After a solid debut, Constantine: The Hellblazer returns with its second outing. The issue opens as Constantine explains to his ghosts that he has discovered a Ghost-Killer, something that is permanently killing ghosts. Constantine asks his ghosts to help him set up a trap, only have them disappear upon hearing the notion. The only ghost remaining is Gary, who reminds Constantine that the spirits were trying to haunt him, not help him.
Realizing that he’ll need to uncover a new group of ghosts to enact his plan, Constantine embarks on a quest through New York City with Gary in tow. Constantine’s journey takes him through a number of “thin places,” locales that have a strong supernatural presence to them. These range from the more obvious, like a funeral home and a haunted hotel, to the less apparent grocery store. Along the way, he meets a number of eccentric characters, including the enigmatic Mister Rumor. For the first time in the issue, readers get a sense that Constantine is uneasy, and his distrust of Mister Rumor makes a big impression.
With Mister Rumor’s direction, Constantine arrives in a place filled with ghosts and begins to enact his plan to trap the Ghost-Killer. Gary advises him that this may not work and that Constantine’s overconfidence is leading him into trouble, but John waves off this idea, trusting in his knowledge of the arcane. But when the Ghost-Killer arrives, John finds himself outmatched and in a world of trouble.
Like the debut, the script by Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV allows readers of Constantine: The Hellblazer #2 to really understand John’s mind. Constantine’s connection to his ghost Gary is a nice touch of character and adds a sense of intimacy to what may have been a routine relationship between protagonist and adviser. In addition, the scenarios here do a great job of building this supernatural world and introducing readers to the jargon of this universe. Letterer Tom Napolitano deserves credit for using a blood-red font when the book mentions “thin places.” It’s a nice touch that really adds to the foreboding atmosphere the book has.
Artist Riley Rossmo really shines here. In my review for the debut chapter, I noted that the story didn’t allow for Rossmo to truly display a sense of terror. That changes with this issue, as Rossmo deftly balances Constantine’s assured nature with shadowed environments and horrifying events. In addition, there’s a nice range of emotion demonstrated in Constantine’s expressions, especially as he realizes when he’s in over his head at the end of the issue. Colorist Ivan Plascencia’s work helps maintain both the supernatural tone and the real-world grime of the book. From the ghoulish blues and arcane pinks, every element of fantasy here pops off the page. At the same time, Plascencia’s use of greens, grays, and browns in the cityscape makes for an earthy world that feels just on the edge of the grave. If the balance between the script and the art maintains this sort of range, Constantine: The Hellblazer will always be an entertaining read.
The one thing holding Constantine: The Hellblazer back is the pacing. There’s a tremendous amount of world building being done as Constantine introduces the readers to the thin places and a variety of characters that are sure to come back later in the series. And while each of those scenes are great, they read like small vignettes, and it would have been nice to have a little more time building more directly to the climax of the issue. When the Ghost-Killer arrives, it does so quite quickly. Had there been more page time before the monster’s arrival, the scene may have had a greater sense of dread before the actions of the final pages.
This issue is another haunting chapter for the fledgling series. The script by Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV reveals some of Constantine’s personality flaws while presenting a brisk story that does a lot of world-building. Riley Rossmo’s art takes on a level of versatility that was lacking in the debut, and the atmosphere present here shows that this comic can easily transition from Constantine’s cocksure attitude into terror. Constantine: The Hellblazer #2 is a comic that deserves a look, and readers who thought the previous iteration of John Constantine to be too dour are sure to like what they find here.