Life is tough when you’re being tempted by both heaven and hell, and it is even tougher for John Constantine who is constantly at war with both sides.
Living in murky England in the 1980s was no walk in the park, Margaret Thatcher was in power, the miners were striking, we were at war over the Falkland Islands and unemployment was at an all time high. Throw in being a conjurer, getting haunted by the spirits of your friends who have perished – partly due to you – and battling demons on a daily basis and you have the life of John Constantine. A black-magic vigilante who takes it upon himself to send evil back to where it came from, the fiery pits of hell; a place he has visited on numerous occasions.
Hellblazer: Original Sins collects together the first nine issues of the John Constantine comic book series, and also issues 76-77 of the Swamp Thing tie in story. Constantine has been playing around with black magic for almost 20 years, and although he is still very powerful, he is a man at the end of his tether. Back when he first started it was exciting and helped him in his sexual endeavours. But now his goal of protecting people, whilst claiming a little something for himself on the side, has lost all meaning. Most of his friends are dead, something they do a great deal of reminding him that he was partially to blame, and he is looking at the worse half of thirty. Hellblazer: Original Sins takes you on a journey as Constantine attempts to get back on track and fulfil what he first set out to do, and the introduction of the character ‘Zed’ is what gives him that passion again. Throughout the nine comic books you are greeted to several different stories which depict Constantine attempting to write the wrong, although in parts his heroism is questionable. From fighting the Hunger Spirit that is terrorizing London to watching a Vietnam war veteran carry out his violent missions once again in a small town in present day. However there is an underlying story which flows throughout all nine issues, a plan that could alter heaven and hell, a plan only Constantine can prevent.
A lot of people have delved into the realm of black-magic, and have in turn been sucked in by its powers, never to return from the grim world of darkness. Constantine has found a balance in which he has dipped is hands into this dark world just enough to understand its powers – or at least enough to get some sex out of it – but not too much to let it take him over. However, although he may not know it, he has been lured in and hell has its grip over him due to the lifestyle he has chosen. Many friends have been lost along the way, and although every person he saves may get him that little bit closer to heaven, one day hell will rise up to claim its prize.
Constantine is quite an arrogant grubby b*****d, but you can’t help but love him. Be it his bright blue suit, his tough guy don’t-give-a-crap persona or pure golden locks there is just something about this character that invites us in, perhaps it is the same thing that attracts most of his love interests; his ability to fend off evil. It is never really revealed if the tough-guy attitude is just something which Constantine puts on for the public, but one thing is definite, he certainly can love and care for family and friends, as we discover in Hellblazer: Original Sins.
Although on the surface he is a simple man – he likes to eat curry for tea, lives in a run down flat and he drinks and smokes plenty. He is however feared by humans and demons alike, for humans it is his mysticism, but for demons it is mainly down to his cunning and trickery, as he tends to play most of them for fools to ensure he gets what he wants. Saying that, it is this very same witty attitude that has got him to be so liked by most, including demons. As he would be a vital asset to their ranks if he joins them and not to mention, a load off their minds.
What really captured my attention, other than Jamie Delano and Rick Veitch’s compelling stories, was the artwork and images of Hellblazer: Original Sins. John Ridgway, Alfredo Alcala and Tom Mandrake’s creativity and colour palette is just magnificent, although the drawings are simple at times, the rough pictures tie-in with the gritty setting of a decaying England, and then they suddenly jump straight to detailed graphics bursting with colour; which are almost futuristic in their style. The switching of the panel direction for most pages is also a nice little treat, as it takes you away from the typical left to right page structure which is seen in most comic books.
For any fans of the 2005 film Constantine that starred Keanu Reeves, who are looking for the motion picture in comic form, you aren’t going to find it here. Although the film was based on DeLano and Veitch’s work, all that is really the same in the film is that the main character is called John Constantine, there is a Papa Midnite character in it and there are demons. I actually enjoyed the film, however it would have been made better if they hadn’t based it on Constantine. They could have just used the same plot that the film has, created a different main character and they would have had a brand new film.
Hellblazer: Original Sins is a gold mine for dark fantasy and horror, with a dash of comedy thrown in as well. You are literally left yearning for more as the last page is flipped, because the story is not concluded and continues on in the next graphic novel.
Publication: VERTIGO COMICS