So the new DC Implosion has finally claimed a victim that stings: Hellblazer. It’s not the first time they’ve canceled this book, and this time admittedly doesn’t sting as badly as the original. But still, man… Still…
by Simon Spurrier, Matias Bergara, and Aaron Campbell
I’ve really been enjoying this new run of Hellblazer. It’s retained a bit too much of the “sparkly magical shit” Constantine picked up in his six-year sojourn as a member of the freaking Justice League, but otherwise… It’s been good stuff. Nice, ugly little urban horror stories, and very true to the series’ original spirit. It’s the most I’ve enjoyed the book, honestly, since Warren Ellis’ brief run over 20 years ago. Not that I didn’t enjoy the Peter Milligan run that ended out the original series back in 2013, mind you.
But I think Spurrier’s stuff has been better, on the whole. Sharper. Political. More biting. Spurrier’s been making some very pointed commentary on life in modern Britain, dealing in much the same themes of racism and class struggle that Jamie Delano covered in the series’ earliest issues. That we’re back in a place, socially, where those criticisms seem not just valid but vital makes me sad. But (the world being what it is) I suppose I’m also not terribly surprised. That stuff never really went away. We just got better at pretending it wasn’t there. Wishful thinking, I suppose.
Anyway. Spurrier’s tales have all had a thematic link: the horrors of pride. Personal pride, in the case of the fisher boy and his abuse of his mermaid girlfriend. Racial pride, from the old woman haunting the hospital. National pride, in the case of the rich degenerates fucking the comatose form of Albion in a gentlemen’s club sex dungeon. John’s own pride has even played a part, as he’s tried to rebuild his life after years in an asylum (or his years spent in the Justice League, if you prefer), going after mystical wrongdoing in that arrogant way we’ve all come to know and love. That’s a lot of pride, and it all has one thing in common: it’s empty.
That theme pays off in these final issues, as Old John, to whom Our Hero sold his soul back in the first issue, decides it’s time to collect. I won’t spoil exactly how and why the pride plays into their bargain, or how Constantine deals with it all. But it’s appropriately messed up, and there’s an appropriate price to pay in the end, for just about everyone. It’s classic Hellblazer, in other words. And that’s all I’ve ever really wanted.
On the downside, the story has obviously been rushed. Old John only just spelled out the workings of their deal in issue 10, and that story made it seem like they had quite a way to go. Constantine wasn’t ripening enough, it seems, and I got the feeling that it would take a while for things to really come to a head. It felt like the halfway point of a nice, solid Hellbazer run. Instead, the plug got pulled by the most recent iteration of the DC Implosion, and Spurrier had to wrap the whole thing up two issues later.
Which is a damn shame. Hellblazer is one of my all-time favorite comics, and this run has been one its high points. Ah, well. Here’s to hoping that Spurrier gets another shot soon. He’s left things in an interesting place, and it feels like he’s got a lot more stories to tell. So let’s hope he gets to tell them. And soon.