Comic Recommendations: October 28, 2015

There was a really great kitchen battle scene in Batman and Robin Eternal #4 (DC Comics), an intriguing concept to Tomasi’s Justice League: Darkseid War: Batman one-shot (DC Comics), some great situational humor in Chewbacca #2 (Marvel Comics), and a lot of heart in Kanaan: The Last Padowan #7 (Marvel Comics), but I didn’t encounter one book this week that was fantastic from cover to cover.

Luckily, I’ve received some recommendations from personal friends and friends of the blog for just such a rainy day as this (both metaphorically and literally: as I draft this post, it is pouring outside in Grand Rapids, Michigan). I want to thank my friend and former supervisor Kyle from Texas for recommending that I give Constantine – The Hellblazer a second chance.

Constantine – The Hellblazer #1-5 (DC Comics), Rainy Day Edition

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Antiheroes (think: Deadpool, Grifter, etc.) can be really difficult to get behind. You usually need one of two things to drive the type of morally ambiguous story that usually surrounds such scoundrels: 1. a character with an incredibly relatable backstory and motivation (The Punisher, The Crow, for example), or 2. a truly fantastic creative team (which, if I’m being honest, solves all problems, so maybe it isn’t even worth mentioning). Constantine – The Hellblazer doesn’t have either of these qualities to the nth degree — Doyle, Tynion, Rossmo, and Del Rey are unarguably talented, but they have yet to reach the status of Alan Moore and Alan Davis (Captain Britain FTW!), for example, and John Constantine’s guilt over past sins can only drive you so far — but it does have enough of each quality to make Constantine’s antics quite enjoyable.

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The writing team of Ming Doyle and James T. Tynion IV start John Constantine’s story intelligently. Rather than vaguely giving lip service to the people who have died as a result of Constantine’s arcane hubris, the first arc of this new volume gives The Hellblazer’s self-loathing a place and time of origin, and three names: Gary Lester, Georgiana Snow, and Veronica Delacroix. As a proper English bloke — with proper English parlance to boot — the only time Doyle and Tynion’s Constantine shows any emotion (aside from his longing to be with the attractive man in issues #1 and 2, which showed a “heart on his sleeve” side of Constantine that felt somewhat out of place) was when he breaks down in issue #4 and gets proper drunk. Overall, the writing for this book is strong.

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I do have to admit a slight bias when it comes to Constantine: The Hellblazer. I am a big fan of independent horror writer Dirk Manning’s Nightmare World series of short comics that was originally published on Image’s Shadowline Comics online hub before the web host was taken down, and Constantine artist Riley Rossmo was a regular contributor to this series prior to his work with Marvel and DC Comics. In other words, I’m a little bit of a Rossmo fanboy. While Rossmo’s sketch-driven, cartoonish figures aren’t as dark as those of Bill Sienkiewicz’s during his famous run on The New Mutants (“Demon Bear” FTW), I don’t personally believe that the 2010s need a goth Constantine as much as the late ’80s/early ’90s did. This is not Vertigo Comics. John Constantine is a full-fledged, card carrying member of DC’s New 52. e has the wit of Spider-man and he’s on a first name basis with many of the heroes of the light. With a character like this who exists in the margin between good and evil, versatility and grit are now preferred to moodiness and the macabre, and this plays right into Rossmo’s drawing wheelhouse.

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A convincing Constantine is difficult to deliver, and that is why the team at Constantine: The Hellblazer ought to be applauded. Here’s to hoping the second arc is at least as good as the first.

* * *

Was there anything this week that blew your mind? Is there something that I ought to be reading and writing about? Give me some feedback already. I may need it for a rainy day. Next week’s comics are November comics already, and I say bring on the November comics.

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