NBC’s Constantine was cancelled in February 2015. John Constantine’s fate in DC’s TV universe has been in limbo ever since. The problem with the character leading a solo series is that Constantine doesn’t belong in the spotlight like Supergirl; he belongs in the darkness. In DC’s new pseudo-reboot comic The Hellblazer, John Constantine is right where he belongs: Back in London, hiding in the shadows. The Hellblazer was released today, as part one of “The Poison Truth”, and it’s a fantastic place to reacquaint yourself with the con man.
Picking up after Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV’s soft reboot Constantine: The Hellblazer (and of course the one-shot The Hellblazer: Rebirth), Constantine is back in London from New York with the help of Swamp Thing, the green avenger in whose comic John Con made his debut in the ‘80s. After all that Constantine has been through, from his classic Hellblazer adventures (which thanks to DC’s Rebirth are canon again) to his recent escapades with the Justice League, Constantine is taking stock of his life. And he’s not happy.
Constantine has been around the world through heaven and hell (literally) and back again, but he has nothing to show for it. He hasn’t planted roots. He still wakes up from hangovers in dirty apartments like when Thatcher was still PM. Vertigo’s Hellblazer was a unique comic in that Constantine aged in real time, being in his fifties by the book’s cancellation in 2012. When Constantine was rebooted into DC’s New 52, he was a spry youth again, but with Rebirth folding continuities it’s unclear how old Constantine is now. He’s essentially lived a whole life, frozen.
New readers and fans from the TV series eager to reacquaint with the magician will find Oliver’s The Hellblazer accessible despite serious callbacks to the Vertigo books; in returning a favor to Swamp Thing, Constantine reunites with the psychic Mercury, now a grown woman since the first time she met John as a child in Jamie Delano’s Hellblazer #14 from 1988. Their exchange alludes to a long history, but it’s spoken in vague terms that newer readers should just “get it.”
Of course there’s a new antagonist. This time it’s one called the “Creator,” whose acolytes were two brothers that began World War I. (Indeed, The Hellblazer begins with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, firmly channeling the series’s European punk aesthetics with renewed vigor.) And in case you thought Hellblazer lost its punk, a heavy-handed jab at Trump’s vision for America, equating him to Adolf, is right there in the first few pages.
Writer Simon Oliver is a Vertigo veteran whose series The Exterminators epitomized mid-aughts adult-oriented graphic novels. The Hellblazer isn’t Oliver’s first crack at the world of Constantine, having also written a series revolving around Chas, John Con’s most loyal mate. So to anyone who read the Hellblazer runs by Ennis, Delano, Azzarello, Ellis, and others should take comfort that John is in familiar hands. The only one who might be frustrated is Constantine, being stuck in the familiar is his new living hell.
P.S. If you really miss the TV series Constantine, it’s on the CW Seed.