop-girl. With a bit of charm (or a charm), she’s quickly soothed and all too happy to provide John with a new suit despite his complete inability to pay for it. As John cleans up and gets dressed, he idly wonders what the police make of the messes he leaves behind as he trades barbs with Gary Lester – one of the many ghosts of former-friends who are haunting John on account of his causing their deaths.
Despite the shout-outs to the classic series, the script by Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV is easily accessible to those readers who have never read a John Constantine story before. Within ten pages we know everything there is to know about ol’ Con Job. He’s a con man. He’s a magician. He’s haunted by the ghosts of those he’s gotten killed. He’s not to be trusted. Oh, and if you care to know, he’s openly bisexual. Possibly tri-sexual as he’ll try anything.
That last point will no doubt please those fans who were upset about the decision to avoid overtly portraying John’s sexuality on the television series. John is seen openly flirting with a male bartender and taking a moment’s pleasure in how nice it is to talk to someone without any pretense of wanting something besides the obvious. That is before we find out that John’s had a number of threesomes and has taken at least one demon as a lover.
In short, they’re not skimping on the sex or violence, despite a notable absence of the F-word.
The artwork for this issue is not what one typically expects of a Hellblazer story. Despite this, the overall look is effective. There is a grittiness to Riley Rossmo’s aesthetic that suits the world of John Constantine. And the colors by Ivan Plascencia are well chosen, with the more realistic elements being muted and semi-saturated whilst the demonic realms and characters are painted with darker, more vivid hues.
If Constantine The Hellblazer has a weakness, it is that it lacks broad appeal. It’s a great horror book but those readers who aren’t fans of the character or the genre will have little reason to give this one a try. That being said, this book will be a welcome treat for old-school Hellblazer fans as well as recent converts from the Constantine TV series.
That bastard Constantine is back. Long live the bastard!