Review – Constantine #1, This Is Not Your Father’s Hellblazer

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Constantine 1 195x300 Review   Constantine #1, This Is Not Your Fathers HellblazerA preview for Constantine #1 was widely circulated last month and the reaction around these parts was somewhat less than enthusiastic.  IIRC, someone in the comment section renamed it “Heckblazer.”  I’ve read the full issue and it’s not as bad as the initial impression, but it really isn’t Hellblazer, either.

There have been some changes to the comics after the preview ran, which seem to be to make it a little more edgy. Fire flickering around Sargon’s face. More sinister images of the Cold Flame cult members. Slight dialogue changes. Narration captions split into multiple boxes. Doctor Occult swapped out for Tannarak. The Cold Flame cult changes aside, it seems mostly like editorial was still noodling with it.

On the whole, this seems to be Constantine by way of Sam Spade. He acts a bit more like a dodgy noir private eye who knows some magic than the conniving trickster of the Vertigo run. He still gets to say “bloody hell” and “bastard.” He still smokes. It’s still not particularly safe for be friendly with Constantine. But there’s a certain gravitas to the personality that’s gone. Constantine seems less of a grand bastard in this. Then again, the opening caption reads “Nearly destroyed by its temptations in his youth, John Constantine knows the price of magic’s corrupting influence all too well. Now, he fights the battle to maintain balance and prevent anyone from becoming too powerful…”

Constantine having a mission to maintain the balance (Holy Eternal Champion Cycle, Batman!) is a large break from Constantine basically being out for himself and sticking to the odd dark sorcerer. This is a balancing act (pun intended) to have some of Constantine’s anti-hero tendencies still surface while having him serving more of a cause. There’s also a monologue about people with super powers and capes to hit the reader over the head about Constantine now being set in the world of Superman and Batman, which opens the comic.

Which is to say, it wouldn’t take too much more tweaking to make this a different character. This could be a Doctor Occult comic, just as easily. (Especially since he’s apparently been written out of the story.)

On it’s own merits, it’s an average enough action-magic (not quite horror) story. There’s a quest for an artifact. A villain blows things up. It’s not to the level of the Animal Man material I’ve read, but is in that general direction. For that matter, the cover’s image of Constantine struck me as a Doctor Strange pose.

Strangely, the Deadman story arc in DC Universe Presents struck me as being much more in the spirit of Hellblazer than Constantine did.  (Pun intended.)

Comments

  1. wayne beamer says:

    As much as I enjoy reading Jeff Lemire’s work on DC stuff as well as his personal stuff at Top Shelf and Vertigo, I would’ve loved to have read Rob Vendetti’s take on Constantine, which might’ve hit closer to the Vertigo mark than the DCU folks were comfortable with.

  2. I still wonder who is this exactly for? Because a lot of Hellblazer fans seem don’t seem to be interested in this new take. Will superhero fans pick up Constantine because he is now in the New 52? Is there enough of them to make up for Hellblazer fans who aren’t interested in this new version? Or after a few months will Constantine be selling smaller numbers than Hellblazer?

  3. “I still wonder who is this exactly for? Because a lot of Hellblazer fans seem don’t seem to be interested in this new take.”

    I’m guessing that DC hopes Justice League Dark readers would pick this up. According to sales charts, Hellblazer sold fewer than 10,000 copies per month, so I don’t think DC cares much about pleasing Hellblazer fans. Justice League Dark, on the other hand, sells about three times as many copies as Hellblazer.

    By the way, I’m a lapsed Hellblazer reader (only picked up the last three issues for old times’ sake) and current Justice League Dark reader, but I’m not going to buy Constantine. His portrayals in Justice League Dark and Sword Of Sorcery didn’t impress me, and the whole creator-shuffle debacle left a really bad taste in my mouth.

  4. Ahh… I didn’t realize Justice League Dark was doing that well. To me it just seemed like a comic that no one wanted, but perhaps I’m wrong.

  5. AndyD says:

    He looks like Dr.Strange with a trenchcoat and a more fashionable haircut. As an old Hellblazer fan I’ll pass.

  6. “Not your older brother’s Hellblazer”
    “Not your cool uncle’s Hellblazer”

    I’ve not enjoyed the last few years of Hellblazer and was interested to see what Robert Venditti would do. So that change jarred with me too.
    Even with Jeff Lemire writing some of my top ten books of recent years, I have not enjoyed his superhero world stuff as much.

    There are plenty of examples of things that were better in Hellblazer, and even some that are better in Constantine, but the key thing for me is that this Constantine is dropped into a stereotyped magical superhero story. A magical conclave, exploding splash pages, unfeasibly dressed women, and our (no longer anti-) hero shooting magical flames out of his hands.

    Apart from the lack of costumed sidekicks this could be a continuation of Justice League Magic (because it ain’t that dark) or DC’s Doctor Strange. So however nicely the first half was written, and however much this art is more to my tastes than JLD and recent Hellblazer, this is just another superhero story in a market that already has too many.

    Disappointing.

  7. waylon says:

    Disappointing. I read the new comic in Newbury Comics, and I’m sure glad I didn’t buy it.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] The Beat – Constantine #1 [...]

  2. [...] debuted a new What’s New in the New 52 column by Bob Harras. And Harras is confronting some well known internet nontroversies, like the change in this Constantine Page from preview (top) to printed (bottom) [...]

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