In Simon Oliver and Moritat’s “The Hellblazer” #1, John Constantine goes back to the basics with a healthy dose of supernatural workings, some familiar faces and a classic Constantine staple: his telltale guilt. In that, “The Hellblazer” #1 is a far cry from the series’ lackluster “Rebirth” issue; it’s a strong introduction that sets the story in motion with the nearly foiled assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. It feels like a careful return to the Vertigo formula, a dose of darkness amid hazy colors and brilliant storytelling from the hands of Oliver and Moritat.
The conversations between would-be assassins Marid and Adnan are the most curious development by far. Using the two assassins as a vehicle, Oliver hints at their otherworldly origins and cleverly contrasts the moral themes of inaction vs. intervention. If he didn’t act, Constantine wouldn’t be weighted down by the consequences of his actions — but he does, and where does that leave our hero? This ambiguity is where the script really shines. Oliver clearly takes great care with this interpretation of Constantine, and each trait is nailed down with finesse.
Oliver’s dialogue is just as adept at providing personality for Swamp Thing, switching between his tenderness for Abby and his snarkiness towards Constantine, while Sal Cipriano’s letters add a lightness to the banter. As to the request at hand, Abby — the love of Swamp Thing’s life — has gone missing without a trace in sight and all attempts to locate her have proven fruitless. Begrudgingly, the two partner up and head out to a rural part of England to meet Mercury.
Under the careful coloring of Andre Szymanowicz and Moritat, the aforementioned countryside is soft and coppery. Mercury’s anger with Constantine is emphasized by thicker lines and emotive faces, yet feels nostalgic of the Vertigo run all the while. Moritat knows when to add a twist of magic to his art — especially with the arrival of Swamp Thing — in order to complement Oliver’s script. Swamp Thing’s manifestation in Chas’ greenhouse is so thoroughly enchanting, you can almost see the vines spiraling toward you.
“The Hellblazer” #1 lays light groundwork for the series while focusing on the flawed and shaken magician. In doing so, Simon Oliver and Moritat deliver a solid story and a strong addition to the Constantine legacy.