Malevolent cosmic deity and comics connoisseur Cthulhu likes to critique comics via Twitter (@ClockpunkEllis). Cthulhu also reaches out to comics creators on Twitter to ask them tough, personal questions. This week, Cthulhu contacted Ming Doyle, the artist of great comics such as The Kitchen and Mara. It was recently announced that Doyle will be writing the upcoming DC Comics series Constantine: The Hellblazer, starring occult anti-hero John Constantine, so Cthulhu contacted Doyle to ask her a tough question about Constantine.
After spending a couple years in the New 52 dystopia hellscape of a shared universe, creators James Tynion IV, Ming Doyle & Riley Rossmo have brought back the John Constantine concept on Constantine: The Hellblazer and it mostly works. Like the other new DCYOU books, there is a lot of content within the story and it give a unique portrait of the character that feels modern while true to it’s core. While the comic probably could have used some editing to cut down the dialogue & the introduction felt a little cliche, the way they present Constantine and give his character a voice is pretty fantastic overall while Riley Rossmo’s cartoons on acid surrealism is perfect for this voice the book is going for.
Constantine: The Hellbalzer works to mend the bridge between the New 52 iteration of the character and it’s Vertigo roots. While it clearly establishes itself as being a part of DC Comics shared universe by referencing Superman, it feels more like the Vertigo iteration in a somewhat more modern context. Right out the gate, the book gives readers Constantine in his element yelling at a ghost as he changes clothes in a public bathroom stall before the story opens up and we get to perhaps the most interesting development of the story in the characters sexualization that creates a unique portrait unlike anything else we see in a Marvel & DC Comic. There is an interesting contrast here between Constantine and Midnighter in the books two debut’s in how they approach the character’s sexuality. Both are written by gay males doing homo/bi sexual protagonist but in Midnighter, the sexually explicit parts are very in your face much in the same way the rest of the comic is. For John it’s a little more complicated, fluid and dirty for lack of a better word. There’s sex for pleasure that he pursues and then there’s sex as a means to an end that he actually has out of nessecity. It’s creates a very interesting contrast on gay relationships between the two books, coming from the two separate authors for two very different characters that is not only interesting, but moreover refreshing to see DC Comics approach in a more mature & adult fashion like the early Vertigo line was.
The comic ends up slowing down following the in books fist half. There is some cool stuff with a night club that’s based on Dante’s inferno but the ending was a little cliché in a “Oh that John Constantine” type of way. For as much improvement & evolution that Tynion has showed since he debuted on Batman, the whole structure was very Scott Snyderesque for a first issue with it’s ticks & cues and the closing page was very typical of DC comics books in the New 52 and beyond with the whole “well here’s the real problem” drop in, not a bad thing per say but pretty common for the publishers superhero stories.
At minimum, Constantine: The Hellblazer is successful and at times, inspired. Its not perfect and it can use some refinement in distinguishing itself in terms of plot mechanics but overall, it’s lives up to it’s own ambition and should meet readers expectations as well.