John Constantine: Hellblazer #5 Review

by Nick Devonald on March 25, 2020

Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Matías Bergara
Colours: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Aditya Bidikar

This is the conclusion to the Scrubbing Up storyline. A two part story with guest artist Matías Bergara, the last issue was lighter and more humorous than the previous storyline. It made for a nice change of pace. These two storylines highlight one of the strengths of Hellblazer as a comic, it’s not tied into a five or six part storyline to fill a trade. The stories are the length they need to be to tell the story, which is quite refreshing. It gives Simon Spurrier a bit more freedom to experiment with different storytelling techniques, the first arc, A green and Pleasant Land, was a dark and brutal story. Scrubbing up has been much lighter and funnier in tone. Both still clearly Hellblazer, both good in their own right. It’s a format of storytelling that seems to work really well for Simon Spurrier and stops the series becoming stale.

Another strength of the new Hellblazer series, which this issue highlights, are the conclusions to the story arcs. Both story arcs appear to lead the reader down one route, but then turn it around, managing to make it both surprising and satisfying. Long may it continue.

And while having shorter story arcs might suggest no overarching storyline this isn’t the case at all. Old Man Constantine has been lingering around at the peripheral since his introduction in the Sandman Universe Presents Hellblazer issue. At first glance it looks like there may be a confrontation between the two Constantine’s further down the line, but if this series has taught me one thing it’s that assumptions are usually wrong and whatever happens it’ll take the reader by surprise.

Spurrier is also spending time extending the cast in the Hellblazer universe, creating an ensemble cast of unique and rememberable characters. It’s quite the playground he’s creating and is managing to leave his own print on it whilst respecting the source material. Hellblazer is in safe hands.

The last issue was, at times, hilarious. This issue takes a darker turn, yet still manages a lighter tone than before, and still has some laugh out loud moments. It also takes the time to explore John’s psyche and what motivates him. We get a chance to see just how petty he is, and equally for all his bluster about being heartless somewhere, deep down, there’s a part of him that does have a conscience. And these conflicting parts of him are one of the reasons this series is so good.

Matías Bergara’s art has been a really good fit for this storyline. While it doesn’t come close to capturing the dark, moody tone that series regular Aaron Campbell conjures that isn’t the intention here. In fact, as much as I love Campbells art, Scrubbing Up wouldn’t have worked half as well with him on art duties. Bergara’s art compliments Spurrier’s script.

Jordie Bellaire continues to colour this series. She’s had a chance to really showcase her talents, altering the colours between artists to compliment the unique and different tone of the different storylines. Comparing the first three issues to these last two you could be forgiven for assuming it was someone different colouring them. A real indication of her skill and talent.

Tonally very different from the storyarc that came before, this has been a lighter and funnier storyarc. Changing artists to reflect the differences is a stroke of genius. The Hellblazer world and mythos continues to expand. Spurrier manages to take our expectations and still shock us with twists and turns. Bergara’s art compliments the tone. A satisfactory end to the Scrubbing Up storyline, this is a series that readers will look forward to week after week.

Our Score:


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