Jul. 27th, 2013

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TLDR version: Hellblazer was great and I'll miss it. And this new Constantine comic? I'll give it a longer chance but it's not the comic I'm looking for.

I don't think I encountered John Constantine when he first appeared in Swamp Thing in 1985, I think I was a year or two late. But when he got his own comic, Hellblazer, in 1988, I was ready. I bought all 300 issues right up to the comic's recent end, plus a bunch of spinoff miniseries and specials.

In the last ten of those 25 years, I changed my comic reading habits, due to significant life changes -- being married, mainly. Whereas it used to make sense to go to the comic shop every week and either sit at Irene's Pub reading them afterwards or just going home to my apartment and plowing through all the stuff I bought, that doesn't always work so well when there's someone else around and you don't get to the store every week any more. (Why do the characters on Big Bang Theory spend new comic book day looking through the back issue bins instead of picking up new issues? Anyway.)

Now, I go once or twice a month. And I let comics pile up until I have a good run of issues of a particular title to plow through, so I don't have to worry about forgetting what's going on, I sometimes let some titles pile up a little too long, though. So today I read issues 251 through 300 of Hellblazer and 1-4 of Constantine, the new series that plops John Constantine solidly back in the DC universe.

And damn, those 50 issues were good. There have been some runs of issues by certain writers who didn't seem to get it, but Peter Milligan did a fine job. Those 50 issues flow very nicely; though there are individual storylines, there are a few big arcs that work really well. Reminded me of those glory days when Garth Ennis was writing the title, before he got (imho) tiresome with that Preacher comic that to me felt like his 49th attempt at being oh so shockingly blasphemous. I've got no use for Christianity either, but I'm not obsessed with it. I digress again.

Milligan stays true to Constantine and his world and his recurring characters; he does the classic stuff while also going where the comic had never gone before by letting Constantine actually marry a woman he loved. And then the comic ends in a way that surprised me, given that I knew the character was coming back in that other series.

But reading the first few issues of that other series, well, the ending made sense, because this is not the same John Constantine, he does not have the same life history or friends or home or dialogue. Jeff Lemire may be a longtime fan of the character, and he may think he's being true to him, and he may be a popular and critically acclaimed writer, but compared to the 50 Hellblazers I read, the four Constantines were generic piffle.


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