John Constantine is one of my favorite characters in all of DC Comics canon. Now in The Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer, Neil Gaiman has promised to return the American Gothic Hellblazer to his roots with this one-shot that leads into his ongoing series starting in November: John Constantine, Hellblazer. Written by Simon Spurrier, with art from Marcio Takara, colors by Cris Peter, and letters by Aditya Bidikar, Hellblazer #1 is a gorgeous fever dream that steps into neon-soaked darkness that reminds why I fell in love with Alan Moore’s character in the beginning.
In Hellblazer #1, after getting tangled up in a magical war waged across countless futures, Constantine was murdered by an all-powerful adversary: a twisted version of the promising young magician Timothy Hunter. But instead of staying dead, Constantine makes a deal with a specter that puts him just outside the magic apocalypse that Timothy Hunter has wrought.
Now Constantine must ask himself what he, the last person in the world, did to deserve a second chance. Constantine questioning his morals is the best kind of Constantine and Hellblazer #1 doesn’t disappoint. But Hellblazer #1 isn’t about action, instead of it’s a character study done by highlighting the character’s inner demons, outer demons, and trauma that has left him a mentally mangled mess. Guilt-ridden and alone, Constantine has to try to be the best version of himself and that means retirement isn’t in the cards even while Chas is gone and Hunter’s threat waits for him.
The internal dialogue in Hellblazer #1 is superb. It’s irreverent, descriptive, and feels exactly like our dark magical anti-hero. With phrases like “H.P. Lovecraft’s personal wankbank” used to describe the first half of the book, every page is filled with morbidity and humor that you can only find in a Constantine book. But it’s his inspection of himself, his trauma, and his deeds that drive the one-shot forward, prepping the audience for more of this iteration in the coming John Constantine, Hellblazer series.
While witty writing from Spurrier isn’t overshadowed by Takara’s art, it is met in equal creativity and measure. The differentiating between the detail of the ghosts and demons and Constantine and the living world is striking. It is coupled with Peter’s colors, making the entire one-shot gorgeous and a big old acid trip into the world of Hellblazer as Spurrier deconstructs Constantine and rebuilds him through the 30 plus pages. Additionally, the letters in this one-shot are unbeatable as Bidikar uses different fonts, colors, font weights, and word balloons to dictate changes in perspective and voice.
Overall, The Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer #1 is a gorgeous exploration into John Constantine’s mind, his torment, and how he constructs his identity. I’m in love with this one-shot’s beauty but also the pain that is shows Constantine moves through. I’m a trauma-mangled person too and the way that Spurrier explains Constantine’s constant state of madness, as well as the world inflicting it on him, is well-done. Spurrier’s Constantine is someone I’ve bought into because of this one-shot and now, I can’t wait for John Constantine, Hellblazer.
The Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer #1 is available wherever comics are sold.
The Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer #1
The Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer #1 is a gorgeous exploration into John Constantine’s mind, his torment, and how he constructs his identity. I’m in love with this one-shot’s beauty but also the pain that is shows Constantine moves through.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.