To call the cancellation of DC Comics’ John Constantine: Hellblazer unfortunate is underselling it. Writer Simon Spurrier, along with brilliant artists like Matias Bergara and Aaron Campbell, have created a truly beautiful series. As a creative team, they allow events to unravel in each arc so gradually that every narrative beat feels inevitable. But with Hellblazer‘s cancellation, this creative team has the task of tying everything up in the space of a couple of issues. DC Comics’ John Constantine: Hellblazer #11 sees writer Simon Spurrier, artist Aaron Campbell, colorist Jordie Bellaire, and letterer Aditya Bidikar hurriedly getting through what feels like five issues worth of material. They continue to do incredible work, though one wonders about the scope of what they had planned.
Spurrier’s script is pretty tightly packed in this issue. Clem Thurso, the British M.P. that this issue centers around, explains to Constantine how they are connected. Spurrier uses Constantine’s voicemail to get through all of this exposition. So much of what Spurrier does here shouldn’t work. But the substance of what Spurrier has to say is always so mesmerizing. Brilliantly, Spurrier uses real-life horror to scare us. It’s not the demons or underground cults that should scare us; it’s the growing collective hatred for others. Spurrier has his finger on the pulse of Britain, which works in Hellblazer as a microcosm of the world at large. Putting us in the shoes of Clem Thurso for an issue and watching his rise to power as he feeds off of hate and fear, we see the real horror that’s going on, both on and off the page.
Campbell makes this issue outright terrifying. For one, we see Clem Thurso on the phone to Constantine at the beginning. With his face folded back a little, we can tell he’s not fully human. But the fear in his eyes is. Then, as we see Thurso’s rise to power, Campbell depicts him as laid back and comfortable in the midst of all of the evil he’s causing. Evil is Thurso’s comfort place. So seeing the fear in his eyes, Campbell has us question, “What could scare a demon?” Every chance Campbell gets, he keeps the horror off the page. We don’t see what’s scaring all the other characters. It’s Thurso’s eyes like pinpricks as he runs in the opposite direction that Campbell wants us to see, or Constantine trying not to hurl. When Campbell finally does lift the curtain, the horror and disgust do not disappoint.
Bellaire uses reds, yellows, and greens to depict the various forms of evil throughout this issue. When we see Thurso’s rise to power, Bellaire depicts these scenes in an untainted red. It has the look of pure evil, but an evil we can understand. In the modern-day, we see Constantine investigating what got Thurso so upset. The greens with which Bellaire colors these scenes look sickly like something is rotting beneath the surface. And as we cycle back and forth between these scenes, we begin to see Thurso’s scenes get infected. It’s no longer the pure red we saw at the beginning. These scenes begin to turn a little orange as Thurso’s own experiences with this new evil begin to spread the yellowing rot. Thurso’s influence is becoming something else. It’s evolving into a different kind of evil. One even he doesn’t fully understand. In the final moments, Bellaire allows green to become overpowering. You can almost smell death in the air.
Bidikar nails the voice of Thurso. Plenty of letterers use bolding a lot in their work, but Bidikar uses it with incredible effect. Every word Bidikar bolds is a word that Thurso is savoring. “But OHHH! If we dare to say so?” Thurso says to a crowd. The “OHHH” takes up several lines of his dialogue and looks uneven. It has a flourish to it, just like Thurso’s speech. He revels in the hate. “We’re persecuted for being politically incorrect.” Bidikar shows how Thurso harps on every word that he knows will get a rise out of people. He has his buzzwords to keep the sheep in line. But Bidikar also shows how sadistic Thurso is on his own time. “I simply had to have his face,” Thurso says. “He peeled with the very greatest of ease.” You can almost hear Thurso licking his lips, relishing every sick moment.
DC Comics’ John Constantine: Hellblazer #11 is another incredible issue. There are signs of this creative team rushing, but far less than one would expect. This series is huge and bold. It deserves 30 more issues, and this creative team does a spectacular job tying these threads together. With one issue to go, they gear up for a heartbreaking finale. Pick up John Constantine: Hellblazer #11, out from DC Comics October 27th, at a comic book shop near you!