New Comics: Hellblazer

The Hellblazer prologue issue that came out a few weeks ago was a passable effort at introducing the character, re-establishing him in London, and incorporating him, once again, into the capes n’ tights universe of DC superheroes. Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman felt squeezed in solely to reassure the masses that this was, indeed, a DC book. But in Rebirth Week 14, we get the formal first issue of Oliver and Moritat’s Hellblazer series and, thankfully, assurances that John Constantine will be doing a lot more than matching wits with a demon or road-tripping with his amazing magical pals.

The issue opens in Sarajevo on that very fateful day in the summer of 1914. Two brothers, clearly aware that a Serbian Nationalist is about to murder Archduke Franz Ferdinand, thus setting off “a hundred years of human brutality,” struggle with whether or not they should prevent the assassination.

A century later we catch up with the brothers in present-day Paris, and the mystery deepens. Who or what they are, and which divine pair of eyes they’re trying to hide from, remains to be seen. The stage is set for an intriguing opening storyline that weaves together history, celestial incarnations, and good old-fashioned Biblical-style fratricide. Should be fun.

The bulk of this issue, however, focuses on John Constanine and a favor called in by an old friend. Simon Oliver has a keen sense for the character, and bringing Swamp Thing into the picture – not to mention the idea of Abby – is a clear indication that he also has an appreciation for the character’s formative years. He may be a younger, flashier Constantine, but don’t let his Justice League Dark ID card fool you: this is still the same devilish occultist that Alan Moore created decades ago.

Moritat’s artwork is crisp and luminous, but in a style that sits uncomfortably between the shadowy Vertigo world that spawned the greatest Hellblazer tales, and the brightly colored gloss that spawned a lousy NBC television series. Don’t get me wrong – the pages look great. But I can’t help wondering if a little bit of that missing edge might have been recovered had Constantine been allowed to follow his friends Doom Patrol and Shade, The Changing Man into Young Animal rather than than the DCU Rebirth.

All New All Different Marvel: Week 47

Don’t let the cover fool you – Steve Rogers: Captain America #4 is still all about the warped reality created by Red Skull courtesy of his pal, the little sentient Cosmic Cube. Nick Spencer’s next-level mind-control epic gets weirder and darker, and more of Steve’s Hydra upbringing comes to the surface. In the meantime, however, just a reminder that there’s a Civil War II event going on, and some heroes are dead, folks with powers are brawling, and we’re now a little over a month away from the start of the latest Marvel NOW! initiative. That cover makes it look like Captain Marvel just scuffed the interior of Iron Man’s Corvette with her steely hairdo.

August 17 | New Release Highlights | August 31