This Wednesday (June 10th) marked the second week of DC Comics post-Convergence titles. Outside of my usual pulls, Constantine The Hellblazer issue 1 was my random take. Now I like Constantine; I’ve liked Constantine since the 2005 film starring Keanu Reeves; I loved the short-lived NBC series starring a perfectly cast Matt Ryan, and I’ve been in a non-committal relationship with the anti-hero’s Vertigo and New 52 series. The new series, a relaunch of sorts, is written by Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV, with art by Riley Rossmo. I was so excited for this issue I found myself texting and starting email chains about it. “Has anyone picked that up? It released today. I’m reading it now and it’s very, very good. It’s the John – chain-smoking, bi-sexual, con-man of Hellblazer. He has the ghost of Gary Lester following him around. And I can’t help but hear Matty Ryan’s voice as I read John’s dialogue. If you get the chance, pick it up. It’s not Constantine on NBC, but it surely fills the gap as best as it can.”
Then after reading the whole issue…
“Just finished and damn that was one of the best reads from DC in a while. Genuinely impressive writing and art.”
If you haven’t picked up Constantine The Hellblazer issue 1 yet, I strongly suggest you do. It is easily one of the best and strongest of DC Comics offerings to date. While it’s not a series suitable for everyone, the quality contained within the pages is highly impressive. We’re reintroduced to Constantine when he appears on the very first page standing completely nude and covered in blood. “It’s not what it looks like.” he tells the befuddled store clerk and the story kicks off from there. Complete with a slick con and one of those magic cards that’ll make you believe it’s anything (he used that in the show), we understand that Doyle and Tynion IV’s Constantine is somewhere closer to the Vertigo character while sharing the Matt Ryan t.v. version DNA, which may be possible as this script was probably written some time around the series. (If I’m wrong, please feel free to sound off in the comments.) He’s the chain-smoking, bi-sexual, petty dabbler of the mystic arts that we all know and love. What makes this version even more interesting than The New 52 version is that we see Constantine as a man literally haunted by his ghosts… and demons! Remember Gary Lester? He was in an early Vertigo story entitled “A Feast of Friends” and appeared in one of the series strongest episodes bearing the same title. Yup, he’s in this. In fact, much of Doyle and Tynion IV’s story plays out like the Peter Jackson film The Frighteners. Side note: Hey Julie! (What’cha Reading Staff Writer) Please ask Tynion IV (at Flamecon) if he’s a fan of that film because, well, there’s a twist in issue 1 that plays like a twist from The Frighteners.
In Constantine’s world, “men in tights shooting through the skies” exist. But they’re not the kind of heroes the world needs to truly spin on. In a world, dark and complex such as our own, we need men (and women) like Constantine. Because, after all, who else is there to face the things that go bump in the night? Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV provide such a rich characterization for John Constantine and treat the Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, and John Ridgway character with the respect he deserves. Our anti-hero has become a cult icon of sorts over the years and with the devoted fan base of Hellblazers rallying for the NBC series, well, they deserve a good comic to continue his adventures. That’s the success of Doyle and Tynion IV’s first issue. It doesn’t discriminate and is one of the most openly candid and smartly written stories on shelves today. If you like the Vertigo character, you’ll like Constantine The Hellblazer issue 1. If you enjoyed the Matt Ryan series, you’ll enjoy Constantine The Hellblazer issue 1. What we have here is a book that celebrates the myth, the icon, and the man. It’s a first issue for all!
Series artist Riley Rossmo knocks it out of the park. Staff writer Bob said “Rossmo killed it on the art” and I couldn’t agree more. Issue 1 is a fantastically layered and plotted story that cleverly pulls you in deeper and deeper. One of the prime examples is featured on a double page spread that follows John and his demon with benefits lover Blythe taking him through her soul farm club, the Inferno. Each floor, 9 floors total, reflect Dante’s nine circles. The idea is that if unsuspecting patrons make it through the Inferno club, they not only get the prize of “a commemorative crystal goblet”, but “immediately forfeiting their soul to eternal damnation” as well! It sounds fun, doesn’t it? Rossmo delivers an amazingly detailed floor layout that is, quite possibly, the best piece of art I’ve seen since sticking with DC since The New 52. Riley Rossmo is an artist, through and through. The sparks that fly when paired with Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV are enough to set fire to anyone and everything.
Constantine The Hellblazer issue 1 is an excellent step in the right direction for the character, the creative team, and DC Comics. It’s just the kind of risk they need to take to remind all of us jaded readers of their relevance. The first issue is also the kind of book that should drive a fan to the next convention just so they could track down Ming Doyle, James Tynion IV, and Riley Rossmo. Not to get their copies signed, but to whole-heartedly shake their hands on a soul to soul level; thanking them for bringing back the clarity and quality to such an entertaining character!
Constantine The Hellblazer issue 1 gets five stars and is available now.
Constantine The Hellblazer #1
Writer: Doyle, Ming
Artist: Rossmo, Riley
Cover Artist: Rossmo, Riley
On Sale: June 10, 2015
Publisher: DC Comics
Diamond Id: APR150185
Format: FC, 32pg., COMIC