Writer: Simon Oliver
Colourist: Andre Szymanowicz, Moritat
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Editor: Kristy Quinn
A review by Amelia Wellman
What does a John Constantine fangirl have to do to get some consistent Hellblazer media around here? The New 52 Constantine was unreadable, the NBC show gets cancelled with only thirteen episodes to its name, and now Ming Doyle’s awesome Constantine: The Hellblazer gets shelved for another reboot. I suppose he still has his non-canon appearances in DC Bombshells, but Zatanna turned him into a bunny for a huge chunk of that and that’s no way for The Laughing Magician to live. So how does Constantine’s series, now re-branded as Hellblazer Rebirth, stand up? Shakily to say the least.
John Constantine’s stay in New York City was a fun diversion, but London is where his heart belongs. Trouble is, a pissed off demon and a curse on his soul stand in his way of being able to find his brand of cigarettes and a decent curry once again. Will a game of occult chicken force the demon to undo the curse or will Constantine end up with the blood of eight million souls on his hands to get what he wants?
The first Rebirth issue in each series DC is putting out is serving as an issue zero/special issue, meant to wrap up loose ends from the story lines that were going on before Rebirth and draw new and old fans into new story lines and creators with a bang. The fabulous Ming Doyle was the writer of the thirteen Constantine: The Hellblazer comics that came before Hellblazer Rebirth, and boy are they a tough act to follow. So much so that I found myself openly scoffing during Hellblazer Rebirth.
Oliver seems like he’s trying to emulate Doyle’s short-lived series more than he’s trying to build off of it. The information felt crammed in and the conclusion of a con-job that held the souls of eight million people hostage ends anti-climatically. This story line should have covered several issues, not a single one-shot. Doyle’s Constantine lived in New York, and I understand the need to explain why he’s suddenly left to head back to London, but it’s not something that needs to be set up and rushed through in a single opening issue.
Constantine’s occult adventures have always been a series of stories that haphazardly fit together. Details can vary as long as a handful of things stay the same: being in a punk band called Mucus Membrane, the demon blood in his veins from Nergal, being anywhere on the asshole spectrum from wanker to full on fuckhead, getting his ass kicked on a regular basis, and his addiction to Silk Cut cigarettes. Cover those bases, and other parts of his story can be filled in along the way.
I need to mention that something that both writer and artist have actually promised in Hellblazer Rebirth is a return to a darker, edgier Constantine. Doyle’s Constantine played the lower end of the asshole spectrum, falling along the lines of cheeky bastard more than anything else. Oliver is looking to bring back a Constantine that’s rougher around the edges; he’s full on claimed to have brought Constantine “back to being an A-hole” but I can’t say that I saw it. Doyle’s Constantine might not have been as big an asshole as he was intended to be, but at least he was fun to follow around. In this first issue, Oliver has shown one of the most boring, generic iterations of Constantine I’ve yet to see. He had the souls of eight million people in the palm of his hand but there’s no sense of danger or immediacy to the threat. It was forced, unremarkable, and a complete disservice to the amazing re-branding that Ming Doyle already did!
Moritat’s art is just about as unremarkable as the story. It got the job done but in some panels it was almost too cutesy. The lighting and colours are too flattering. Constantine is a character that’s supposed to be shown in the darkest shadows in the dirtiest places, slogging his way through the dredges of man and demon kind alike. He’s supposed to be tired and (more often than not) bloodied and bruised. The art needs to reflect that. The artwork in Constantine: The Hellblazer was cutesy too, but it was stylized cutesy. It was like corrupted pop art. What’s been presented in Hellblazer Rebirth is a more realistic style that doesn’t strive for humanity. It feels soulless in how generic it’s presented. Don’t think it could be that bad? Just wait till Wonder Woman makes a brief appearance. Sure, she’s cute, but you’ll wonder if she’s got a brain behind her big, doe eyes.
Skip it. Oliver has written a Constantine story that’s a pale comparison to what’s come before. It shows he knows Constantine but not that he loves Constantine. I’ll be the first to say that, yes, I am completely biased when it comes to Hellblazer. It kills me to have to say that this storyline isn’t worth your time. I want the best for Constantine (and I mean that in terms of his story, not his life. If his life was the best how would we revel in his misery?) and Hellblazer Rebirth failed to deliver that. The story was run of the mill and, for the writer claiming to be bringing back John’s more derisive character attributes, Constantine’s big plan was weak sauce that succeeded on coincidence alone. This Rebirth special is more than likely to lose fans brought in by Doyle’s series than it is to gain new ones.
It is only issue one though, so as a longtime fan of the Hellblazer brand, I’m willing to wait and see how this new Constantine progresses from issue to issue. There were storylines, writers, and artists in the original three hundred issue run that didn’t grab me but I kept going, so powerful is my love for my blonde British
baby bunny bastard. I can only hope it doesn’t go as wrong as The New 52 reboot went. And if it does, I suppose there’s always the chance of striking up a deal with the Devil to get Ming Doyle back on the project.