There aren’t many titles that come out that I eagerly anticipate as much as I do with Constantine The Hellblazer. Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV’s work is nothing short of a masterpiece and I’d easily place this DC Comics title alongside Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman series. It’s a shame that it’s only a monthly series, but with each installment we’ve gotten, Constantine The Hellblazer is devilishly good. It demands that you pick up the following issue and the wait is almost as damning as the demons our favorite exorcist contends with. Issue 3 released this week (August 12, 2015) and while it’s a stylistic departure from the previous two issues, Constantine The Hellblazer is still reaches number 1 on my pull list.
“Delectable Young Things”, marks a first for Ming Doyle and Vanesa R. Del Rey as artists, while Riley Rossmo provides the cover. The change of artists may feel like the solid punch John Constantine takes to the face on the opening page, but is soon forgiven as Ivan Plascencia and Lee Loughridge’s colors bring the same sensibilities from the first two issues back to mind. Doyle’s art truly services the story as issue three mainly takes place in the past. We get a story that focuses on a particular chapter from Constantine and Gary “Gaz” Lester’s youth that finds John conning his way into a nightclub in Manchester, England. Both have gotten tickets to The End of the World, a band notable in the underground occult circuit for being actual demons. It’s already a fiendishly sexy plot and Constantine informs his friend that “they’re something beyond what we’ve heard before.” The setup for the band to play works in a way that the first two issues of Constantine The Hellblazer excel at – setting up a world beyond our world that exists in shadows. Doyle and James Tynion IV are clearly onto something with their run on Constantine The Hellblazer, reminding us that they are the privileged creators ensuring a properly unique series for us hellblazers. The third issue becomes a treasure chest of ideas and possibilities telling a more adult take on Constantine that we didn’t fully get with Jeff Lemire’s zero issue during his New 52 run.
Constantine The Hellblazer issue 3 introduces us to two new characters, Georgiana Snow and Veronica Delacroix. But just as soon as both women appear in John and Gaz’s life, we’re given a creepily dark scene featuring thirteen victims that died together while “screwing, they were screwing.” (-That’s the sensitive way John puts it.) This also marks the artistic shift from Ming Doyle to Vanesa R. Del Ray. I’d like to point out that due to Constantine The Hellblazer’s “Teen Plus” rating, Vanesa R. Del Ray’s original art was edited. Lee Loughridge’s muted tones add an extra sense of murkiness to the present day and for some reason I can’t help but associate Constantine and Georgina Snow’s current investigation with that of the Mickey Rourke movie Angel Heart. If you’ve seen the movie, you should immediately recognize the style. Whether deliberate or not (I’m thinking not) Del Ray and Loughridge’s work stands out. Vanesa R. Del Ray’s art flourishes also add an unsettling quality to the succubus/succubi scene near the end and serves as an important reminder that dabbling in the dark arts is not for us regular folk.
Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV have created a DC Comics title that simultaneously operates independently from its extended universe while also resting firmly within it. While there have yet to be any full appearances by any other heroes, or a fleeting reference to Alec Holland or the “Truth” storyline, Constantine The Hellblazer is much better without it. After a 300 issue run of Hellblazer, there has yet to be until now, a truly worthy followup deserving to carry the weight of its title. This, my hellblazers, is it. Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV have given us a depiction of Constantine that fits right into the original Hellblazer series. I’ve greatly enjoyed Gary Lester’s inclusion in the series. At one point he tells Georgina Snow that John’s “a good bloke. He stands by his friends. I’d trust him with my life and beyond.” Their characterization continually reinforces that Constantine is not the nicest guy in the world. He’s destructive and we know how things turn out for Gary Lester! It’s a great balance to the series in introducing Georgiana Snow a.k.a. The Heckblazer. It appears that she’s included to incorporate the “DC YOU” initiative into all books carrying the DC Comics brand. While it may seem forced upon first hearing of the new character, she works exceptionally well and new readers may easily believe her to be an original Hellblazer character from years go. Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV have added Georgina Snow to the Constantine mythos in a flawless and seamless way. As an exorcist herself, we get an excellent magician/peer/foil dynamic and it’s reminiscent of the role Zed played on the short lived NBC series.
Constantine The Hellblazer issue 3 gets four stars and is available now. Next month, “John gets very, very drunk.” As long as Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV keep writing this series, I’ll be reading them. As much as I enjoyed Vanesa R. Del Ray and Ming Doyle’s art, I did miss Riley Rossmo. According to the DC Comics website, Riley Rossmo is featured as the cover artist for issues four and five, but Vanesa R. Del Ray is the interior artist. While it’s disappointing to not have Rossmo for the interior art, Del Ray is a terrific artist who has already proven herself with this issue.