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Includes Issues:Hellblazer 129-133
Issue Dates:September 1998 – January 1999
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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.

Hellblazer is probably the best 80s series still running today (without any hiatus) and deserves all the praise it is given. A founding Vertigo title, it’s been published without break since 1988.

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.

And who better to kick it off than Garth Ennis, the only man to master John Constantine as well as Delano? Unfortunately, it’s not Ennis’ strongest work on the character.

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.”

Verdict:
3 out 5.
It gets the same rating as Haunted because while the plot is better, the dialogue and the artwork is worse.

Essential Continuity:
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.

Read first:
You need to know who Chas is (his first appearance is in Hellblazer 1) and it would help to have a good knowledge of Hellblazer to fully enjoy the book, so some pre-reading is required.

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.

Read next:
Head onto the next collected volume, Hellblazer: Haunted, which I previously reviewed. In that book, John Higgins is joined by Warren Ellis.

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.

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8 Comments Post New »

  1. avatar Dirt55 wrote on at January 23, 2011 4:47 pm:

    Another great review. Thanks for teaching us some Brit slang :-) From what I’m gathering from the recent reviews is that Vertigo is one awesome line of trades to get into. I’ll definitely have to look into getting more of their titles.

    Ian, have you wondered if multiple reviews/post in a day will inadvertently burry some of them prematurely. Just a thought. Thanks guys for all the great work!

    [Reply]

    avatar Ian replied on January 23rd, 2011 at 5:19 pm:

    It’s possible, and I hope you’re not being too overwhelmed. That was one of the reasons I had the sidebar with random features and the reviews embedded on the reading lists (so people can find reviews of books by their favorite author or characters, etc.) I really want this stuff to be more of a useful archive vs just a daily blog – too often quality content is ignored just because it’s “old.”

    So there are multiple ways of getting to the reviews, and each one seems to be getting some views every day as people land from google or find them through the site.

    But this deluge will only last for a short time (if I can keep it up!) before I get back to the daily schedule. We’re caught up to December’s vacation and blizzard delay, and I’m now onto filling in January. I really want to have one review for each day, even if they weren’t originally posted on that day, as it will be easier to keep track of our goals :)

    [Reply]

    avatar Dirt55 replied on January 23rd, 2011 at 5:31 pm:

    That side bar is fantastic. Occasionally I’ll see something on there that catches my eye. I look at it and go “WOW! This is fantastic. Have you seen this? I should comment on how great this is.”. Then I feel like a goof when I realize it was posted in June ’10. Some however, no matter how old, I comment on how because of how much I enjoy it (Exp your mom’s “penny pincher” post)

    [Reply]

    avatar Ian replied on January 23rd, 2011 at 5:42 pm:

    I’m glad that it’s working. You should always feel free to comment – that’s why I link the reviews to forum threads, so that even if they are old they will float to the top of the forum with new activity.

    [Reply]

    avatar Simon replied on January 23rd, 2011 at 5:47 pm:

    I agree that the sidebar is awesome and that the website should be more of an archive than a blog, even if it is nice to read them sequentially.

    I hope to write 2 or 3 more reviews this week helping to the catch up effort, and soon there will be less chance of us missing a review.

    [Reply]

    avatar Ian replied on January 23rd, 2011 at 6:00 pm:

    yeah, I think once we’re caught up it’s going to be super easy to stay on schedule. I won’t tell you which one, but I wrote one of the recent 1300 word reviews in a half hour before work, somehow. Another half hour to get the images in.

    Usually it takes me like 4 or 5 hours, I have no idea how I did it, haha, but it seems to be of alright quality.

    [Reply]

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