In Review: Hellblazer: Rebirth #1

A solid reintroduction of John Constantine. I want more!

The covers: Finally it seems as though DC Comics is doing away with their heroes obscuring their faces on the covers of the Rebirth books! The Regular cover is by Moritat, the interior artist of this issue. It features John Constantine in close up, but doing something he’s notorious for: lighting up. In the darkness, Constantine looks at the apparition that’s been formed from his smoke. A ghostly skeleton looms over him, while something behind him glows crimson as evidenced by the lighting on this back and left eye. This is a quintessential Constantine bust shot and it’s outstanding. The Variant cover is by Duncan Fegredo, who’s more than familiar with how to illustrate this mage. Holding his cigarette in his left hand, John sweeps his right to his side, creating a flaming mass of destruction in its path. The look he gives the reader is defiant, resembling a blonde Ian McShane. He’s standing atop the DC Bullet, as all the characters have on the Rebirth books, but I like that he’s leaving debris or waste on it. This is a great image of the anti-hero in action. Overall grade: Both A

The story: “London. Some years ago.” A demon has John on the ropes and grabs him by his neck to end his life. The creature proclaims, “Prepare yourself for eternal damnation in the Plains of Erebus, John Constantine–” Which cause John to interrupt, “Did you say ‘Plains of Erebus’?” John then tells the demon that if he’s killed it threatens to start an uprising in the Seventh Plain of Hell, since all the souls there are “twiddling their thumbs waiting for me to join them.” He even lights up a cigarette cockily as the demon ponders the possibilities of killing the Englishman or allowing him to live. The narration begins as the location changes, ‘And that, boys and girls, is how my lost weekend in NYC came to be.’ However, John is now going home, back to England and he couldn’t be happier. He’s picked up at the airport by his friend Charles Chandler, a.k.a. “Chas.” During their ride it’s revealed that John was forced to leave the country because the demon he thwarted had cursed him, having his soul forced from his body if he remained in the country. Constantine sneezes in the back seat and an unearthly string of magical words leaves his body and exits the car. John has a clock ticking: how long will be it before the demon that placed the curse on him will appear to finish him? Plus, there’s the mystery of what that string of words is and what it will do. Writer Simon Oliver is not wasting any time, spelling out the conflict quickly and introducing a wild card into the story with a character on Page 7 who will be very familiar to long time Hellblazer readers. If one is new to this series and character, he or she will not be lost in any way. The verbal game of chess that the demon and Constantine play is wonderful, with each seeming to trump the other until the climax. I like how the danger of the story went beyond John’s possible passing and jumped to an epic scale. The solution to the demon’s threat was outstanding, solved at the last possible second with the easiest solution in the world — I always enjoy stories that do this. So smart! Overall grade: A

The art: This art is much more to my liking than that of the previous series featuring John, Constantine: The Hellblazer. Moritat is able to capture the fear and the ballsy attitude of the title character outstandingly. The opening page shows this dramatically with John looking as though he’s completely beaten in the third panel and then rejuvenated upon hearing a specific location. The design of the demon that’s giving him trouble is fairly generic, but, let’s be honest, with all the demons that have appeared in this title and other supernatural books in the last three decades, original humanoid demons are pretty much tapped out for originality. The creature looks okay, but doesn’t instill fear with its appearance. The settings on this book look terrific, with Page 3 showcasing several places from a distance and up close. The full paged splash on 4 that shows John’s arrival at the airport is packed with characters whose every face tells a story; and having just been through Heathrow in the last month it looked really familiar. The flashbacks showing why John left the country are also good; considering Moritat is using only a ninth of the page for each image, he packs a lot into each, telling the story superbly. The setting on Page 6 cracked me up and had me looking for Bill the Pony. The spells that are shown in this book look outstanding: this is the supernatural look I expect from a Constantine book. Pages 13 and 14 show three members of the Justice League deciding if they should intervene in the proceedings or not. They all look great and it leaves me hopeful that Moritat will do other JL members in other books. The final two images of the book sum up the character beautifully. This book looks good. Overall grade: A

The colors: Constantine’s world is dark. He runs in the shadows and he was the leader of Justice League Dark. Andre Szymanowicz and Moritat have plenty of reasons to make this book dim, but they allow just enough colors into the visuals to allow the reader to see all the proceedings and not lose out anything that was drawn. The coloring on the first two pages is dark, to tell the reader it’s evening, but look at how the characters’ faces are highlighted, showing a light source and allowing the reader to see all the details in each individual’s face. I also like how the demon’s speech employs red to outline his (its?) dialogue to set it apart from human Constantine. New York City is given a rusty palette to age it wonderfully. When John meets Chas the two are given extremely bright colors to make them stand out among the masses about them. The spell in this book is the real focus of the tale, given a hellish crimson that weaves its way around others, damning them silently. I love the colors of this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, narration, book’s credits, sounds, a curse, signage, a yell, and some profanity symbols are crafted by Sal Cipriano. I love that the narration and dialogue are given two different fonts and the curse that becomes this book’s focus looks ancient and threatening as it moves about. The book’s credits are nicely given a font that resembles airport text, which is perfect for when they’re shown. Since this book is not a Vertigo title and Constantine is quite comfortable with execration, symbols are used to show his colorful language, such as skulls and upside down pentagrams. This is a clever way to keep him cussing, without using the words. Overall grade: A

The final line: A solid reintroduction of John Constantine, showing how he can be a force for a good, when not being an absolute jerk. Recommended for fans of horror or the supernatural. I want more! Overall grade: A

To find out more about John Constantine or other books featuring him go to http://www.dccomics.com/

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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