Written By: Simon Oliver
Art By: Moritat
Color Art By: Andre Szymanowicz
Letters By: Sal Cipriano
Ever since the Vertigo Hellblazer series came to a close a few years ago, I’ve been sorely missing some John Constantine in my life. The Constantine and Constantine: The Hellblazer series that DC put out in the few years since haven’t felt the same. While I enjoyed them enough, I never got that Vertigo, bastard feeling that I got from the book I loved. After the Rebirth issue a month ago, I was extremely excited about this reboot, and going forward, it looks like I have that book back.
I can certainly look past placing Constantine in New York, as the characters location isn’t a dealbreaker to me. Also, there’s another thought that British writer’s exclusively get a hold of the Constantine character, but Jason Aaron has proved otherwise. The more I think about it, and the feeling I get after reading this issue, it’s more about a certain brooding characterization that John has been missing since the Milligan written days. It’s awesome to see him back with Chas and dealing with problems in England, but the most important panels to me were whenever it looked like the weight of the world is on John’s shoulders. Yes, the story in this issue with Swamp Thing appearing looking for John’s help, and something happening with some supernatural beings that were involved with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, but the draw is more in the tone. This finally feels like that Vertigo title I miss so much. There’s an overwhelming sense that the demons and supernatural taking a back seat to John just dealing with all the problems he’s made in his life. This larger than life bastard being humanized and becoming relatable to a good chunk of readers. On top of that, Oliver just writes some excellent British dialogue. The dryness that John has embodies a sense of life experience and ware that was missing in the last run. I know this may seem like a rant of a lapsed fan finally getting what they want, but I mean that in the sense that this is the book to bring those former fans of the Vertigo book back. On top of that, it’s just a fun read.
Moritat always seems to pop up in a book I’m not expecting, which is the case with this and the Rebirth issue. That said, I’m always happy to see him, as his unique rendering style seems to work for whatever title he’s on. In this issue, however, I had a bit of a hard time getting his images down. The book is extremely dark. I’m not totally sure if it’s an inking choice by Moritat or a coloring choice by Szymanowicz, but a lot of these panels were confusing due to how dark it was. The balance of shadow and light muddied the action making me spend too much time trying to figure out if I was missing anything on a panel. With a supernatural book, darker isn’t usually a problem, but the storytelling needs to be clear. That said, the clearer panels were great, and this type of issue can be solved very easily with a little refining going forward. Those few tweaks would make this one of my favorites on the stands.
The Hellblazer was a welcome return to form for Constantine, and the story grabbed me from jump. Even with the art issues, that I’m sure will be solved quickly, I have no doubt that this will be one of the stronger of the new DC titles.
4 Archdukes out of 5