Simon Oliver’s Hellblazer, Vol. 1: The Poison Truth

Oliver-HellblazerJohn Constantine is back in London, after suffering exile in New York — the result of a curse by a demon that caused remaining in London to infect Constantine with a possibly fatal disease. But, as usual, Constantine has found a way to fix it, because he knows how to find out the demon’s name.

And that’s the first part of Hellblazer: The Poison Truth. There’s more: the Swamp Thing comes to Constantine for help in finding Abby, and old flame who has disappeared from every realm that Swamp Thing has access to. Constantine puts in him touch with Mercury, a psychic. Meanwhile, Constantine gets a warning from a friend that something really, really bad is coming. And he’s being followed. (A hint — there’s a person who seems to be immortal and who, with his fellows, has been staying in the background as humanity bumbles along creating mayhem. Let’s call them “djinn”. They’re not happy about being supplanted by humanity, and they’ve developed an interest in Constantine.)

This is a talky script, as might be imagined, Constantine being who and what he is — a smooth-talking con artist, among other things. But the words, and word-play, come thick and fast, and they’re not always in rational order — again, a function of Constantine and his universe. Frankly, on first reading I found it somewhat chaotic. Ditto the second reading.

The art is engaging — Moritat’s pencils, in spite of the murkiness of the mileu (John Constantine is not a person who relishes bright sunlight), are clear and engaging. And even in those sequences that take place in murk, they carry part of the story — the colorists, of which there are several, have showed good judgment in just how murky they make it.

I’ll be honest: John Constantine is not a comic book hero who has ever really grabbed me. I can’t think of any particular reason for that, unless it’s his rapid-fire delivery and glib personality. Maybe it’s because he’s a sociopath, and I’ve learned to be wary of those — even comics. (It’s a wonder how many of the characters in this collection really don’t like Constantine very much, but they go along with him.)

If you’re a fan, this should be a good one for you. In fact, after reading this one, I’m sort of looking forward to Volume 2 (yeah, it ends with a cliff-hanger).

Collects The Hellblazer: Rebirth and The Hellblazer Nos. 1-6.

(DC Comics, 2017)


Robert M. Tilendis lives a deceptively quiet life. He has made money as a dishwasher, errand boy, legal librarian, arts administrator, shipping expert, free-lance writer and editor, and probably a few other things he’s tried very hard to forget about. He has also been a student of history, art, theater, psychology, ceramics, and dance. Through it all, he has been an artist and poet, just to provide a little stability in his life. Along about January of every year, he wonders why he still lives someplace as mundane as Chicago; it must be that he likes it there. You may e-mail him, but include a reference to Green Man Review so you don’t get deleted with the spam.

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