John Constantine is a man out of time. Already on the edge of a mid-life crisis even before he found himself in a modern-day London where the pubs don’t allow smoking, John is finding it difficult to acclimate to his new circumstances. Despite this, he’s still doing what he does best – being the bastard who gets things done when strange magical things are running wild. Because someone has to.
Still, it’s not all getting thrown out of pubs for making off-color jokes about the Royal Family. John did manage to score a victory over a homeless Evangelist who had somehow tapped into an angelic power source and begun smiting the sinners in a local park. And John has a new driver in the form of Noah; a hearing-impaired ex-gang member whom John has guilted into becoming the new Chas Chandler.
Still, there’s some dark force continuing to twist London around like an uncomfortable pair of Y-fronts and now it seems to be targeting John directly. Fortunately John gets the unexpected assistance of Tommy Willow-Tree; a bearded, IPA-drinking, yoga-practicing hipster mage with a man-bun and a vegan diet. Unfortunately, Tommy is the kind of nauseatingly cheerful Boy Scout that John hates on general principal. Worse yet, Tommy needs John’s help, because he’s learned just how extensive the darkness warping London is and he thinks John is the only person who can fight it. Heaven help us all.
One of the more vexing things about being a comic book critic is that often times it is hard to review a long-running series because so many monthly periodicals are written for the trade and feature multi-part storylines that defy analysis on a chapter-by-chapter basis. Thankfully, Simon Spurrier is defying this trend with the new John Constantine: Hellblazer, promising small arcs and many jumping-on points for new readers. John Constantine: Hellblazer #4 is such a jumping-on point and it’s a damn good one that perfectly encapsulates everything that has been great about this series to date.
Spurrier has a perfect gasp of Constantine’s character (or lack thereof) and he’s crafted the perfect comedic foil for John in the form of Tommy Willow-Tree, who is simultaneously everything John isn’t (i.e. idealistic, well-groomed, polite) and yet as much a spirit of modern day London as Constantine was the zeitgeist of 1980s post-Punk. He’s an annoying tosser but it speaks to John’s core that the one thing he and Tommy agree upon is that something has to be done about whoever is pulling stunts like causing the ravens in the Tower of London to attack tourists.
The artwork for this issue is as finely honed as the story. Matias Bergara sports a light, airy style that instantly stands out compared to the common crop of over-inked horror titles that try drown the pages in ink to convey the darkness of the setting to the reader. This disjointed connection is further emphasized by the bright colors utilized by the always-excellent Jordie Bellaire and the lively lettering of Aditya Bidikar.
Bottom Line: The bastard is back and if you haven’t already been reading the revived John Constantine: Hellblazer, now is the time to start.