This review contains light spoilers. Skip To The Verdict? »
To celebrate recent events in the life of Mr. John Constantine (spoiler) I thought I would review an old Hellblazer trade.
The current arc has left me a disillusioned with the title, however, but it’s not in trade yet so I can’t negatively review. So I chose one of the lesser previous releases to act as a cathartic aid to my suffering.
Hellblazer: Son of Man is the first trade following a gap in publishing spanning over 40 issues of the ongoing, hence it represents a revival for the series.
The story starts with the bungling Chas (Constantine’s sometime driver and often drinking buddy) finding himself in trouble with a London kingpin, Harry Cooper. Constantine and Cooper have a past, something John has been avoiding for 16 years, but when Chas turns to him for help he can no longer avoid it.
The plot weaves to and fro, mixing past and present to construct a story that is quintessentially Constantine from beginning to end.
While the story consists of well written and paced events, the dialogue is somewhat lacking. Rather than the typical Hellblazer narrative boxes we find John talking to the reader as a TV presenter would talk to the camera, which I find a bit too jovial.
It’s interesting to see Ennis attempt direct breakage of the 4th wall (with bums looking on and making cuckoo gestures at the rambling narrator) but it doesn’t quite work.
Also, despite being from the UK, Garth Ennis has written the characters in as the stereotypical Londoners, with Constantine saying things along the lines of ”Blimey.” It just doesn’t suit him at all.
My final writing issue in for book is a scene when he has sex with a lesbian friend, which seems to be in there for no real reason. In that one scene Ennis manages to make the book more of a joke than a piece in the long story of Constantine.
The book is drawn by John Higgins and is near in quality to his art from the last volume I reviewed, Hellblazer: Haunted (which is actually the next in the series after this trade). Constantine looks a bit less like a blonde Hugh Grant in this collection though.
My major complaint about the art in this book, which isn’t the case in Haunted, is that all the characters have far too many wrinkles.
A prime example is this picture of Chas to the right, where he looks more like an OAP than a middle aged man. (OAP stands for Old Age Pensioner. Simon’s brit slang – Ed. Note)
I can also hear you ask if that creature is from the Alien franchise. The answer is no, it’s a demon, but it’s uncanny isn’t it?
That is yet another downside to this book – there’s a lack of imagination. In fact the main “bad-guy” for this book looks a like a privately educated version of Chucky.
On the whole, the plot for Hellblazer: Son Of Man is very well done. With a couple of scenes trimmed it would score highly for the writing, despite John talking to the camera. The artwork is serviceable, just sub-standard for a series such as Hellblazer.
Not a classic by any standard, but still fun to read if you can ignore one or two shortcomings.
Don’t worry. Stick with Hellblazer. As Rufus says in Bill & Ted: “They do get better.”
Not really essential for Constantine, nothing life changing happens here.
However, it features a few characters that feature heavily in Constantine’s life, such as Brendan, and it helps give more background to these characters.
The entire series is best read through in order, anyway.
With a hefty Vertigo title like this, it’s always good to start at the beginning, even if my reviews haven’t. You can get Delano’s classic Hellblazer: Original Sins or go all the way back to John Constantine‘s first appearance in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing: The Curse.
If you you enjoyed the dialogue and tone of this one, you may want to check out Preacher by Garth Ennis, which is more solid all the way through and has better art. Understandable, since it was his creator owned title.