John Constantine, Hellblazer: Original Sins by Jamie Delano

(Some spoilers)

Okay, first off, does anyone else have muddled synapses that look at Hellblazer and immediately think of Ozzy bellowing Hellraiser? Maybe while driving cars off cliffs in a computerised version of California? Please say I’m not the only one.

In any case, there’s a certain amount of similarity here beyond the names. Hellraiser is, after all, a swaggering piece of metal badassery all about knowing your actions are tiring you out and taking you to a bad place, but being unable to stop because that’s what you do. That’s how you get your fix. I think John Constantine would admit to the similarities there. And Ozzy and John are both mad, bad British working class boys done even madder.

There you go. Imagine Hellraiser as a comic, call that review there.

Or not. See, that was kinda what I’d expected.

This collection of the early issues of Hellblazer was a little hard for me to get my teeth into. I’d watched the movie, I’d read the Sandman issue with Constantine in, I’d heard some of the mythos, and as a result, had some expectations. Maybe they got in the way. Or maybe the act of starting a story is messy, and stories sometimes get a little all over the place.

Certainly John gets all over the place. Out to America, back to the UK, out to Africa, back out to America… I think he crosses the pond more than I have, and I have a long distance relationship across the bloody thing for four years. I know he can always raise a little money from nefarious activities but I have to say, I did find myself raising an eyebrow. It’s like one of those sitcoms where they can always get off work and go to the airport then not even use those plane tickets without screaming about the money. Now, look, I know the logistics aren’t the most important piece of a comic.

Take the fact I’ve brought it up first as a sign of how little I got my teeth into the actual thing.

Don’t get me wrong, Original Sins isn’t a bad read. Constantine’s a fun character who gets himself into all sorts of tricky situations. When Delano poses mysteries, I want to know about them. The sense of mystery and general building of suspense are the best thing here. Unfortunately, when it comes to the resolution, I found myself a little underwhelmed. Constantine beats the yuppie demon stockbrokers with a very simple bluff that nevertheless takes in the Duke of Hell he makes to it. A nightmare creature of the Undead destroys itself are Constantine points out that it’s got Arsenal and Chelsea tattoos on different arms. Ultimately these type of endings left me a little unsold on Constantine as this super-slippery cool guy, or the whole being super cool.

In many ways, this collection was at its best when Constantine couldn’t weasel his way out of things cheaply – witnessing a ‘Nam veteran get all confused and think he was back there rather than his home town with Constantine knowing there’s not a damn thing, or giving up a friend to sacrifice a demon because there’s nothing else to do. That was gripping reading, although at the risk of being picky, in some of those arcs Constantine came across as too passive at times. It’s a hard line to pick in a short comic issue.

As a whole, this collection didn’t do much more than work for me. You can see the promise there and why people love him, but these comics themselves left me going “huh” a little more often than they left me going “wow”. I’ll probably keep going with this series, but as of today, I prefer to listen to Ozzy give it some.

Image credit to Svetlana Alyuk on 123RF.com

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