Old Man Constantine finally shows his hand, and the soul of England may be at stake.
Well, here it is, folks: the final issue of this volume of Hellblazer. This series sadly comes to a premature close, but I can tell you right up top that this creative team made sure the series went down swinging. Despite the size of the creature seen at the close of the last issue and the opening of this one, the stakes of the story become more and more personal and grounded as the story goes along, which fits this series perfectly.
Since the launch of this series, Si Spurrier has written John Constantine as a man living on borrowed time, a man just slightly out of step with reality, who wants to delay a horrible future that he’s not even sure still exists. This comes through in this issue, with John constantly swearing up a storm and finding just one more trick up his filthy trenchcoated sleeve. Several members of the supporting cast get moments to shine as well, although some of their arcs feel like they’re wrapped up much more quickly than intended (more on that in a moment).
Campbell gets to let loose with some of the creepiest imagery of the series. From giants falling through the earth to demons tearing themselves from people’s mouths, there are some truly striking illustrations throughout. And like last issue, Campbell employs an interesting scratched-up technique to the flashback sequences, as well as the visuals seen when John is scrying. It’s almost like the reader has to sort through the gore and sinew in order to see what John sees.
Jordie Bellaire’s colors once again bring a different kind of vibrance to each form of magic on display. Some spells have a sickly green or pale yellow to them, while others are dark and red as blood. And everything is drenched in shadow, particularly the flat where John makes his last stand against his older self. Meanwhile, Aditya Bidikar’s lettering is tastefully deployed at different levels of intensity. The reader can track John’s growing desperation through the lettering alone.
Speaking of the final confrontation, it’s just as brimming with ideas as the rest of this series has been. The showdown between the two Constantines ties together so many of the other cases we’ve seen John tackle over the course of this run, and plays with every theme that has been explored up to this point. At every turn, this volume of Hellblazer has been a book about guilt. This whole story kicked off with John Constantine allowing his best mate to die, just so he could buy a few precious extra seconds. The only time this man ends up doing the right thing is when he knows how much it would haunt him not to. Even when he’s saving someone, it’s usually in service of clearing his own conscience or propping himself up, proving his own worth in a world that has outgrown him.
John Constantine is the ultimate bastard, and this issue shows how he is always destined to continue making the same mistakes and leaving others with the mess.
The only downside to this finale is one that isn’t entirely the fault of the creative team. Unfortunately, the cancellation of this series led to several plot threads being tied up quickly. As a result, there are parts of the story that feel like they don’t have adequate room to breathe. Parts of John’s final plan are hazy and resolved pretty quickly, as are a few moments of exciting character development. Much of this issue feels like a tease for what Spurrier and co. had hoped to do with this series, had it gotten the long life that it clearly deserves. The story being told is still strong, and John is taken to places that longtime readers may not expect, but it does feel like the cancellation meant that the pace had to be kicked into high gear so we could get to that last, haunting image.
And lord, what a page it is.
John Constantine: Hellblazer was an absolutely brilliant series, and it gives me no pleasure to say goodbye to it. However, I feel that this creative team gave it a send-off worthy of its overarching themes and the eternal struggle the title character has with his demons.
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