John Constantine returns in a brand new series by Ming Doyle, James Tynion IV, and Riley Rossmo. Constantine: The Hellblazer #1 sees John flirt, evade ghosts from his past, and help a demon in her battle against Hell.
The issue opens up with a bang, a shocking image as John stands in a clothing store naked but for the blood covering his body. He uses magic to convince the clerk that he doesn’t need to pay. The casualness with which John brainwashes the store’s employee emphasizes the morally gray nature of Constantine. Even as one of his ghosts tells him of how he may have just ruined the young woman’s life, John shrugs it off and keeps on walking. He soon enters a coffee shop, and begins flirting with the muscular barista. It’s refreshing to see a male DC character that’s openly bisexual without it being treated as exotic. John is an aggressive flirt both with the barista, named Oliver, and with the woman who comes in after him. But this is no ordinary woman. Blythe, a demon, has come to Constantine to get his assistance in clearing out an infestation of demonic imps from her establishment. Constantine agrees, after a reunion of a different sort, and follows Blythe through her labyrinthine theater, called the “Inferno.” And it turns out that Blythe has bigger problems than an imp infestation…
The script by Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV is fantastic. Constantine: The Hellblazer #1 sees a return to the Constantine whose look was influenced by Sting. This Constantine is a dapper gentleman, with slicked back hair, and a smile that says, “Come here, I’ve got a secret that you want to hear.” He flirts effortlessly with both women and men, while just as easily dismissing ghosts he no longer wants to hear from. It’s a nice contrast to the worn and weary Constantine that had starred in the previous series.
Riley Rossmo’s artwork also calls back to older styles in the Vertigo Hellblazer title, using black dots to create shadows. Rossmo’s style is more horror-fantasy than straight horror; readers aren’t likely to have any scares in this story, but there’s a myriad of fantastic designs to pore over. Rossmo’s layouts are also quite a bit of fun. The use of slanted panels makes the book feel off-kilter, and one page is a blast to read as Blythe leads Constantine back and forth across the page as they travel through her “Inferno.”
Constantine: The Hellblazer #1 is a great comic, but not without its faults. The tone strikes an odd balance between horror and humor but the mix doesn’t always work in the book’s favor. Part of this is Constantine’s familiarity with the world around him. Constantine: The Hellblazer #1 is a “day-in-the-life” style comic, and so nothing really seems to phase John. While this gives readers great insight into his character, it also undercuts any true sense of terror. There’s an element of fantasy to Riley Rossmo’s artwork that sometimes makes the comic feel like a Tim Burton movie. This isn’t a bad thing, and there are moments in this issue that hint at a more frightening side to Rossmo’s artwork, but it would have been nice to get more of that in the series debut.
A strong debut is important in this competitive market, and Constantine: The Hellblazer #1 is a great one. Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV have created a world that feels all its own, with a nice take on demons and Constantine’s relationship to them. Riley Rossmo’s artwork and designs add to the uniqueness of this world and add some much-needed vitality to John Constantine.