Standing in its own little corner of the DC Universe is Constantine: The Hellblazer, a series that has captured John Constantine’s wit, along with the horror that fans of the supernatural will be sure to enjoy. The third issue in the fledgling series is a quieter one, but in delving to Constantine’s’ past, the issue becomes endearing.
The bulk of this issue is separated into two moments in Constantine’s life, the past where John and his friends went to a demonic band’s concert, and the present where he pursue’s a succubus to its hideout. The connective tissue between the two is Georgiana Snow, a magician superior in skill to Constantine and who finds John’s lax arrogance bothersome. While in the past, she reluctantly goes along with her friend Veronica and spends time with John and Gaz, in the present her and Constantine cross paths while looking for a succubus that has caused numerous deaths in England.
The two have some combative exchanges before Constantine goes off on his own, eventually coming to the place he believes to be the succubus’ dwelling. Instead, he finds a sole incubus. Confident that he’s found his quarry, Constantine goes in for the kill, when he discovers that he is in over his head and Georgiana may be the only one that can help him.
The script by James Tynion IV and Ming Doyle is surprisingly low-key, taking the time to flesh out Constantine and contrast his past with his current status. To this end, Georgiana Snow serves as a great foil for Constantine, seemingly one step ahead of him at every turn. She dislikes Constantine for his overconfidence, but at the same time displays a self-assuredness that borders on arrogance herself. Their verbal sparring throughout the issue sizzles, and while the supernatural takes a backseat to the banter, it’s still a fun read.
In the absence of Riley Rossmo, this chapter takes the opportunity to divide the art duties between two teams: Ming Doyle and Ivan Plascencia on the segments in the past and Vanesa Del Rey and Lee Loughridge on those in the present. Not only are the styles different enough that readers won’t be confused, but they work together well to tell the story. Ming Doyle’s smooth lines along with Plascencia’s brighter palette – a nice reversal from the “past is sepia tone” trope seen so often in media – gives these sequences a youthful vibrancy that suggests fun and excitement. In contrast, Vanesa Del Rey’s more rugged lines and deep shadows, along with Loughridge’s muted colors, give the modern-day scenes a grimmer feel that not only better allows for the supernatural elements to be more frightening, but also shows how downtrodden Constantine has become after the loss of his ghosts.
Letterer Tom Napolitano has also contributed greatly to the style of the series, using pentagrams to censor foul language. In addition, the font for the supernatural beings help to differentiate them even further.
One drawback to having such a character based issue as Constantine: The Hellblazer #3 is that it can make a series feel unfocused. The previous two chapters were fairly evenly paced, focusing on John and his interactions with the supernatural. While it’s nice to learn more about John’s background and be introduced to Georgiana Snow, some readers are going to wish that the supernatural entered into the fray earlier than it does here.
Constantine: The Hellblazer #3 takes its time in order to expand readers’ understanding of John Constantine’s past while also introducing an entertaining foil for him in the form of Georgiana Snow. The use of two art teams pays off as the switch between past and present is easily discernible and emphasizes the change in Constantine’s outlook. While the detour into John’s past may leave some readers wanting more horror, Constantine: The Hellblazer #3 lays the foundation for some intense emotional stakes in the future.