The Hellblazer #7
By Simon Oliver, Philip Tan & Elmer Santos
John Constantine is in Paris for an interesting issue that spends its time between the past and the present. Set against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower, which seems to show up everywhere when something is set in Paris (something that happens so often that even John himself picks up on it), Simon Oliver divides the time between an L’Occident Petroluem Co. Arabique Surveying Expedition in 1936 and the present day. Constantine and Mercury begin the hunt for Jacque Henry, a man who knows his trade when it comes to Djinns.
One of the best elements about this series is the personility injected into the characters and Simon Oliver is really successful. This is especially true when it comes to nailing Constantine’s voice, his character,and how he influences things. Constantine is one of the more well-realised characters in the DC Universe, so it’s great to see how Oliver makes him work here. The chemistry between both him and Mercury is impressive, and their back-and-forth dialogue is a really welcome read. In addition to Constantine and Mercury, we also spend a significant amount of time with a French immigrant named Dante, and everything in terms of characters continue to be handled pretty well.
Unfortunately, Hellblazer #7 isn’t perfect and have a number of problems. It suffers into the trap of being what most first part story arcs are: all about the set-up. Not much really happens and as a result it feels rushed. It could have benefited from tighter pacing to help with the flow of the story. The artwork from Philip Tan on pencils and Elmer Santos could also stand to have had more attention paid to consistency and it doesn’t help that the second half of the book in particular adopts a tone that is often much darker than it needed to be. However, there are a couple of moments in particular that really stand out – the full-page Lawrence of Arabia reminiscent panel being among the main artistic highlights in the book.
It’s also worth not completely ignoring the setting of Paris. It’s rare for someone like John Constantine , who has always been associated primarily with London, to spend time in the French Capital. This is something that Oliver could potentially exploit going forward, especially when there is a load of potential to explore with the occult in the city to be taken into account. It represents an interesting change of pace that could really pay off in the book’s favour.
On the whole, Hellblazer #7 is an uneven issue that has strengths, but plenty of weaknesses. It’s not essential reading, but it does its job at establishing the new arc and teases greater things to come. Hopefully Oliver can deliver going forward.