(The title of this review should be the title of my autobiography.) Hellblazer #6 is the perfect snapshot of John Constantine as magician and human being and opens with a perfect slice of fried horror comedy gold from writers James Tynion and Ming Doyle and artist Riley Rossmo. Both horror and comedy depend on surprise to be effective, and it is hard to simulate a jump scare on a medium where one lingers on the page, but there is always the page turn reveal. And Tynion, Doyle, and Rossmo use this effectively to go from showing a kid feared for his life from a giant, bloated monster to just a former archduke of Hell, who’s afraid of prankster demon. Even Ivan Plascencia’s color palette shifts from a foreboding purple to a more mundane with a touch of shadow.
This horrifically, comic opener sets this stage for Hellblazer #6, which is centered around John Constantine doing as many exorcisms or various other magical gigs as possible so he doesn’t have to sit alone in the dark with his thoughts and his guilt. (Also, so he can pay his rent without resorting to illicit magic or con artistry.) Towards the end of the comic, Bartleby, who isn’t a scrivener, but a centuries old gargoyle, wisely understands this about Constantine and cuts through his bullshit about being tired for work to talk to him about the potent and toxic combination of his inner demons and the demons of New York City. Rossmo and Plascencia drive Bartleby’s words home in a double page spread flanked by the Statue of Liberty with blood red, ghostly people walking between the buildings of NYC as Constantine ends up running into Oliver, the lumbersexual bartender that he’s been flirting with since Hellblazer #1. There is real potential that he will end up being the next ghost that trails Constantine around, and Rossmo foreshadows this on the final page with Constantine welcoming him into the shadows, monsters, and teeth of his flat.
Tynion and Doyle use the metaphor of “case of the week” type activities, like exorcising an Iliad spouting demon, stopping hooded monsters from eating dogs in Greenwich village, or being mistaken for animal control, to show Constantine dodging his real problems. He throws himself into this “work” to confront the fact that he has caused emotional, physical, and spiritual (through the loss of their souls) damage to so many men and women, especially the ones he’s been connected to romantically. Towards the beginning of the comic, Rossmo shows Constantine naked sitting on a chair in his ratty apartment making snarky cracks about TV shows, but watching the latest season of a critically acclaimed drama won’t let him forget his problems. He looks lonely and just decides to work on a bunch of cases sent to his email inbox via his the non-copyrighted equivalent of Craiglist. This keeps him active with his mind off his problems.
Most of the cases fall in the category of horror comedy, and Tynion, Doyle, and Rossmo have a jolly old time making the monsters under your bed look a little less scary in Hellblazer #6 like when Constantine exorcises a creepy looking kid with a mother, who is ashen pale compared to the cuddly, brown demon, who looks like a character from Fraggle Rock and ends up taking a shot of whiskey with Constantine. The humor ranges from broad (A demon singing Queen.) to dark (Constantine reminds a couple demon drug dealers than humans, especially art students in their twenties, are lightweights.), and this montage is an exercise for Tynion, Doyle, Rossmo, and Plascencia’s creativity as they put Constantine in weirder and weirder situations before culminating with the earlier mentioned talk with Bartleby. The comedy found in these jobs continues to show that John Constantine can usually find the funny in dangerous situations with his sarcastic witticisms or cutting inner monologue. He also continues to be self-aware of the negative effects his lifestyle as a wayward mage has on those he grows close to, but unrepentant to the end, continues to draw them into his life.
Hellblazer #6 is truly the essence of a John Constantine story. There is wit, twisted monsters courtesy of artist Riley Rossmo, and huge helping of self-loathing and loneliness projected on the people around him with a wink, wisecrack, and flip of a lighter. Writers James Tynion and Ming Doyle also portray Constantine as boldly bisexual (He talks about “shagging” a guy.) without making the whole comic about his sexuality. He is a toxic person, who happens to be attracted to both men and women, and both genders end up ruined by his dabbling in forces too powerful and wild for him.
Hellblazer #6 is a wonderful introduction to John Constantine as a character establishing him as a working class mage, who cares more about occupying his time, paying his rent, and seducing the sexy, bearded bartender at his favorite takeaway joint that being some kind of occult themed superhero. It’s very funny and very dark and the best issue of the new Hellblazer so far.