Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Aaron Campbell
Colourist: Jordie Bellaire
Publisher: DC Comics: Black Label
“[…] with nothing to his name but decades of bad memories and an unearned second chance. How, exactly, will he squander it?” – DC Comics
I would say no line better sums up John Constantine. The only man who may be less than the sum of his parts, and who trudges on nonetheless. John Constantine: Hellblazer #1 is a return to the dark and gruesome London streets he once knew so well, but Constantine isn’t on his best footing in the age of microbreweries and lady bouncers. Luckily, there is some supernatural nastiness across the street to make him feel right at home.
What’s great about this first issue is it doesn’t really bother much with John Constantine. As usual, he somehow manages to be a key player without showing any of his cards. Instead he watches, listens, and only runs his mouth for an off-color joke. “You either watch and win—or you don’t,” and Constantine heeds his own advice by getting the lay of the supernatural land at street level … and it’s looking pretty fucked. Still, no clear indication of Tim Hunter’s apocalypse yet, though everything is sure to tie back to the beginning of The Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer #1 eventually.
Instead of focusing exclusively on Constantine, though, Spurrier introduces some great characters with real presence on the page: a no-nonsense bouncer named Nat, in whom Constantine has clearly met his match, and a local gang lord and haruspex K-Mag, whose disturbing thoughts narrate most of the issue. Spurrier also makes some not-so-subtle political and social commentary, because how could he not? Constantine would certainly have a lot to say about the state of things in the United Kingdom today.
Aaron Campbell’s dark and dingy artwork makes you feel like you’re flipping through an old Hellblazer comic. There are some absolutely gruesome panels, which help earn this series its mature rating, that you can’t keep from trapping your gaze. To cap it all off, Jordie Bellaire lifts Campbell’s ethereal monstrosities off the page with a soft glow, revealing the horrors that lie in the dark.