By Simon Spurrier, Aaron Campbell, Jordie Bellaire & Aditya Bidikar
John Constantine: Hellblazer is a series that’s growing from strength to strength. It has the old fashioned vibe to it that recaptures the magic of the classic stories and feels so far removed from the usual DC Comics Universe that it’s hard to imagine it taking place in the same world at all. Simon Spurrier continues to take John down a nitty and gritty path befitting of his character, and the brutal setting of the series helps do a good job at setting the tone and establishing the book as one of the more unique series on shelves, and Spurrier is no stranger to having brought that extra factor to his series in the past to make them different and stand out.
Picking up with the last issue and following John’s encounter with the homeless man, we see the inclusion of the Ri-Boys Gang who only serve as a way to escalate a bad situation into something worse than it already is, wrapping up the first arc of the series in style that keeps the pacing on point right the way through, mixing in comedy with serious tension and going from one to the other with little difficulty. You can tell Spurrier absolutely gets what makes Constantine work so well and it makes the book all the more refreshing because of that – in these first three issues he hasn’t felt out of character at all, and his dialogue is made all the believable and authentic by Aditya Bidikar, who captures what the characters are trying to get across with all the conviction that a book like John Constantine: Hellblazer needs.
Aaron Campbell and Jordie Bellaire once again deliver with spectacular panels that bring the world of John Constantine to life, the scene where he’s telling his opponent that he’s not going to fight him because it’s not his scene is one of the highlights of the book, setting up a big confrontation before backing off in the very next panel in a way that doesn’t feel anticlimactic because it’s what John would do, even if the intervention of the Ri-Boys Gang means that things don’t go as smoothly as he would have liked. You sense the desperation in John’s voice when he warns them to get clear, and when all hell breaks lose – Campbell and Bellaire deliver their A-Game to the table. Bellaire’s colours bring incredible variety to the book, giving backdrops that switch between orange and green and then back to orange again, making everything stand out and aiding the unique feel of the narrative.
Campbell’s pencils are on point, with that big climatic scene captured above standing out in addition to some of the character work that brings John and company to life in an excellent way. The issue is atmospheric and sublime from beginning to end, and if there was any doubt in John Constantine: Hellblazer not being a must read series, the completion of this first arc should convince you that it should be the very first book that you read each week.