John Constantine isn’t a character I know a lot about. I’ve read a couple dozen comics featuring him but the details of his history elude me. I have a good sense of the character but his relationships with specific characters or deep history of screwing over individuals isn’t something I know a ton of. So, going into Hellblazer: Rise and Fall Book One my plate was pretty clean.
This DC Black Label series dives into one of the many mistakes of Constantine’s past. It’s a mistake that turned deadly leading to the loss of a young kid. The story dives into his history beyond that, going further into his childhood, something I’ve never read about myself. Writer Tom Taylor delivers a character haunted by loss and the abuse spinning out of his early years. This is a kid who has been abandoned by family and acts out to gain power and thus control over his world. And, like any good Constantine story, his actions leave a wake of destruction in its path.
Taylor gives us an interesting take on the character. He feels a bit more pathetic than usual, a little more broken. Taylor focuses on those around him and his impact showing not everyone has been broken by him and some are off in better spaces. But, there’s also some groundwork laid as to why Constantine is the way he is. It creates a bit more tragic of a character and for me, as someone that’s relatively new, it also gives me a character I can relate to a bit more. Whether this has been presented before, I don’t know. But, to me as a reader, it feels new and delivers a bit more depth to a character who we generally enjoy for his attitude.
Hellblazer: Rise and Fall Book One also is a comic that’s full of small details that make it enjoyable. A conversation about stolen boyfriends as an example feels natural and gives us so much as far as the relationship between characters. It’s these moments that really made the comic for me taking it from a horror mystery to something a bit more.
Darick Robertson and Diego Rodriguez handle the art duties and for me it’s… ok. Robertson has his distinct style we’ve seen so many times before including the over the top gore. It’s such a distinct style it felt a little odd looking at it without Garth Ennis, a regular collaborator, writing. It’s fine in the overall look and very distinctive. It also doesn’t quite click for me. It’s hard to tell if the comic is supposed to be horror, more grounded, or even comedic. There’s also a little bit of inconsistency of the characters that feels like a regular Robertson thing. Again, not bad, it’s just not completely for me.
Hellblazer: Rise and Fall Book One is a fun comic with a balance of horror, humor, and a little bit of comedy. Constantine fans should enjoy this self-contained story. Those that are new to the character can dive in without any knowledge of the character. It’s not the best I’ve read featuring Constantine but it’s entertaining and there’s a lot of potential for where it’s all going. As is, the first issue is good but doesn’t quite have the spark to make it really stand out so far.
Story: Tom Taylor Art: Darick Robertson with Diego Rodriguez
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
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