By Simon Oliver, Moritat, Andre Szymanowicz
An old friend reaches out to John for help, but can he deliver anything good?
Rebirth issues have been a mixed bag, more so for the #1’s that follow them. Some improve, some get worse, some don’t change either way. I’m glad to say that Oliver and Moritat’s The Hellblazer improves in some small ways from the relaunch of DC’s favorite street warlock.
Bringing Swamp Thing back again in a larger capacity doesn’t hurt, and Oliver ties it back to the previous issue which informs both stories. This is a much smaller and more personal plot, which allows for a deeper portrayal of John then you would expect from DC these days. Put simply, Swamp Thing has lost track of Abby after she became the Rot’s avatar and asks John for help locating her. John obliges by introducing Swampy to the girl who saved his ass from a malevolent demon. The main plot is bookended by what appears to be two rogue angels who debate how much control they have over human civilization.
Moritat’s human figures carry a more conventional design, by Big Two standards. It works to make the art more accessible without sacrificing Moritat’s personal style. He uses this issue to play with design and visuals, such as Picasso’s “Guernica” in the background of a visual image for World War I or Swamp Thing materializing from bags of manure. The colors of Szymanowicz help Moritat’s art feel more in line with Hellblazer than Constantine and the unique choice in palette show how seriously the team is working with such a iconic character. There’s no bright primary colors, its deep rich browns, dark mossy greens and oranges so dark you can feel the grime on what John has touched.
Of course the issue is not without flaws, Oliver uses the fourth wall break yet again although its thankfully brief. I’m not against breaking the fourth wall, but in recent times its become more common and poorly done. It’s very much a device that’s “right time, right character” John Constantine doesn’t need to turn and wink at the camera every issue, nor should he. As much as I enjoy the day in the life spin on John, where even his role is part of someone else’s story, Oliver doesn’t seem to connect his A or B plots together. I’m willingly to let him roll on with it to see where it goes, but right now they appear disconnected in this issue. I also worry about the overuse of Swamp Thing, however unlikely it actually is. His role in the New 52 was one that barely avoided crashing and I’m nervous about DC dragging him through it again without a plan in place. Otherwise this is a decent story of John Constantine, showing hints of the greatness he once had quality-wise. I have little doubt Simon Oliver and Moritat could take John higher, DC just needs to give them the runway for it.
Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent