By Simon Oliver, Moritat, Andre Szymanowicz, and Sal Cipriano
For some of DC’s books, Rebirth has been about making a smooth transitioning to a new creative team and giving readers a jumping-on point. Others have used it to bring in new characters and concepts. Here, however, it’s kind of unclear what The Hellblazer did what it’s Rebirth issue.
The book uses the title treatment from 1988 evoking some of the most horrifying stories. However, this is under the mainline DC imprint and that makes it feel somewhat sterile. There are several places where characters swear and the like, but it gets censored out with little emoji skulls or pentagrams, somewhat defeating the purpose. Oliver gives John a con to run that includes a lot of standing around and discussing John’s past. All this is really accomplishing is just giving us his origin, and throughout the discussions John shows how much he apparently doesn’t care about anything; not about the family members that have died because of him or all of the lives in london he is willing to sacrifice. Of course, by the end of the issue John has reversed the damage he has caused. The problem is that the resolution doesn’t really satisfy. The end of the book comes really abruptly and had it not been for the narration, one might think there were been missing pages with the jump that happens. It wasn’t really clear what was happening while John was stalling either. There was talk of a name having power, but we never see what kind of power it holds.
There are characters that don’t seem to fit in the story. We get to see a girl named Mercury that is apparently a psychic, but aside for saying variations of “Damn you Constantine” her only purpose is to show up and be the resolution. In the middle of the issue Oliver has Wonder Woman and Shazam arrive in London investigating John’s current mischief. Then Swamp Thing shows up and the two heroes take his word about John. The sequence feels out of place and somewhat forced, especially after nothing comes of the encounter and it just feels really unneeded. The only thing that could have been an indicator of continuity was Shazam’s mention of a previous encounter. That would more than likely be referencing Ray Fawkes’s New 52 Constantine series. Then at the end of the issue, John turns to the camera and says a strange goodbye to the reader.
Throughout the issue Moritat brings adept artistry and shows the reader more than once that he is able to render a wide range of characters. That includes the heroes that show up later on in the book and a pretty good looking Swamp Thing. Moritat also brings some much need expression to go with the lengthy conversations. Szymanowicz’s colors seem really understated and occasionally underused in this book, under the credits early on there is a splash page of the curb where Chas picks John up. It’s already a well drawn splash but the punches of color really bring it all to life. There are bright blues muted reds and greens all bustling around shoulder to shoulder. Other than that the book has a sort of muted wash with brief instances of color.
This is the third series that has been about John Constantine since 2013. That can be a difficult undertaking especially when one only just ended a month or so before this debut. Overall, this issue was confusing and didn’t really give any impression of the direction that series will be going in. It leaves the reader asking questions. Were the cameos from Shazam, Wonder Woman and Swamp Thing just a nod to the larger universe or an indicator that John will be more involved with it? Why didn’t Mercury receive a proper introduction and will we see more of her? What was the point of show us that John cares about nothing but his first major mistake that he made with magic? If this was an attempt at a refresh, it missed. There wasn’t enough here to really impart an impression and that’s disappointing to say the least, considering the rich history there is to mine. We will just have to wait and see where The Hellblazer goes from here.