Propaganda celebrates the season with Hellblazer issue 250
John Constantine: Hellblazer – issue # 250
by Dave Gibbons & Sean Phillips, Jamie Delano & David Lloyd, Brian Azzerello & Rafael Grampa, Peter Milligan & Eddie Campbell, China Mieville & Giuseppe Camuncoli. Cover by Lee Bermejo.
DC Comics / Vertigo.
Incredibly, with this 250th issue, Hellblazer has been going for nearly 21 years. Quite an achievement for a character that was never anything more than a mysterious Scouse wide-boy magus, popping up here and there to pester the Swamp Thing in Alan Moore’s magnificent run on the title. John Constantine was never intended to be a main character, so it’s all the more incredible that we find ourselves here so many years later.
I’ve followed the title off and on since that very first issue and still have to say that there’s nothing better than the first 80 or so issues with first Jamie Delano and then Garth Ennis on writing duties and pretty much defining everything about the character for any writer to come. You really can do no better than picking up the first collections from both writer (Delano’s Original Sins and Ennis’ Dangerous Habits) as a perfect Hellblazer taster.
(From Christmas Cards, by Jamie Delano and David Lloyd.)
As for the anniversary comic in question, there are three outstanding tales and two okay stories in this double sized issue. All sitting underneath that absolutely perfect cover by Lee Berjemo. Not a bad hit rate for this sort of thing really and purely down to my preference for the Constantine I remember most fondly; the watcher, the thinker, the devious, cunning plotter. I found myself most at home with the Constantine of Jamie Delano & David Lloyd’s Christmas Cards story and Peter Milligan & Eddie Campbell’s The Curse Of Christmas. The stories in both are sedate, subtle things, with some cracking art as you may expect from messrs Lloyd and Campbell along the way. In both of these festive tales Constantine is merely the observer or follower of the mystery, taking very little active part until that crucial final act where his presence is often enough to tip those magical scales.
The other tales have him rather more directly involved and it just didn’t read as well for me. There’s even an attempt in the Dave Gibbons opener to rebrand Constantine as some sort of magical Jason Bourne type. I don’t think the Hellblazer I remember would be up to jumping ten feet down, through the roof of a boat and without breaking stride, carrying on his relentless pursuit of a murderous baby snatcher.
One special mention though: although I thought that Brian Azzarello’s “All I Goat For Christmas” tale of Constantine lifting the curse of the Chicago Cubs was a cracking story, told in rhyme and involving Constantine painting one particular Chicago bar and it’s drinkers a very blood red. The art by Grampa is the real star of the tale though, reminiscent of Paul Pope in parts and a timely reminder that I should really get around to picking up his Mesmo Delivery from Adhouse Books.
(From “All I Goat For Christmas”, story Azzerello, art Grampa)
But like i say, it’s all personal taste here. Like any anniversary issue that does the anthology thing, some tales are going to be better than others. But in some ways it doesn’t matter. The Hellblazer template is so fixed by this point that there’s very little can be done to alter it. Not that this is a problem. After nearly 21 years telling a John Constantine tale is a little like a Sherlock Holmes tale, there are certain things that are rather essential.
And the future is looking good for Hellblazer; Peter Milligan takes over as writer next issue, Jamie Delano & Jock are celebrating the 21 anniversary year with the original graphic novel Pandemonium and Ian Rankin is producing a graphic novel later in the year as well.
Not bad for the bit part Sting lookalike taking the piss out of the Swamp Thing really, is it?