Review – The Hellblazer #21: Brutal

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Hellblazer #21 Superman variant cover
Superman variant cover. Image via DC Comics

The Hellblazer #21 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Davide Fabbri, Penciller; Christian Dalla Vecchia, Inker; Carrie Strachan, Colorist

Ratings:

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: I’m Queasy

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW

Ray: Tim Seeley’s return to Constantine’s world takes place in the areas of London that rarely factor into comics – the poverty-filled, gang-occupied tenements where teenage punks make easy prey for savvy older criminals. Into this depressing landscape, Constantine and Huntress are each pursuing their own agenda and barely tolerating each other’s presence. The gang’s leader Joey Bruv has been kidnapped by Adam and Burke, the twisted criminal crimelords – with Burke occupying the body of Constantine’s ex-lover Margaret Ames. It’s rare that possession stories are done in this creepy a fashion. Burke is something more and less than human, after spending so long in hell, and his interest in Margaret’s body is almost sadistic and predatory – he enjoys torturing it, cutting it with broken glass and burning it over a flame, which adds a new urgency to Constantine’s quest to rescue Margaret and her body.

This could have easily been a dull “woman in jeopardy” plotline, if it wasn’t for Huntress’ presence. Constantine and superheroes don’t often go together smoothly, but Huntress is gritty enough as a character that she fits into his world and is written with far more nuance than she is in the Birds of Prey title most issues. Her overt belligerence towards Constantine and her ruthless opinions on young criminals can be a bit wearying as the issue goes on, but she makes a very good foil to Constantine. The battle with the young punks and the way Constantine gets the better of them is clever enough, but the story is essentially a slow-paced horror story, as Margaret’s fate hangs in the balance and the final page reveals a horrifying last-minute shot. I’m not sure that any take on Constantine in the DCU has fully worked besides Tynion and Doyle’s, but Seeley is much closer than most.

Hellblazer #21 page 1
Image via DC Comics

Corrina: This issue made me queasy, which is not a complaint, but usually a sign that something I’m reading is good horror. (It just so happens that I’m not big on horror, hence the queasiness.)

Perhaps the brutality added to my general unease. Margaret’s injuries felt real, as did the beating on Constantine, and the torture of Joey Bruv, which all meld the supernatural with street-level violence. In a way, Huntress fits in with this brutality, since this version of the character used to run a school for assassins. But I’ve always been uncomfortable with her willingness to maim or kill and her presence in this story is not as much of a plus for me as it was for Ray. There should be some difference in morality between a superhero and Constantine but it doesn’t feel like there is one–only their goals, not their methods, differ.

The most affecting moment is Joey Bruv’s request that the errant priest take responsibility for the gang members that Joey has mentored. That instantly made Joey layered character but, alas, I feel like he’s going to be dead next issue.

Because this is a horror story.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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