Even if you’ve never read Hellblazer, you’ve probably at least heard the story of John Constantine.  Those who stuck with Hellblazer love the journey through the world of the magical and mystical with the one man jaded enough to make the dark and gloomy seem not all that bad.  And to be perfectly honest, we Constantine fans crave a very simple pattern:

Evil plagues city/town/mankind. Constantine shows up. Constantine flirts with ladies. Drinks. Smokes. Says something “British”.  Bad guy shows up to fight. Constantine delivers physical and/or magical attack partnered with profanity/British slang laced witticisms. Day is saved. Final page reveals that it might not be. Series continues.

Having re-read much of Hellblazer prior to the culmination of the series and the beginning of the new Constantine series, I can’t help but notice how the character and the series has changed,  somewhat for the worse.

“But, Zander,” you say, a sigh of exasperation and anger escaping your mouth, “The character has been around for a long time. The character has changed.  Comics have changed. You can’t expect the heroes journey to stop and stay in the nearest town to sate your own selfish desires for the series.”

Well, listen. I get this may be a contentious issue for you so, for your and my sanity, I’ve broken this article down into parts.

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Why I’m dropping Constantine: A Review in Three Parts

Part 1: Who is John Constantine?

Once, John Constantine was the epitome of the independent adventurer. He sought out the mysterious and the unknown and applied his mind and his growing magical powers to stop evil and fantastical creatures and save his own skin while doing it.  Sure he was jaded, the typical antihero of representing the era of his creation, but this was a man who stared evil, death, and demons (and sometimes daemons) in the face on a regular basis. You had to cut the man some slack in the relating to normal folks department.  And though he was maladjusted, he had love in his life. He had friends and lovers along the road to the destiny he was all but too cool to admit the existence of; and he enjoyed the little things. Nothing quite like forgoing all magic to beat a bar full of nasties unconscious with a wine bottle.

But while that character is still part of the New 52’s Constantine, it’s not something we get too see. Constantine now, instead of being defined by his actions, is defined by his relations to the rest of the DC universe.  Sure his crossover into Justice League Dark, and Animal Man, and Swamp Thing is warranted and often endlessly delightful, but that same relational character development persists throughout the Constantine series.  We don’t see Constantine being Constantine, but rather the reader is given a parade of the man’s rogues gallery complete with backstory-laden monologues attempting to cram twenty-nine years of bad-guy history into the first ten issues.  And this being a new take on the series, it’s even more important to get a sense of who our protagonist is before we send him off into new and life threatening situations.

Having followed Constantine’s adventures for quite some time, I understand that the New 52’s Constantine and Hellblazer versions of the now titular character are different iterations of the same individual. But, with the New 52’s reset a strategy to attract new readers, it’s important to focus on who John Constantine is, as well as who he’s fighting, which is just not what happens.

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Part 2: Who’s Series is This?

Confusion surrounding the protagonist is only half of it. Almost from the word “go”, Constantine seems more concerned with covering other DC series. Like, what? Ten issues into Constantine and we’ve already seen a Trinity War crossover with the once monikered Captain Marvel (who I still refuse to call “Shazam”), two Forever Evil issues, not to mention the issues more focused on the villains Mister E and Sargon.

However, I have, and will continue to defended the Trinity War crossover. Though it disrupted the series, it delivered events that contributed to the series proper with semi-lasting events; at least, events that affected the non-crossover issues of Constantine.

But, I’m sure I’m not the only one to have said this: If I wanted stories about Justice League Dark, I’d read Justice League Dark. And I did. And I do. JLD is a pretty great series. But I read Constantine for Constantine. Few situations excluded, the moment the title character’s story gets sidelined for three or more issues is the moment something something is wrong. Very wrong.

Part 3: Who’s Fault is This?

While my fanboy ire is up and I’m looking for people to blame, the still rational part of my mind knows I probably can’t blame the writers and artists of the series.  Writers Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes have done, and currently do, great work. When Constantine is given the time of day, his dialogue is excellent and not only reminiscent of  his old self, but takes the character in new directions based on a story that is slowly unfolding.  Likewise the artists on the series, Guedes, Neves, ACO, and most recently Beni Lobel in Constantine #10, have done an overall great job bringing the world of Constantine to life.

What I know is this: Hellblazer was originally published by Vertigo Comics, and while still under the umbrella of DC, the series remained separate from the world of DC supers for quite some time.  Constantine’s world was one of magic and not one that superheroes played any role in. And for a time, it was good.

Everything changed when Constantine had to pay tribute to the rest of the DC universe.  I know I’m not the first to make this assertion, but I feel this has never been more apparent than in these first ten months of the Constantine series.  I can only guess, but it feels like DC is forcing these ties between the series as I can’t believe that either of the series’ writers would willing choose to sidetrack the series this much in it’s infancy.

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But, What Does it Mean?

This issue was for me, and for many others, the last straw. The final step down a road riddled with misfortune for a character I love. Sadly, I’ve decided to drop the series, waiting and hoping for a time when it becomes more than a dumping ground for the series wrecking and assumedly mandatory cross over issues with DC’s other titles.

As I write this however, I realize I’m not angry about how this series has turned out, so much as disappointed. The magic and mystery in the Vertigo/DC universe has always tugged at the heartstrings of my wide-eyed inner child, and knowing the talent of the writers and artists of the series as well as the great potential for the character, I’m looking forward to the day when Constantine returns to London as before, to begin his adventures anew.

About The Author

Long time fan of comic books, video games, and movies. Zander is often no where to be found because he's marathoning movies and tv shows or playing video games till all hours of the night as most disillusioned twenty-somethings are wont to do. Polar opposites are the game: action/comedies and dramas, FPS games and turn-based strategy, science fiction and historical fiction. Why pick one thing when there are so many good things?

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