Sooner or later the inevitable replacement of the old gritty Constantine with a “new-age” version had to happen, it just seemed to happen sooner in this weeks’ John Constantine Hellblazer #4, from DC Comics.
During the previous arc (reviews here), writer, Simon Spurrier took Constantine back to his roots with horror and the good ol’ Constantine attitude. For the second arc, Spurrier drops the horror, ramps up the attitude and introduces one of Constantine’s worst fear; a gentleman, scholar, clean-living, vegan acolyte of love—Tommy Willowtree. That’s how DC Comics bills Willowtree, citing him as someone that Constantine will instantly hate. That he does. But damn, hate was never this fun.
Continuing the trend of bringing Hellblazer and Constantine to their roots, Spurrier has him don his original outfit. Granted this doesn’t last long, nonetheless, the outfit looks dapper. But, as fun as Constantine is by himself, he always plays off others better, which Spurrier excels at. The moments between Constantine and Vestibulan are great, yet when Willowtree is introduced you know Constantine will be more insufferable than usual. By the end, you’ll be wanting more issues with the duo. But, sadly as everyone knows, anyone close to Constantine doesn’t last long.
Spurrier uses Willowtree as a plot device to showcase the vast difference between the old way and the new way. This is seen as a continuation of the previous arcs threads of “finding a home for Constantine in the modern world” (thanks Darryll). Yet, instead of battling a gang and a hobo he is against one that idolizes him to the point of wanting to be him. Willowtree essentially is Constantine, yet a newer version that’s not such a bastard. Plus, he wants to help and learn more from the person he idolizes.
BASTARDLY PERFECT ART
Matias Bergara has a stylized art that can be identified in a lineup. This art works perfectly with the story Spurrier sets out to tell. Bergara is able to easily switch between the genres presented while looking elegant the entire way. The panel placement and pacing that he employs work perfectly, helping tell the story needing to be told. This can be seen when Constantine leaves his place and runs into what they dub Turd-Goblin. During the page before the reveal, Bergara uses a mix of varied sized panels that pick up the speed towards the end.
Then, BAM, the next page Constantine and the reader are introduced to the ugly Turd-Goblin. The use of small panels to quicken the speed and a full silent page to reveal the monster is delightfully done. Pacing aside, Bergara’s art looks amazing in motion. In the few moments action occurs he makes sure said element pops off the page, giving a chaotic feeling. All this while being able to nail the comedic timing of every moment perfectly.
There’s been a beautiful storm happening in the color scene lately, and that’s Jordie Bellaire. She’s been around for a few years, yet it seems in the last few you can just about see her name everywhere. Much like Bergara, she is able to adapt to different genres. The combination of her colors and Bergara’s art is beyond words with their beautiful execution. For most of the issue, she keeps the colors bright and vibrant, matching the tone. But, when the time calls for darker shades she equally excels.
There are a few moments where Bellaire drops the background color and relies on white. During these, she is able to make the characters pop even harder during the panel. In Hellblazer #4 she is able to make the landscapes so gorgeous you want to visit everywhere they go. When the sun shines, she makes damn well sure you know it.
THE MAGIC IN WORDS
There’s a lot to love in Hellblazer #4. It seems every creator attached is in complete sync with one another. The same can be said in Aditya Bidikar’s lettering. Throughout the issue, Bidikar bolds the important words, giving each bubble a pop that helps read what is happening. Better yet, when Constantine whispers or speaks quietly he letters what he says in a smaller font. During these moments he never makes them too small, just enough to know he is whispering.
As great as the lettering is, there is but one minor gripe. Very minor. When Vestibulan talks/texts and the phone isn’t visible Bidikar letters it with a rounded edge. Yet when the phone is visible and you are reading the text it is a hard angle. The difference between the two look weird, especially when the panels are next to each other. Alas, for such a great issue a blemish such as this is small.
It would be easy to single out multiple pages in Hellblazer #4 and talk about how amazing the art is in various facets. Yet, here we’ll quickly focus on Willowtree’s confusions to Constantine in a car (seen below).
Bergara’s scene direction makes what could’ve been a visually word-heavy, boring page into an intelligent one that shows everyone’s reaction. In the establishing panel, he showcases everyone involved, then moves into Willowtree’s speech. By having Constantine watch Willowtree’s speech in the mirror he is able to show his noncaring attitude for the “Evil is at large” speech; thus reinforcing the difference between the two. Following this is the reaction shared between Constantine & Noah who seem to be getting along cheerfully.
Between the blocking, pace, reactions, and Bidikar ‘s word placement said page turns out wonderful. Each page in Hellblazer #4 reads as such and deserves a Panel Breakdown.
A BLOODY FANTASTIC ISSUE
Everything about Hellblazer #4 is fantastic. It reads differently than the previous issues, yet it’s a great genre detour that gives the reader a breather. Even if you aren’t caught up on DC Comics’ newest Hellblazer it’s worth reading. Granted you should be reading the new relaunch as it is great, but the beginning of the second arc shows that the first wasn’t just rookies luck. Plus the last few pages and cliffhanger are immensely hilarious and ends the issue on a high note.
Memorable Quote: “Pun magic. You do fucking pun magic.” – John Constantine.
Hey, I love puns and think that pun magic sounds awesome! Granted I suck at Puns, nonetheless, Zatanna has backward speaking magic, what’s wrong with Puns?
Side Note: I absolutely love the team behind Hellblazer #4. Bergara’s art was what originally drew me into Spurrier’s CODA last year. The duo is a dream team in the comic scene, yet aided by Bellaire and Bidikar they’re a force to reckon with.
NEW LOOK, SAME BASTARDLY MAN
What have you thought of Hellblazer #4’s different vibes from the recent issues?