Constantine is called in to deal with one of his elderly doppelgänger’s messes. What he finds is a royal horrorshow.
Yet again, this is an issue that feels like it could fit right in with the original Vertigo run of Hellblazer. It manages to tell an intriguing story that also functions nicely as social commentary. John’s never been a fan of high society, but this issue invites the reader to see just how screwed up things can get when the people in power decide they still aren’t powerful enough.
Matías Bergara renders some truly disturbing visuals in this issue. The creative team’s decision to leave much of the beast’s true form obscured by shadow is a brilliant one — it gives the reader a greater sense of dread when we see the other characters reacting with nausea and horror to this thing that we can almost just make out on the page. What we do see is sickening and sad, just as John’s evil counterpart intended.
When the gory moments kick in, they hit like a ton of bricks. In particular, there’s a panel featuring one character getting stomped that looks so wrong that I had to do a double-take. It’s one of many striking bits of body horror in this issue, but it’s definitely one that stuck with me after reading the issue.
Otherwise, much of this issue is about the horrors committed behind closed doors. The kind of evil that is not only allowed, but encouraged by those in power. John’s disdain for the people he’s dealing with is palpable in every line of dialogue. Even when he’s joking, it seems that it’s because he doesn’t know how else to keep his sanity.
If there’s one aspect of this issue that doesn’t entirely work at all times, it’s the first person P.O.V. given to the character to whom John is telling this story. There are a few moments when the shift in perspective makes the events in the bar slightly harder to follow. It’s also somewhat awkward to use this device when the P.O.V. character doesn’t vocally interact with John.
The script gets around this mostly by having John act as a narrator, but when he’s answering direct questions, there are a few awkwardly phrased sentence in which John basically rephrases what he’s apparently just been asked. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work in a few instances, particularly when there hasn’t been an obvious passage of time between panels. It just ends up looking like John is talking to himself. Ultimately, the idea of having John relaying this story to a character who acts as the audience’s viewpoint is an interesting one; it just feels off in some spots.
Even so, this is yet another classic Hellblazer story from Simon Spurrier and company. It’s dark and twisted, yet manages to be humorous in the way that only some of the most nihilistic and bitter John Constantine stories can.