“John Constantine: Hellblazer” is a Noire horror comic book set in the 1980’s during the grip of Thatcher oppression. The central character, John Constantine, is apparently nothing more than a streetwise magician. Constantine is not however another “Jonathon Creek” and the things he deals with are altogether darker. “Original sins” is written like a hardboiled crime fiction book with a demonic twist and in common with these books, it relies quite heavily on the use of narration and inner monologue. It collects issues #1 to #9 of the series.
The TPB opens up with a great story about a demonic power that possesses people and fills them with an overwhelming desire for things they already crave. The first few pages where a fat man eats like there is no tomorrow but still ends up starving is amongst my favorite parts of the book. The rest of the stories in the book are a bit of a mixed bag and they can feel a bit disjointed at times. There is definitely a bit of Twilight Zone feel to them but with a more R rated theme. I didn’t really enjoy the Yuppie Demon story which was quite obviously another political rant. There are also occasions in the book where there were “Swampthing” cross over story lines that ended up being a bit confusing. DC should really have included the “Swampthing” episodes to maintain the continuity.
This is my first time reading Hellblazer and it is difficult for me to actually tie down John Constantine as he seems to be a pretty normal guy doing extraordinary things. I think it will take a few more volumes before I am comfortable with his character but he doesnt seem particularly likable. He definitely sits on the fence of good and evil and doesn’t care which side he is fighting against. The Demon blood transfusion which occurs near the end of the book might well point to his powers for the future.
There are a lot of references to 80’s Britain in the book that perhaps overseas readers will not pick up on. It isn’t widely known outside of the UK just how hated Thatcher was by large areas of the UK population during this time. The portrayal of her as Nosferatu on the back cover is a nice touch.
The Art is nothing special in Original Sins and looks pretty dated. It is a typical 80’s comic book with a limited color palette and scratchy art work. It does the job and gets better as the book progresses. Some of the pages have a confusing layout with the panels stretching across two pages in a haphazard manner. A few times I had to reread several sections until I found the proper flow or had stuff spoiled by reading things out of order. The presentation is a bit of a mess at times.
Original sins is a bit of a shaky start to the series but it is still worth a read. [ISBN-13: 978-1563890529]. 7/10
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