“Occult detective” John Constantine has always been one of the “cooler” characters in the DC universe: a mouthy punk in a trench coat, chainsmoking Silk Cuts as he lacerates friend and foe alike with deadpan barbs, sneaky cunning and a willingness to use and/ or sacrifice anything and anyone he needs in order to survive. Deeply cynical about pretty much everything, yet deep down fundamentally driven by a heartfelt desire to do some good in his life.
The series has benefitted from some really great writing talent, from creator Alan Moore, to Regulars Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, Brian Azzarello and Jamie Delano (to name a few), crafting stories about this lovable, humanist antihero that created a loyal cult following.
The DC Rebirth of The Hellblazer makes sure to hit all the marks that signify “John Constantine, cheeky chappie Brit magician” – sarcasm! pissing people off! references to him being queer! manipulation! british slang! – but somehow it ends up as less than the sum of its parts. The story is decent enough: Constantine heads back from New York after a demon-based exile, risks all of London to break the curse that kept him out of the UK, after which he helps Swamp Thing with a favour and works to foil an apocalyptic Djinn scenario. But it lacks a certain verve, a spark, a sense of drama – it’s a little like listening to someone describe a Hellblazer story, rather than taking part in it.
Similarly, the art by Moritat is attractive enough, but doesn’t do the characters justice, and the female characters are almost identical aside from hairstyle (one character, Mercury, looks drastically different from panel to panel: here with prominent nose and pillow lips, there with button nose, delicate mouth and anime eyes).
It’s a decent enough stab at the character and the story is good enough to while away a few hours with a cuppa; and it has definite potential to develop into something darker, richer, and more thought-provoking.
Provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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