The Devil wants his wings back, and John Constantine is the only one who can make that happen. But what does this have to do with a string of occult murders?
Although the story in Hellblazer: Rise and Fall deals with some heavy moments and intense violence, it’s also very funny. The bulk of the issue plays out like a buddy cop movie co-starring the Devil himself. Lucifer and John bicker about each other’s tactics, bust each other’s chops, and turn up for one another in a pinch. The dialogue in this issue is a real riot, with Tom Taylor delivering even more of John’s acidic wit.
However, when the spooky stuff happens, it’s brilliantly realized by Derek Robertson and Diego Rodriguez. Every time the possessed George rears his head, there’s something about him that feels extra unsettling. His features are slightly exaggerated, with a smile that’s almost too wide or pupils that are just a bit too large. George’s pale skin also has some grayish-green tones that make him appear even more sickly and unearthly. Another highlight of Rodriquez’s coloring in this issue occurs during the standoff in the bank. There’s a clear delineation between light and dark magic that I quite enjoyed. There are fantastic little touches throughout the issue, like the visual of John casually lighting his cigarette off of holy fire.
The opening sequence, in which Lucifer narrates the origin of the demon Despondeo, has a kind of Heavy Metal-esque quality to it. It’s a very over-the-top and gnarly sequence, but with clear black humor built in. This take on the Devil also pretty much puts this issue squarely out of current Black Label Hellblazer continuity, which allows Taylor to run wild with the mythology.
This issue manages to forward the plot in some interesting directions, but where this issue truly excels is in the character moments. There’s a fantastic sequence in which John figures out how to use someone’s greatest desires to get what he wants, and it leads to a pretty fantastic one-panel punchline involving Lucifer. John understands the way the world works, even if he doesn’t necessarily want to be a part of it. There’s also an implication that John would have been okay with just abandoning this case, finding a way to weasel on back home and away from danger. John’s sense of duty is complicated, to the point where he may be the only person who understands it.
Aside from John, the supporting cast is still a compelling bunch. Gary has become even more of a sad sack in death, but he’s still determined and willing to do the right thing. Aisha adds layer after layer of toughness onto herself to make it easier to get her job done, but even she needs to have a break every now and then. Even the Devil is shown to have a sense of humor, albeit one that’s based on making people feel extremely uncomfortable in their own skin.
The only character that feels a little all over the place (although that might be the point) is Lucifer himself. His characterization seems a bit hard to pin down. Sometimes he’s a bit of a fun-loving jerk, sarcastic but sensible. Other times he’s a violent loose cannon who cannot be reasoned with. Still, his interactions with John throughout the issue are both exciting and occasionally hilarious.
The last few pages of Rise and Fall #2 have me anxious to see what comes next. Again, if you haven’t been reading this series, it’s a solid continuity-lite Constantine story. I can’t wait to see how Tom Taylor and company stick the landing.
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