The Sandman Universe Presents Hellblazer #1 Review

by Nick Devonald on October 30, 2019

Writer: Simon Spurrier
Art: Marcio Takara
Colours: Cris Peter
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar

After I read this first few pages I knew I was in for a treat, by the end of the issue I sat with a big grin on my face, excited for the first time in a long time about where DC were taking John Constantine.

Before I get into the review of this issue a bit of history of John Constantine is needed. Originally appearing in the pages of Swamp Thing he really came into his own when he got his own ongoing series under DC’s Vertigo, which was unfortunately cancelled after 300 issues.
It’s clear after DC cancelled John Constantine: The Hellblazer and tried to include John Constantine in their main universe as part of the New 52 they didn’t really understand the character and what had made his solo series so successful. This was the start of several cancellations and relaunches under different labels, with each relaunch slowly getting closer and closer to the original series. By relaunching under Black Label and giving John Constantine a mature rating, which has been sorely missed, they have a chance to bring back the magic which made the original series so good.

The question is how successful will this relaunch be? Judging by the quality of this one shot, designed to set up an ongoing series and Constantines role in Books of Magic I’d say very successful.

They’ve made an interesting choice with this series, perhaps to reassure fans of old, by continuing a storyline from Neil Gaimans Books of Magic mini-series from 1991. In the issue in question Tim Hunter is taken to a grim future where Constantine is dying and Tim is the leader of the evil magical forces in the final battle of magic in this age. In the issue it’s mentioned that this is only A possible future, and is never returned to again. Until now.

That future is now. The difference this time is we see it from Constantines point of view.

What’s clever about this issue is it acts as a soft reboot of sorts for the character. Standard comic book parallel universes and alternate timelines etc gives us a chance for a clean slate, where the writer can ignore a lot of the choices of the past decade and carry on closer to the original run.

We get a recap of his relationship with Chas, which also acts as a perfect intro to Constantines character for new fans, and lets old fans know that our Constantine is back. This is the Constantine haunted by the ghosts of those he’s lost.

This is a comic that has always been firmly set in England, with BNP, gangs, council estates, politics etc. Over the course of the original run we would often get Johns jaded comments on the current political climate in Britain, which made it feel real and current. By reading through older issues you could easily tell when it was set from the comments, e.g. Thatchers Britain. This issue ends up in London, with references to Brexit and current graffiti on the signs. It’s a nice nod to the comics of old and reassures me the writer knows what he’s doing.

This issue is essential reading for Constantine fans of old, newer fans of the Books of Magic ongoing series, and readers who are planning to read the new ongoing John Constantine: Hellblazer series.

The artwork by Marcio Takara is fantastic and I’m a little disappointed to learn he won’t be continuing it in the solo series. The artwork will instead pass to Aaron Campbell, who I have faith will be able to continue the high standards set here.

The opening pages are filled with the flashy magic which John hates. There is no doubt of the stakes at play here, monsters and magic fill the pages, and the 2 & 3 pages are a fantastic double spread really showcasing Takaras talent. The colours by Cris Peter also help to emphasise the otherworldliness of the magical battle going on.

This is a welcome return to Constantine of old, a chain-smoking, swearing, back stabbing, conniving, haunted, snarky, lying bastard. Welcome back. Can’t wait to see what you do next.

Our Score:


A Look Inside