Writers: Ming Doyle & James Tynion IV
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colorist: Ivan Plascenia
Cutting through the Marvel event books like a knife, Constantine came onto the scene this week and had this diehard Hellblazer fan dying in anticipation. With the post Convergence wave of DC books just hitting the stands, it’s looking like the new 52 era is slowly coming to a close. As I wasn’t a fan of that Constantine series, I had high hopes for this one.
When it comes to Hellblazer, I can have some unrealistic expectations when it comes to the writing, and I may have had that issue with this story. By no means did Doyle and Tynion write a bad story here, but it didn’t feel like a Constantine book. The reason I say this is both in characterization and in overall world feel. Firstly, John just didn’t feel like John. I was on board with the start, more or less tricking a cashier at a clothing store to ignore his bloody appearance and get new clothes, and continued to be through John starting a conversation with the bartender, but it went off the rails a little in that scene immediately following. I want to stress, I am in full understanding, and have been, that John is bisexual. He will use his sexuality for an advantage over anyone, be that man or woman. The issue, and ONLY issue, comes in that he more or less becomes a puppy dog over this guy because he’s attractive. The Constantine we have read for years wouldn’t have succumb to that, because he has to be in control at all times. From that point on, I was a little on edge, and the story that followed was a little convoluted. When John goes through this club with Blythe, a demon coming to him for help, we get some great showcasing of Rossmo’s art, but a A LOT of text which did little to move the story. The showdown ended appropriately, John being the bastard he is in screwing someone over, which gave me an enormous sigh of relief. Also, the cliffhanger, which includes the ghosts that have been following John around for almost his entire publication history, looks like it could be interesting. On top of this, Constantine has always had this very British, ethereal feel in the world he lives in, and that wasn’t present here. Some of the best Hellblazer stories have had John playing off of the land, and I was looking for that here. That being said, this issue wasn’t a total mixed bag, as Rossmo continues to be an amazing artist.
When I heard Riley Rossmo was drawing this book, saying I was excited would be an understatement. Rossmo is perfect for a book of this supernatural tone, and I was not disappointed at any part of this book. While he may have a weird sense of figure drawing, it’s still fun and unique, and takes nothing out of the storytelling and mastery of shading and sketching that he has. I love his work on Rasputin, and this book was a little scratchier, but maintains his signature. The Constantine he draws is certainly younger than the one I’m used to, but it fits with the approach of the character in this new universe. His Blythe design, as well as the other demons and club they are located in, are excellent, and his splatter/dot shading technique makes this world truly special, even if I wish it was slightly different in a narrative sense. On top of that, Plascenia’s color compliments Rossmo beautifully. This book is much brighter than the Constantine I’m used to, but with the style we have overall in the issue, it definitely works. The Reds and Greens dominate the page, excluding John’s piercing blue eyes, leaving the reader appropriately on edge.
I’m not 100% how Doyle and Tynion are breaking up the writing duties; if maybe one is scripting and the other plotting, or if each are doing both. What I do know is that they are certainly verbose, sometimes to a slight fault. Even though this first issue isn’t perfect, it’s certainly worth a read or borrow. As a diehard Hellblazer fan, it may not be what I loved from the original series, but I still found myself enjoying it, for the art alone. I do wish this could just be a new character and we can leave John Constantine with the Vertigo stories we all loved so much.
3.5 Ghosts out of 5
Reviewed by: Brett Israel