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Updating the Hellblazer Library before Constantine

I virtually NEVER buy collected volumes “in-person,” sticking to single issues for in-person purchases, due to pricing. However, I have been quite highly impressed with the re-issued Hellblazer volumes the last year or two.

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This week, I picked up volume 8, which is a rather thick volume, and very certainly physically FEELS like a big book, well worth its cover price. As with the earlier volumes, this one is basically a merging of two of the “original edition” volumes into a single book.

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The new Hellblazer vol. 8: Rake at the Gates of Hell contains the issues previously collected as the un-numbered volumes Hellblazer: Damnation’s Flame and Hellblazer: Rake at the Gates of Hell. This volume is rather significant for ME, as the original Damnation’s Flame was the first Hellblazer book I ever read and it–along with a Secret Files and Origins issue–were my initial introduction to the series and the John Constantine character.

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Part of the heft of the physicality of the volume seems to be that the paper might be slightly thicker…or somehow less compressed. Even with less covers, this new volume is actually fatter than the two original volumes whose issues this contains.

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Now, if I was looking at a Marvel volume collecting this many issues, or simply being this thick, I would certainly expect it to be–at MINIMUM–a $35 book, more likely $40, if not a $50 paperback. But here from DC (well, Vertigo) this is a “mere” $19.99 or to use my above rounding, it’s a $20 book. What makes that EXTRA appealing is looking at the two older editions that I bought over ten years ago.

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When I bought Damnation’s Flame back somewhere in 2003 or so, it was $16.95…and as that predated my online ordering and such, I actually paid cover price plus tax at Comic Heaven.

And in 2004 or so when Rake at the Gates of Hell was put out, it was itself $19.95. A $17 book and a $20 book–$37ish total–yet now in this new edition the entirety is only $20.

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Given that these new editions are actually NUMBERED and contain extra issues the original volumes did not (the original edition of vol. 1 did not contain the Swamp Thing issues, for example. Vol. 1 now has them so you’re NOT left on some cliffhanger that you have to leave the series of volumes to resolve. And this time through–at least so far, in July 2014–the volumes share a cohesive trade-dress so they actually look like a series.

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I’m still missing several of the later volumes of the series, though still filling in those holes, despite the chance that I’ll be double-dipping, “upgrading” to the new editions if the entire series actually gets collected. As-is, vol. 8 takes us up to #83…at this rate, I do imagine we’re looking at an eventual 30 or so volumes if these make it through to the 300th issue; possibly 31-32 if various specials and such get factored in, maybe more if any of the spotlight minis (Lady Constantine, Chaz, Papa Midnight) get mixed in.

The next question is going to be how to “recycle” my old editions. Sell ‘em on eBay? Sell them as a lot? Sell them individually? With these new editions, those old ones are technically out of print–so based on the APPARENT “logic” of Amazon 3rd-party resellers, I should probably sell them for about $50-$140 apiece, right*?

(*Actually I’d consider looking toward roughly $10/ea if I could sell ‘em all at once, maybe put that into the new editions of Preacher or even Lucifer, with Lucifer having the weight as I already have old editions of Preacher but have yet to read Lucifer at all)..

Ending the Year: A Quarter-Century Collection Unified

shelf00For the first time in several years, I actually have my comics “library” whole, in one space (outside of some Walking Dead books out “on loan” at the moment). I’ve attempted to arrange the collection in a number of ways over the years, but keep changing stuff here and there. This latest “reunification” was no exception.

Previously, I’d had my Marvel Oversized Hardcovers grouped together, separate from the “regular size” hardcovers and premiere edition hardcovers and paperbacks. Several months back when I reorganized my “last 2+ years” shelves I didn’t do that separation, and decided I liked having stuff together like this more than the sleek look of all the hardcovers lined up together.

I went with a quasi-alphabetical scheme, “grouping” stuff like Avengers, Captain America, Essentials, Spider-Man, Ultimate Universe, X-Men, and such with other stuff peppered throughout. Within these groups I put stuff mainly in story order or in the case of numbered volumes, numerical order with the entire cluster roughly where they’d begin in-story (with a few exceptions for appearances).

And now, showing off the collection in detail!

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Annihilation, Avengers, and Captain America. While I consider AvX more an X-story, the prominent titles on the spines and the AvX logo just made it totally fit better with the Avengers stuff, and keep my head from exploding at putting big A volumes in with the Xs…

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I decided to put my Essentials in the E range, as the word Essential is so prominent on the bulk of my editions (notice that it’s hardly noticeable on the third Classic X-Men volume/current trade dress, instead more closely resembling the Omnibus styleage. (Over on the DC side the Showcase Presents volumes are grouped by character as the “Showcase Presents” is rather small and the character/title far more prominent.)

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The Heroes Reborn and Infinity Gauntlet/etc. stuff are some of my favorite volumes and I wanted them together, so let the Hulk stuff jump the alphabet slightly (with the added excuse that Incredible DOES come before Infinity).I still am missing Infinity Crusade vol. 2, and intend to snag the new edition of Infinity Abyss soon, and likely Infinity next year sometime. As my only real Silver Surfer volume, the Rebirth of Thanos is shelved here as it was a definite prelude to Infinity Gauntlet, and the Thanos – Marvel Universe: The End is here as well as a continuation of the Thanos/Infinity stuff.

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My Spider-Man and Thor collections are relatively small. Spider-Man’s basically all from bargain bins. The oversized Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimates collections are some of the more “premium” books in my collection. Ultimate Spider-Man vol. 1 and Ultimate Marvel Team-Up were–I believe–my first two Marvel hardcovers. Pretty high on my list to track down yet are Ultimate Spider-Man vols. 6 through 9 and the Death of Spider-Man Omnibus.

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The X-Men have largely dominated my hardcovers…the Grant Morrison New X-Men books starting things off; a bargain bin for Supernovas and Rise/Fall of the Shi’Ar Empire continuing things, and the “premium” Messiah Complex/Messiah War/Second Coming ‘trilogy’. Bargains yielded Fall of the Mutants, Mutant Massacre, X-Tinction Agenda and X-Cutioner’s Song; and I’ve had my eye on the Age of Apocalypse Omnibus and believe there’s an Age of Apocalypse Companion coming out next year, both of which would be cool to have, though likely a bit less physically readable than the five-volume paperback series.

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Stuff like Rogue, Longshot, and Magik (with only 1-2 volumes) got shelved elsewhere; but “general X-related” and Wolverine stuff fell here to be WITH the X-Men stuff, if a bit out of alphabetical order. Due to their size, the various digest-sized stuff got grouped here rather than get lost amidst the full-size/oversized volumes. I put the Crossgen books here as well since they’re now under Disney WITH Marvel; and size-wise they’re a good fit.

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And for the first time since returning to active publication, I finally have all my TMNT stuff together and all my Valiant stuff together.

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My Superman collection has continued to expand. While I could replace the Death/Funeral/Return of Superman volumes with the Omnibus…these paperbacks are my original editions from 1992-1993, so they remain with the 2013 Omnibus. I’m yet a couple volumes behind on the Man of Steel paperbacks, and there are a number of Silver/Bronze Age themed collections that I don’t have yet.

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With a bit of spillover from the Superman shelf, the bulk of the Batman stuff fits just below. I’ve had eyes on the newer Knightfall volumes, and do want to get those eventually, as they’re far superior to these original 3 editions (though vols. 1-3 are each from different printings/trade dresses prior). I’ve also had my eye on the new printings of No Man’s Land.

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Green Arrow and Green Lantern have always been a good fit together; especially as I’ve so few GA as to be negligible compared to the GL books. I need to catch  up on the first couple Green Lantern hardcovers in the New 52, plus the Wrath of the First Lantern and The End, (and perhaps paperbacks for GL Corps to that point) but I think I’m almost ready to close out my keeping up with having the entirety of the Johns GL saga/”era”…whether or not I track down any of the tie-in Blackest Night volumes I don’t yet have. For lack of better placement and keeping a few inches to ‘grow’ I also shelved Astro City here. I believe I’m missing a single volume from having the complete run in one edition or another, outside of any collected volumes of the current Vertigo incarnation.

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My ‘general DC’ stuff is a bit less organized; more a clustering. Somewhat alphabetical, but then I grouped the big events: Crisis on Infinite Earths, Zero Hour, Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, 52, Final Crisis, and Flashpoint. The Shazam books got stuck right after Flashpoint as a couple volumes are in the Superman books, and I didn’t get really “into” Shazam until the New 52 volume came out.

shelf12

Hellblazer, Sandman, and Y: The Last Man headline my Vertigo shelf. I do want to “upgrade” my Hellblazer volumes to the newer printings for the early stuff, except I think vol. 2 is already out of print while 1 and 3-5 may not be? I may also “downgrade” the All His Engines to the softcover just to “fit in” more. I’m looking at doing the same with the Sandman: Endless Nights volume. Watchmen sits alone without any Before Watchmen as it’s physically smaller and if I’m to ‘buy into” the Before Watchmen stuff, I want it to physically match with the original.

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I’m still missing a volume of Preacher, and am not happy that to get it I’ll likely have to get the new trade dress that may have some overlap due to the volumes’ issue counts being messed with. Alternatively I’ve considered just revisiting the series with the newest editions that seem likely to be fewer volumes but thicker all the way through. For lack of other placement, the zombies fit nicely here, as does my GI Joe.

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Since reading the novelizations of the comics in the ’90s, I’ve been quite a fan of Dark Horse‘s Aliens stuff…and the novelizations continued into the AvP stuff…so by extension I’m a fan of their Omnibus series, and hope to expand it, at least on the Aliens side. I then have other misc. Image and Image-type stuff, and while Marvel published the Ender’s stuff, that’s it’s own thing, so fell here.

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My DIsney, Archie, Usagi, and Bone stuff wound up down here, followed by Highlander and a true “mixture” of remaining stuff. Having the Death and Life of Superman novel (anniversary edition) on the shelf next to the hardcover didn’t work for me, but I’ve got both because of extra material in the paperback, so it’s relegated here. Several other volumes wound up here that I’m hanging onto but don’t otherwise fit with what they ought to, for me.

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Finally, my comics “reference” and novels wound up on the top of the bookcase. Thus they reside with the comics stuff, but there wasn’t otherwise room to give them their own shelf with the current arrangement.

While going through the entire collection, I did do a bit of “weeding,” pulling a number of volumes I’ve grabbed off $1 tables and such; or that I got years ago when I thought I just wanted “more volumes” “in the collection.” I’ll probably wind up “weeding out” some of the Essentials volumes.

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…and here again is the entire collection as “presented” last Friday, now with the closer-up shelf-by-shelf detail above.

The End of Hellblazer

hellblazer200I was dismayed a couple months ago to learn that the long-running Hellblazer (I believe next to Archie, this is just about the longest-running uninterruptedly-numbered series out there, PERIOD, with Spawn and Savage Dragon from Image being the closer competitors to the claim). But that’s merely a principle thing to worry about…not than 300 is anything to sneeze at.

I’d fallen away from this title over the past half decade or so, maybe more…in a way, longer than I was following it, perhaps. But I’ve been catching up on the collected volumes–having long since decided I preferred to read about John’s adventures in larger chunks, rather than try to parse out the complexity via memory and a month-long gap between issues. My Hellblazer collection rivals my Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern collections, and even surpasses my TMNT collection.

But that’s still the surfacey stuff. Issue numbers, quantity of books on a shelf.

I worked at a summer camp in the summer of 2001, and while there, came across someone else who was into comics. While I was firmly “into” mainstream super-hero stuff…he was much more into the Vertigo-type books…Sandman, Preacher, Hellblazer, etc. Partway into that summer, he loaned me Damnation’s Flame, and I think I read the volume cover-to-cover in one sitting. Knew next to nothing about the character, but still followed along quite well, enjoyed the story…and I was thrilled when he loaned me whole stack of later issues–primarily from Paul Jenkins‘ run on the book. I devoured those issues, basically “maxing out” what my friend had with him (the rest of his collection being at home in Australia).

hellblazerrecentThere was a small comic shop near the camp, so I was able to get a couple of the then-most-recent issues at the time (in the #160/161/162 range). I believe there was also a Secret Files and Origins type issue out that made a huge difference for me filling in some gaps and adding to my immediate knowledge of the character. Not long after, knowing he might visit a comic shop while on a weekend trip, I’d given him some money, and my friend came back with the Original Sins tpb (the old version, now inferior to the most recent Hellblazer vol. 1).

So for the summer alone, I got to sample the earliest issues of the series, two “middle runs” in the series, and the most recent (Azzarello) issues. Back at school, while I’d largely let other comics “slide,” I began keeping up with Hellblazer for most of the following year; I particularly remember pulling a number of “quotes” from the issues, when I was “collecting quotes” from comics (stuff from narration or characters themselves that worked well outside of context as statements on life and such).

I then took a year or so “off,” frustrated by the monthly grind of story chunks vs. entire stories. Shortly after graduating college, I re-visited a comic shop and found that the ENTIRE PAST YEAR was still available at cover price, so caught up in one fell swoop, devouring those issues and then staying on-board again for awhile. I also backtracked and caught up on the entirety of the then-available TPBs…and 2003 into 2004 kept up with newer TPB releases like Rake at the Gates of Hell, an Ellis volume, and a couple others.

When I began as a reviewer for comixtreme.com (now cxPulp.com), Hellblazer was one of the series that wasn’t being regularly covered, so I claimed it, and wrote a number of reviews as the #100s came to an end, and the early 200s. (In retrospect, it appears the only review that’s actually made it into this blog under the Hellblazer heading is a review I wrote over 4 years ago when the series hit #250).

I have a number of memories associated with certain periods of “binge reading” of Hellblazer –primarily that first summer at the camp, Autumn after college graduation, and a couple years later, spring before grad school graduation. I anticipate similar memories when I dive into a recently-acquired stack of TPBs, and catching up further beyond those.

I was thrilled a couple years ago, now, when Constantine showed up in the Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing mini though that turned out to be just a precursor to the New 52. I think I dropped Justice League Dark after only an issue or two for its then-distinct-lack-of-FOCUS on the DCU Constantine…which in retrospect will mean further volumes to acquired to also play catchup on Constantine. But really, I remember enjoying the notion that the Hellblazer Constantine was still around and a distinct character…while the DCU John Constantine was closer to the character’s original roots, and largely a different take on the character. I was actually interested in multiple interpretations.

lifeofwalt006While it may be a rush to judgment, it truly seems to me that cancelling the Vertigo title in favor of a new DCU title is a disservice, as it seems highly unlikely that the new Constantine will be more than (in a broad stroke) a “dumbed-down Hellblazer.” A tamed version without the “twisted” elements that were a distinct part of the character.
That the Hellblazer character was a chain-smoking, womanizing English con-man was somehow rather appealing to me as a reader–so much the opposite of myself. And if opposites attract…that would certainly explain some of it.

I picked up this week’s Hellblazer #300–the final issue of a 25-year run going back to 1988 or so–because it was the final issue. However, the issue seems to be part 3 of a 3-part story…and I’m painfully aware of the fact that there’ve been probably 70 issues of story progression and development since I last regularly read the series.

However, there’s still something familiar to it–I was definitely aware of a history to things…and where I expect some might be put off or disinclined to buy a single issue ending a series, for me it leaves me eager to catch up on the last few years of the series (and perhaps it’s also having that task yet in front of me that keeps me from being as discouraged as I’d otherwise be with the series ending). This was like skipping a couple seasons of a tv show I’d followed, but tuning in for the series finale and then realizing I actually did miss keeping up with the series and want to go back and watch the remaining seasons.

hellblazerlibraryI have to admit that I got to the end of #300 and thought “what? That’s IT?!?” And maybe it was stuff I missed from parts 1 and 2 of the story, or something simply totally going over my head, but the final page left me clueless–as of this writing, I don’t know what actually happened nor what it “means,” as a finale to the series.

I’d like to say that I’ll boycott Constantine #1 on principle–and maybe if it were just about anything else, I would–but I think it’ll depend on my mood the week the issue comes out; I’m not adding it to my pull list, but I may request the single issue be pulled for me, the week it’s due out.

I neglected somehow to mention another “period” of memories I hold with Hellblazer: shortly after I started writing reviews for cxPulp, I joined the staff of the university newspaper The Daily Kent Stater, and had the only in-print review I’ve ever written for a graphic novel where I reviewed the new hardcover OGN All His Engines. I also got to attend an advance screening of the Keanu Reeves film Constantine on a press pass…my only such experience to this day.

And perhaps that’s the more sentimental thing for me.

I joined the ride around #162, so have been around for 138 additional issues…close to half the run.

Here’s to hoping what comes next does some justice to the true legacy of Hellblazer and the John Constantine character.

Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing [Review]

Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing

Writer: Jonathan Vankin
Pencils: Marco Castiello
Inks: Vincenzo Acunzo
Art (Issue #2): Renato Arlem
Colors: Barb Ciardo
Letters: Sal Cipriano, (Issue #3) Dave Sharpe
Cover: Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes, Ulises Arreola
Editors: Rex Ogle and Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics

I haven’t finished Brightest Day yet, but I know that the big hubbub over the final issue was the return of Swamp Thing and John Constantine–after a lengthy absence–to the mainstream DCU. And waiting for the collected volumes of Brightest Day, I opted to pass on this series. But this weekend, I found myself looking for something “extra” to pick up, and the comic shop I was at had all three issues, so I decided that rather than spend only $3.99 for a one-shot, at “only” $2.99/issue, I’d snag this entire 3-issue mini.

John Constantine finds himself the butt of his pal Chaz’s jokes for having bought a newspaper–though this particular newspaper had literally called out to him, the Swamp Thing’s attempt to make contact with him through the plant fibers in the paper. The trouble apparently caused by the Swamp Thing draws Constantine into a quest for his old acquaintance. After all, John saw the Swamp Thing through a couple other major events, so only fitting to be part of whatever this latest go-round is. Constantine makes contact with Batman to enlist the detective’s aid. When this doesn’t go as planned, he finds himself in Metropolis seeking the Man of Steel’s brand of assistance. Upon realizing what may actually be going on, John finds himself on a path that neither Superman nor Batman can condone as he seeks to set things right in a way that only he–John Constantine–can do.

It’s been ages since I’ve read any Hellblazer stuff–at least a year and a half, maybe 2+ years–so this was a welcome reading experience. Vankin has a good feel for the character, I felt like I was reading Hellblazer…except this is set within the DCU, with John interacting once more with a world that includes Superman, Batman, and other super-powered people, unlike the world the character’s Vertigo counterpart inhabits. This version of Constantine is younger, though still quite recognizeable as the character he is. There’s plenty of reference to the past to establish the character’s roots, to remind those familiar with the characters past of what they are. And if one is unfamiliar, it serves to establish that this character has a past in the DCU, though he’s not cropped up in a DCU book in quite a few years.

Though the series’ title emphasizes the Swamp Thing, this feels fully like a DCU-based John Constantine/Hellblazer story, and does so far more than I’d anticipated, expecting there to be a lot more focus on Swamp Thing (especially with Swamp Thing being one of the “New 52″ in DC’s relaunch in September). Of course, I’ve long been more a fan of Constantine than Swamp Thing, so this focus didn’t bother me and I think my enjoyment of this series was higher than it would have been if it actually did focus more on Swamp Thing).

The story itself felt pretty basic, and even a bit choppy, almost as if it should have been stretched to at least another issue. Given its timing at the very end of this version of the DCU, though, there seems to have been a need to compress it into only three issues. The first two issues had a nice build, reintroducing us to Constantine, as well as putting him back on the map for Batman and Superman. The third issue held a good bit of promise to it, but after 2 1/2 issues’ build, the end seemed to be anticlimactic, almost negating the purpose of having this series to begin with. This could change depending on the status quo in the new Swamp Thing ongoing, but that would almost make this series seem a prologue and worthy of an altered title.

The art was a sort of mixed experience going through the three issues. Offhand, I’m not familiar with the art team(s) behind this series. The style was not unattractive, and seemed to fit the characters involved. Batman and Superman, if only for the amount of Vertigo Hellblazer that I’ve read seemed a bit out of place by existing, though the artists had a good blend that allowed them to visually work with Constantine and Swamp Thing (or vice-versa). Though the second issue had a different artist, the style’s similar enough to the first and third that I honestly didn’t even notice until pulling the credits to write this review.

As I have not yet finished reading Brightest Day, this doesn’t honestly seem or feel connected to that, except that it would sort of explain an apparent resurrection that lies at the core of this story (even as it reminds me a bit of The Spectre’s character shortly after Green Lantern: Rebirth). If this ties to the new Swamp Thing series as I think it might, I’d hope to see this collected either as a Swamp Thing vol. 1 or 0, or somehow simply not as just a Brightest Day companion volume. If you’re a fan of Hellblazer, this series presents a chance to see a younger Constantine interacting with the DC Universe he came from, and get away from the intricate mythology that’s built up over the last 200+ issues of Hellblazer. If you’re interested in Swamp Thing, this wouldn’t seem a horrible story, but Swamp Thing seems a bit player at best, though you’ll find plenty with Constantine, a character with some key ties to Swamp Thing’s past.

Recommended.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Constantine DCU-bound?

constantinebooksRegarding the Bleeding Cool post on the topic…This could be interesting…though I’d wonder if perhaps it’d be similar to how Marvel’s had the “Marvel MAX” Punisher as its own continuity separate from their mainline “Marvel Universe” Punisher character.

I do recall about a decade ago when I was introduced to Constantine, feeling sure I’d seen the character in the Day of Judgment series (he HAD to have been there…or so I thought. I was wrong.)

Personally…I see little reason this couldn’t or shouldn’t happen. Keep his own title to what it is/has been, in its own continuity…and otherwise let the character back into the DCU as what he is, but keep him to more of a guest-starring role; he doesn’t need to have a second title within the DCU. Similar to how the Phantom Stranger shows up now and then, or how Marvel’s Watcher shows up here ‘n there.

Might even be enough to convince me to pick up some DCU books I’m otherwise pretty much ignoring for present.

Rich Johnston’s original post:

I don’t know where. I don’t know when. I don’t know how.

But I am reliably informed from a certain Brazilian in the know that John Constantine will be appearing as a major character in upcoming DC Universe titles, post Flashpoint.

Created in the then-DC Universe title Swamp Thing, by John Totleben, Steve Bissette and Alan Moore, this street-level occultist span off his own comic series, John Constantine: Hellblazer and, with Sandman and Swamp Thing, spearheaded the Vertigo line of mature readers comic books, including the much derided Keanu Reeves vehicle, Constantine.

Rare in comics, Hellblazer takes place in real time with the sixty something supernatural opportunist currently married to the twenty something cultural rebel Epiphany, and continues his adventures as an occult adventurist, detective and saviour, scarred by the ages. Even his shock of blonde hair has been considerably receding of late.

But now I understand that Constantine will soon be appearing in DC Universe titles. There’s a possible appearance in Flashpoint:Lois Lane looking at the cover, but what I’m being told is a longlasting return to DC Universe continuity.

If nothing else, it might be good for his hairline.

via John Constantine To Return To The DC Universe Bleeding Cool Comic Book, Movies and TV News and Rumors.

Hellblazer #250 [Review]

Happy New F***ing Year, Christmas Cards, All I Goat for Christmas, The Curse of Christmas, Snow Had Fallen

Writers: Dave Gibbons, Brian Azzarello, China Mieville, Jamie Delano, Peter Milligan
Art: Sean Phillips, Rafael Grampa, David Lloyd, Eddie Campbell
Letters: Sean Phillips, Jared K. Fletcher
Colors: Val Staples, Marcus Penna, Jamie Grant, David Lloyd, Dominic Regan
Breakdowns (Snow Had Fallen): Giuseppe Camuncoli
Finishes (Snow Had Fallen): Stefano Landini
Asst. Editor: Brandon Montclare
Editor: Bob Schreck
Cover: Lee Bermejo
Publisher: Vertigo (DC Comics)

If you’re gonna charge me $3.99 for one issue, this is the way to go. 38 pages of actual story content, high-quality creative teams (multiple instances of quality Hellblazer talent), contained in a milestone issue that could be an event and yet isn’t an event. This is the longest-running Vertigo title, this is the milestone 250th issue of the series–an extremely respectable number in a day ‘n age when only a handful of titles in all comics have maintained consistent numbering while reaching such a point. Focusing in on Christmas (“holiday, sure, but there’s a lot of reference by name to Christmas!), we get five shorts showing John Constantine in slices of life, just being himself around Christmas.

I checked out a couple years ago from buying the single issues, finding that I was enjoying this series far more through the collected volumes; I’ve fallen behind on those collected volumes, so am not up to date on recent happenings for this book. That said, I feel like I only missed nuances here. The character, the feel and tone of Constantine is still there. The stories fit the character. And though just picking this up for the “special” nature of the issue, I don’t feel out of it nor lost.

The first story follows Constantine as he pursues someone who has been assembling stuff to invoke immortality for himself–the price of said immortality likely requiring the life of a child. In Christmas Cards, John watches a game of poker he himself is banned from–offering commentary and observations none the less, as well as the nature of a couple of people present. All I Goat for Christmas suggests a ritual that may have broken the curse on a certain sports team seemingly cursed right out of any championships. The Curse of Christmas shows an encounter Constantine has with someone who managed to work an actual curse into an address given by a very public official. Finally, Snow Had Fallen details a fairly magical sort of snowfall that challenges the faith of a man overseeing sick children.

All five stories have that “classic” Constantine feel to them. They’re sorta slice-of-life due to being short and not part of some big event–these are the sorta things John deals with routinely in his world/experiences, specifically around Christmas.

The art varies, giving different visual styles, different visual interpretations of Constantine & Co. The first three–by Phillips, Lloyd, and Grampa respectively–are probably my favorites, as they get across a certain feel of darkness or grittiness that seems particularly appropriate for their stories. The fourth didn’t work very well for me visually–personal preference, probably. The final story’s visuals were not bad, but had something I can’t quite put my finger on–perhaps a bit of brightness–that simply didn’t put it in the top three for me of this issue.

All in all, this works very well as an anniversary-style issue. Rather than hosting a huge event, this serves also as a “holiday special” with the focus of the tales. And the tales are provided by Hellblazer creative teams from throughout the years.

Whether you follow this series regularly are are merely aware of the character’s existence, this seems a great issue to pick up as a one-shot, whether you plan to continue with the next issue or not. Besides….you could do so much worse for $4. I give this issue an extra half point as a whole–the package is greater than any of the individual parts.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8.5/10

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