In the world of
9 of 10
the greatest character in comics, John Constantine finally has his edge back. He
lost some of his smug-ness, and some other qualities that made him the bastard
that we knew and feared at the end of Ennis’ ‘Rake at the Gates of Hell’
storyline. There were moments of brilliance scattered throughout-out the post
Ennis/Dillon run with Jenkins and Ellis contributing some good stories during
their tenures on the book. Often, though the balance shifted to the mundane or
supernatural and a ‘lets see how we can shock the readers’ next rather than
concentrate on Constantine himself.
it seems that Hellblazer and John
Constantine are in the hands of someone who knows how to fuck with the readers
in just the right way, and that someone is Brian Azzarello. Azzarello, writer of
the wonderfully original 100 Bullets
(also by DC/Vertigo), has taken Constantine and twisted him inside out and put
him back where he belongs. In this case, it was prison.
‘Hard Time’ is the first story arc
under Brian Azzarello’s hand. The five part story begins with John Constantine
in a maximum security prison. How did he get there? We don’t know yet, and we
don’t care. Constantine has faced off against vampires, evil spirits and the
devil himself, but never has his confrontations seemed more horrifying than when
he is forced to deal with hardened criminals, ghosts from his past and corrupt
back to classic Constantine with this arc: earnest cockiness to start, followed
by a series of horrible setbacks and ending with a surprising yet gratifying
triumph by our anti-hero. ‘Hard Time’ lets us see some of the most
disturbing setbacks and victories that Constantine has been through in quite
some time, including the very real horror of possible nicotine withdraw, and
it’s a welcome relief.
comics now stay with you in the forefront, or even the back of your mind after
you’re done reading them. Once upon a time Hellblazer
had that effect, and I’m happy to see that it’s having the same effect now.
you’re familiar with John Constantine, you have a pretty good idea how this
storyline will end. To his credit, Azzarello has been nothing short of brilliant
in his inventive cruelty perpetrated against the characters leading up the
climactic finale in Hellblazer #150.
From the haunting covers by Tim Bradstreet, to the incredible writer/artist team
of Brian Azzarello and Richard Corben, ‘Hard Time’ is an instant classic.
With it’s new writer in place and fitting into the book like a glove, it seems
that Hellblazer stands ready to be the anchor Vertigo book once again.
Available Monthly from DC/Vertigo
Copyright©2000 Andrew Goletz