July 3, 2022

Gabbing Geek

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Comic Review: DC Rebirth Hellblazer Volume 1

John Constantine in a regular DCU title? Can something like that work?

John Constantine was, until recently, the longest running character with his own Vertigo series.  Though he started off as a supporting character in the pages of a very DC-set Swamp Thing run by Alan Moore, he soon found himself in a mature readers book, where he didn’t so much perform magic as manipulate people as much as possible and do the magic as a last resort.  Hard-drinking, smoking, various other drugs, sex with whoever, and being an absolute a-hole who tends to get most of his friends killed…how does someone like that fit into a superhero universe?

DC put him in one anyway, and even stuck him on a Justice League team.  Now he has a Rebirth series of his own, under the same title as his old Vertigo series (Hellblazer),  with the first volume subtitled The Poison Truth.

I’ve only read a smattering of Hellblazer trades before, but I know the basics:  John Constantine is a magician who doesn’t do a lot of obvious magic.  He’s a major asshole who sucks down any substance he can and manipulates the hell out of everyone around him to achieve his goals, which may be mere survival or he may actually be doing good in a generally repugnant manner.  He doesn’t really kowtow to authority figures mundane or supernatural.  He has some demonic blood after an unasked-for  blood transfusion and Swamp Thing once possessed his body in order to impregnate Abby Holland.  His best friend, one of the few who hasn’t been killed, is a London cabbie named Chas.  Chas tends to drive John everywhere.

All that is still apparently canon.  John had been exiled from London due to a curse and was residing in New York when the election of Donald Trump (among other things) convinced him to go back to London where he managed to manipulate the demon who cursed him and a psychic girl named Mercury to get the curse lifted.  He’s still swearing, but his swear words are blocked out now, still smoking, still drinking, still being what his English associates would call a tosser, and is mostly outthinking his enemies rather than outpower them.

But in order to get the curse lifted, John had to get a favor from Swamp Thing, and Swamp Thing needs something in return:  Abby Arcane, avatar of the rot as Swampy is the avatar of the green, is missing.  John needs to find her, or at least get Mercury to do it.  Meanwhile, some very old powers have surfaced, powers John would initially laugh off as folktales if he didn’t see what they could do.

I’m not sure how well this book would hold up for longtime Constantine fans who miss his Vertigo series.  Writer Simon Oliver has the basics there, and even throws in some not-very-subtle political commentary (that Trump thing happens without mentioning Trump’s name, shall we say), and the volume sets up some ongoing things as Constantine’s new enemies are making moves against him.  I’m a bit intrigued for now, so let’s say eight and a half racist bookies out of ten.

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