John Constantine Hellblazer #1

by Nick Devonald on November 27, 2019

Writer: Simon Spurrier
Art: Aaron Campbell
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Aditya Bidikar

I was really impressed by last months Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer #1, the reintroduction of John Constantine to a mature label. I felt Si Spurrier had a really good grasp on the character and this new set-up had me incredibly excited about the characters future. This, technically the first issue in the new John Constantine Hellblazer solo series, delivers on every front. It is so good. Any fan of John Constantine from old NEEDS to have this series on their pull list. And it's so well written that newcomers wanting to see what all the fuss is about will have absolutely no trouble following along.

The humour is spot on, making me chuckle more than once. But more than anything Spurrier captures just what it is about John Constantine that makes the character so enjoyable to read. He's not a hero, by any definition. But he also tries to do the right thing, which is usually very morally grey. It's never black and white in Constantines world. He's the kind of guy you wouldn't mind having the odd pint with but you wouldn't want to be friends with him. But he's so much fun to read.

We start off with Constantine reacquainting himself with a London he hasn’t been in for many years. There has always been something so incredibly British about Constantine and it’s so perfectly captured here, just small details like the price of cigarettes, and the trend for vaping, and it just feels so perfect. Plus a cameo from a certain Prime Minister. Then there’s all the different accents which are so well written. And the swearing. It's an adult comic and it feels like one too.

John spending a bit of time reacquainting himself with London is a stroke of genius on many fronts. It’s a good introduction to who he is for new readers who get a moment to understand the sort of guy he is. It also lets readers of the Vertigo series know that Black Label are taking him back to his roots and they’re serious about getting it spot on. Plus it firmly places him in our London. And unlike a lot of first issues it doesn't feel like a lot of time is spent setting the story up, instead we're thrown straight in, which elevates it above the typical #1.

Of course this is John Constantine we’re talking about, and after introducing what will hopefully be a recurring character in the form of Nat it isn’t long before he finds himself in trouble. Trouble in this instance takes the form of a local gang who have found themselves in a spot of supernatural trouble which they believe Constantine can help them out with.

The gang leader is a real piece of work. I can’t emphasise just how atmospheric this comic is, between the writing, the characterisation, the art and the colors, it is awesome. This is horror done right.

The artwork from Aaron Campbell is fantastic. After enjoying Marcio Takara’s art on the Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer #1 I wasn’t sure how to feel about the art duties passing onto Aaron Campbell. My concerns were unfounded, he captures the character, he captures London, perfectly. He manages to really capture the horror from the supernatural, as well as the more mundane gang horror, in such a way it is genuinely creepy.

It is also reminiscent of a lot of the older Vertigo series which is an added bonus for me. It’s left me with a real sense of nostalgia for that older series and I think I’m going to have to grab my old trades and immerse myself in Constantines world once again.

And of course I couldn’t mention the art without commenting on Jordie Bellaire’s wonderful colors. They contribute enormously towards making the art really stand out. So much of this comic is in shadows and at night time and a less skilled color artist wouldn’t let Campbells artwork stand out as well as it does. The colors really contributes well to the fantastic atmosphere created in the comic.

I’m of the opinion if colors are done well they almost fade into the background, letting the art and story take front and center. Here however the colors are so well done you can’t help but notice them.

On a separate note I am in awe of Jordie Bellaire, between her colors here and writing duties on Buffy she is up there on my list of comic creators to watch out for.

A good story can elevate average art, great art can make up for a poor story, brilliant colors can hide distract from below par art. When all three are outstanding it produces a comic of the highest standards and that’s what we have here.

I can’t rave enough about what a good issue this is. I don’t think I realised how much I needed this series until I started reading it. If this is the standard from DC’s Black Label I think we’re in for a real treat. I am so excited for the future of John Constantine. If I could award more than 10/10 I wouldn’t hesitate. I can’t remember the last time I read a #1 and felt this excited about what’s to come.

Our Score:


A Look Inside