Sandman Universe Presents Hellblazer #1 – Simon Spurrier, Writer; Marcio Takara, Artist; Cris Peter, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Ray: Constantine’s had a long and winding road back to the Black Label line (the heir to Vertigo) with this new series, Sandman Universe Presents Hellblazer #1.
The most cynical of magic users in the DC Universe started as a hard-core Vertigo character, with one of the longest-running ongoing series in comics under the title Hellblazer. But he always had DC ties along with Swamp Thing, and he was folded into the DCU for real with the Brightest Day event that led to a variety of PG-13 comic book runs. There were standouts – including a brief DC You series by James Tynion IV, Ming Doyle, and Riley Rossmo from which CW’s Legends of Tomorrow borrowed a plot- but it was rare to see him recapture that same Vertigo edge in the DCU.
Despite a strong supporting role in Justice League Dark, he’s now back where he began with a new series tying into the Sandman Universe line – and it all starts with this oversized one-shot by Simon Spurrier and Marcio Takara.
This is a Constantine we haven’t seen in a while – a desperate, depressed man neck-deep in bad deals and all too willing to sacrifice those closest to him. The opening is one of the best horror segments we’ve seen in a DC book recently, as Constantine goes up against a surreal supernatural menace – that turns out to have been created by a future version of an old friend, Tim Hunter. Constantine goes so far as to sacrifice his best friend Chas to stop the menace, but it’s all for nothing and his luck seems to finally be running out – until he gets a bizarre offer from a future version of himself that offers him the chance to reboot the whole storyline but keep all his memories. So John Constantine – the vintage Vertigo version – is sent hurtling forward into 2019 and begins anew in a much harsher world.
There is so much going on in this first issue it’s almost dizzying at times, with Constantine fighting an evil army, getting rebooted, waking up in a mental asylum and conning himself out, and trying to acclimate himself to modern London.
Politics are all over the comic, but it’s often hard to figure out exactly where it lands – and it reads better for it, I think. It’s more John observing the tensions that are creeping up in 2019 London. But in case you were worried it was too plot heavy, the last quarter of the issue is an absolute gut punch as Constantine seeks out Chas in this new reality to see what’s become of him and gets an unpleasant surprise – or several. I haven’t read most of the original Hellblazer run, but this new take seems perfectly in line with that classic Constantine. He’s going to be a great addition to the Sandman Universe line, and may just be the one to pull it all together into a larger picture.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.