Review – The Hellblazer: Rebirth #1 (DC Comics)

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Publisher: DC Comics
Script: Simon Oliver
Art: Moritat
Release Date: 20th July, 2016

Okay, cards on the table, I’m a huge John Constantine fan. Ever since he stepped out of the bayou in Swamp Thing #37 and blew my pre-pubescent mind, John has been my favourite character in comics.

Needless to say, I’ve not been particularly enamoured with his re-introduction to the DCU since the New 52. Seeing him shooting fireballs and magic missiles out of his hands like Dr bloody Strange in JL Dark just doesn’t sit well, and nobody has really got a handle on the character in his last two solo series either.

Saying that, I really, really want it to work because if the only Constantine I’m going to get is going to be in the DCU, I want it to be buying it.

So, here we have a third attempt at relaunching John as a solo title. Does it work?

Yes. Yes it does. For the most part, anyway.

It’s very much written as an introduction to the character, with an eye on the new readers, via a simple, done-in-one story of John playing chicken with a demon for eight million souls. That cocky, wideboy charm is perfect, the casual attitude to life and death (at least on the surface) is pure Constantine.

The demon itself is fairly forgettable though, even if it does have the outfit and stance of Blackadder’s Prince Regent while taking acting lessons.

There’s lots of little nods for the old school Hellblazer fans to appreciate, such as the return of Chas (yes!) and references to pivotal moments in John’s history, which is great to see, as writer Simon Oliver is clearly making an effort to join the dots. It’s just a shame that he gets the names wrong.

Chas’s real name is Frank, not Charles and the soul John condemned to Hell was Astra, not Astrid. Maybe they are deliberate changes, but they’re pointless if they are and sloppy if they aren’t.  Those are little niggles though. The two pages of Wonder Woman, Shazam and Swamp Thing that are dropped in are more than that. They have zero involvement with the story, so there’s just no need for them to be there at all, save reminding you we’re still in the DCU.

If that sounds like I didn’t enjoy The Hellblazer, that’s not quite right. I actually really liked a lot of it. John feels like John again and his little Alfie-style fourth wall-breaking at the end suits him as much as it did when Garth Ennis did it years ago.

I’ve been a fan of Simon Oliver since his excellent Exterminators series for Vertigo, so I’m glad to see he has Constantine’s voice nailed and clearly understands the character, which bodes well for the future.

The heavily inked art by Moritat is decent, no more. The main characters are realised well, but his backgrounds are often incongruously cartoony, to the extent the Fat Slags from Viz make and appearance and don’t look out of place. Yes, really.

As I said, I really, really want to like or even love this. And I nearly do. It’s almost there. All the elements are in place and you have a writer who gets it, but it just needs to screw the nut in a few areas.

I’m in for the long haul with this one anyway. It’s been a long time, but John Constantine is back.

Rating: 3.5/5.

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JULESAV The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy

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