Hellblazer: Original Sins
Writer: Jamie Delano
Artists: John Ridgway & Alfredo Alcala
Colourist: Lovern Kindzierski
Letterers: Annie Halfacree, Todd Klein, & John Costanza
A review by Josh Rose
Halloween is the perfect time of year to dive into your favourite horror films or books. It’s that time of year where we want to be scared. Gets us into the mood and what better comic to read for Halloween than Hellblazer? Hellblazer: Original Sins collects the first 9 issues and shows us John Constantine in his early days, but this isn’t an origin story. Part of what makes him such an interesting character is not the magic (or rather lack thereof,) or the demons he fights, but his mysterious backstory. What happened at Newcastle? And, while we do learn a little about that here, that’s not this story.
Hellblazer: Original Sins is a collection of loosely connected stories, and early on seeds are planted for Constantine to investigate the Resurrection Crusaders and the Damnation Army. It all starts when he meets a girl named Zed when Constantine’s niece is kidnapped.
What I really like about this series is how grounded it is. Constantine is a gambler and a con-man, meaning he knows more often than not that he is risking everything on blind luck. This isn’t a superhero thriller where he saves the world and gets the girl. He will screw his friends to save a thousand people, and he will screw a thousand people to save his own neck. This is not a series that shies away from tough subjects either: the Thatcher politics in the late 80’s, the horrors of the Vietnam war, and AIDS.
It seems to me that DC Comics has forgotten Constantine’s roots. Ever since he was brought into the New 52, he’s been more of a magician than a con-man. In Hellblazer: Original Sins, I’ve counted him using magic a total of three times (maybe four). Typically Constantine gets other people to do magic for him, or doesn’t use it at all.
Jamie Delano invites the readers inside Constantine’s head to see his most private moments. Constantine is a typical man. He won’t share his real thoughts or emotions when he’s around people. He’s a guy that drowns his emotions in cigarettes and booze and cries himself to sleep. He’s your stereotypical male but with actual ghosts haunting him.
I said earlier that Hellblazer: Original Sins is a horror series perfect for Halloween, and it is! It’s not all politics and shows of male vulnerability. John Ridgway and Alfredo Alcala have come up with some pretty fantastic designs for their demons–especially their monster made up of four neo-nazis. However, some of the most impressive pages in this book are not of demons and hell, but actually of the psychedelic trips. In particular, Ritchie Simpon’s adventure through cyberspace, and Constantine’s shared vision with a Sudanese shaman. It’s in these pages that Lovern Kindzierski’s colours shine brightest.
The Verdict: Buy it!
If you are a fan of John Constantine or fantasy books about magic in the real world, you owe it to yourself to read Hellblazer: Original Sins. If you prefer over the top magical battles in the astral plane you best go pick up Doctor Strange or Shadowman. But, at the very least, I encourage you to read the first two issues of Constantine’s tale: Hunger and A Feast of Friends.