John Constantine went back to his horror roots in The Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer last month from DC Comics’ Black Label. Now, this horror anti-hero is continuing with John Constantine: Hellblazer #1, written by Simon Spurrier, with art by Aaron Campbell, colors by Jordie Bellaire, and lettering by Aditya Bidikar. Having fallen in love with Spurrier’s Constantine in that one-shot, I have been waiting for this series to begin.
In John Constantine: Hellblazer #1, the titular anti-hero is back in London and his old tricks-and just in time, if not completely at home in 2019. A small-time gang lord has found himself dealing with an outbreak of supernatural body snatchers in his territory, ripping apart his crew and turning them into light and dust. But, without any allies to call on and nothing left to call his own, Constantine doesn’t have a choice but to take a paycheck from one of London’s worst, or accepting the help of one of the gang lord’s would-be foot soldiers.
The etherial darkness in the issue hits on all points. The beings abducting and skinning the young men of the gang leader are beautiful and terrifying. Additionally, the gang leader exists as a part of the supernatural himself, exploiting and preying on the young boys who turn into young men in his territory. Convincing them to sacrifice themselves both physically and spiritually to his will.
The language is hard to understand at times, the slang not landing entirely when used – which may or may not be because I’m American and not English. While the dialogue makes the opening of the book confusing, in the latter part of the book it is the purest form of Constantine’s darkness and snark, his irreverence and his compassion all come to play in John Constantine: Hellblazer #1. But the star of this issue is truly Campbell’s art. It’s scratchy, manic, gothic, and pulpy all at one.
With some pieces purposefully out of focus, the distortion works to disorient the reader throughout the story which helps add to the atmosphere. Additionally, the creature design is astounding. Like illustrations out of The Divine Comedy, the holy and the profane hit each other and push this issue into moments of body horror that are disturbing, to say the least. Additionally, there is a beauty in the pages as Bellaire’s rich colors and the pairs’ use of lighting drive John Constantine: Hellblazer #1’s themes, horror, and beauty.
Additionally, Bidikar’s lettering is superb. Bidikar uses varying font sizes to show impact and volume level truly brings the dialogue to life in a unique way. Hearing Matt Ryan’s voice in my head – he is Constantine after all – I was able to jump into the words, even if I wasn’t exactly sure what they meant, I understood how they were meant to be received thanks to the emotive lettering style.
Overall, John Constantine: Hellblazer #1 is a good number one, fully submerging readers in the darkness of Constantine’s world and making sure you know what you’re getting into and the dedication to the genre that the creative team has.
You can pick it up at comic book stores.
John Constantine: Hellblazer #1
John Constantine: Hellblazer #1 is a good number one, fully submerging readers in the darkness of Constantine’s world and making sure you know what you’re getting into and the dedication to the genre that the creative team has.
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.