Last month saw the release of Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV’s first issue of Constantine The Hellblazer. It was a devilishly smart issue and one of the best comics DC has published since The New 52’s start. After reading their debut issue, for a fan that has shared a casual relationship with the occult detective and petty dabbler of the dark arts, my love for the issue was no con. It was well written, smartly paced, interestingly drawn – Constantine The Hellblazer had it all. This Wednesday (7/8) sees the release of issue 2 and it has placed me in an interesting position as a critic. Here is my honest, no tricks up my sleeve, review of issue 2.
Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV’s Constantine is a thing of beauty; a real work of art. Their series not only blazes its own trail, but follows very closely in the sly, ghoulish ways of the original Vertigo series. Doyle and Tynion IV’s Constantine is The Hellblazer; after all, it’s in the title for you smarmy folks that have your favorite incarnation of John and doubt that anything post-New 52 isn’t really canon. It’s not a reboot or even a re-imagining; Constantine The Hellblazer is an alternative staging of material that die-hard fans have come to regard as gospel since his first appearance in The Saga of the Swamp Thing #37.
Issue #2 of Constantine The Hellblazer is a great comfort to those that fell in love with the short-lived NBC series. While we don’t get installments on a weekly basis, we are getting a story that is episodic on a monthly basis. Hey, you have to take what you can get, right? However, while issue 1 was a wild relief in reclaiming the character for the comic books and an all-around spell-binding issue, our second installment falls flat in a minor way. Mind you, there is no problem with the story or art, the conflict just doesn’t have the same hella good issue feel that the debut had. In many ways, it feels like a good follow up episode to a really great episode of a t.v. show. It’s good, it couldn’t really live up to the expectations of the previous week and so it disappoints, but it’s still very good. The bottom line, you will still be tuning in the following week, or in this case, month.
After issue 1 concluded, Constantine was faced with his current mystery – who is killing all of the ghosts? It was a plot that reminded me very much of the Peter Jackson movie, The Frighteners, that revolved around a con man learning that an other worldly serial killer is targeting the living and the dead. I loved the movie and I loved Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV’s story. Issue 2 picks up with Constantine deciding that he’s going to help out the ghosts haunting him. He does this by taking “a single step forward” which brings him to what we learn are called “thin places.” They’re explained as “lightening rods, places where the barrier between the mundane and the extraordinary [have]become thin.” Artist Riley Rossmo delivers another finely staged scene of pop horror in his very own style. We see Constantine take a long walk through The Shay House in New York City, and while it isn’t quite the knock out sequence such as John’s walk through the Inferno Club, it’s still pretty fun. We see Rossmo playing it so cool that it’s scary renditions of a ritualistic killing, a demon, a possession, and a cult-ish orgy. Yes, DC Comics rates the book a Teen Plus. The material is only so edgy due to Rossmo’s art; it’s something a network show could get away with, or a PG-13 movie, but the subject matter as written by Doyle and Tynion IV is quite mature. As Constantine says, “thin places are some of my favorite places in the world.” As a reader, I’d have to agree. The “thin places” of Constantine The Hellblazer is just one of the small qualities that make this series shine.
We haven’t really gotten a big bad yet in Constantine The Hellblazer and the story works well because of that ambiguity. Doyle and Tynion IV do introduce a “creepy bloke” named Mister Rumor. He’s an eerily and supernaturally tall and thin man; all we know is “there was a rumor in the late nineties that he ate a woman in Calcutta.” Oh, and that John’s “not a fan.” He’s just the kind of character that only appears in six panels on one page, but could easily return in a later issue. Think Papa Midnite, but more ghoulish. And there goes that word again – ghoulish.
Constantine The Hellblazer issue 2 is a very ghoulish story in the grand tradition of a well-told ghost story. Overall, issue 2 is a very strong issue and will surely be important within this first arc. While it didn’t have the same hypnotic tone as the first issue, it’s quite alright as this issue needed to further the mystery of who’s targeting the dead. Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV’s work on Constantine has, for the truest sense, grabbed me by the ghoulies!
Constantine The Hellblazer issue 2 gets four out of five stars.