I was always a huge fan of Hellblazer, and while I eventually fell behind, Vertigo’s longest running series always had a special place on my shelf. With its end last month in issue 300, John Constantine has a new home in the universe of the New 52, standing toe-to-toe with Superman and Wonder Woman. Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes, alongside artist Renato Guedes, are behind the new series Constantine, but has his move to a new home diminished everyone’s favourite anti-hero? Thankfully he’s still the same alcohol swigging cheat he always was in this solid, but fairly standard first issue.
The plot is fairly standard fare for a first issue; it introduces John Constantine, and following a remark about how the world is filled with super-beings, throws him into a case regarding one of his friends, after which he manages to antagonize a fairly powerful sorceress. Just a normal day for our dashing hero. It’s not anything drastically new; it sets up the new world that we find Constantine in now, and also an opening story arc, but it plays it safe.
Playing it safe isn’t necessarily a bad thing – this issue reads more like a proof of concept to fans and makes clear that Lemire and Fawkes understand John Constantine. It has all the elements – his true British dialogue betrayal, alcohol, and a con job, that makes the story feel like it wouldn’t feel out of place in the realm of Hellblazer.
Renato Guedes’ art looks great, and combined with Marcelo Maiolo’s colouring, it really stands out. While not as smooth as Constantine’s depiction in Justice League Dark thanks to some rough line work, it still manages to impress, particualrly when introduced to the demonic Sargon the Sorceress. Plus, I’m seeing some colours I’d never thought I’d see in a Constantine story, as he travels to an ice hotel in Norway – a welcome change.
One last thing I will bring up is the nature of magic in regards to Constantine’s introduction to the New 52. Typically in Hellblazer, it was often a battle with Heaven and Hell and anything in between, being grounded within folklore and legend. But with the less religious nature of the DC Universe as a whole, it’ll be interesting if these more traditional elements came in to play some time down the line.
The new home and new creative team may have initially made some worry about a change in quality, or if it could even hold a candle to the original series. Fear not – Lemire, Fawkes and Guedes have shown in this first issue that they get John Constantine, and have set up our hero in a new and exciting world.
The old Constantine is dead; Long live Constantine.