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'John Constantine, Hellblazer: Dead in America' #6 review
DC

Comic Books

‘John Constantine, Hellblazer: Dead in America’ #6 review

Dead in America #6 is a stunning examination of everyone’s favorite storytelling medium: comic books.

On his pilgrimage across America to find Morpheus’s missing sand, Constantine has encountered everything from the tales of the Navajo, or Diné, to the chupacabra and other cryptids. This week’s John Constantine, Hellblazer: Dead in America #6 sets sights on another staple of American storytelling: comic books. Although comics are not exclusive to America, these modern myths have permeated every facet of our pop culture thanks in part to the success of their big-screen adaptations. As a result, a series whose central theme revolves around American stories would be remiss if it didn’t take the opportunity to break the fourth wall to address the medium in which its own tale is delivered.

“This country ain’t geography. It’s a quilt made of stories.”

John Constantine, Hellblazer: Dead in America #6

DC Comics

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Hot on the scent of their quarry, Swamp Thing reaches out to Constantine from the Green across the shadowed edge of the Dreaming. From its murky depths, he informs our perished protagonist that he must travel, “West, John… to the city of angels… where the sun falls into the sea.” Unfortunately, Swamp Thing cannot help further as he has been detained by the trio of spirits troubling this nation. Dream, observing their conversation, informs John that an emissary will find them, but most importantly to “let his emptiness guide you. He has sins to redeem. He knows the only legend that truly matters in this young nation.”

Without missing a beat, a stranger calls out, “You! Dead man!” from the red double-decker’s door. Claiming that the story is consuming our protagonist, the weathered individual ignores all protest as he barges onto the bus and into a seat. We would soon know this stranger as Iggy Ballat: the comic book writer behind the popular Sergeant Lex Talionis. (See also: “self-abusin’, homophobic, racist, parasite”.)

As with all the other stories explored in John Constantine, Hellblazer: Dead in America, Si Spurrier’s analysis of comic books is brilliantly written. Spurrier perfectly uses Hellblazer’s horror trappings to depict all the trials and tribulations accompanying creative writing. However, the sixth issue’s success is due to Spurrier’s mastery of “the real trick”: mixing the narrative with subtext.

“There’s always a sacrifice.”

John Constantine, Hellblazer: Dead in America #6

DC Comics

Upon the discovery that Iggy Ballat is a metamancer, Constantine says, “He’s a story junkie. Only he’s turned it all inside out. Poured his cravings into the tackiest sort of magic there is.” John’s disdain for this type of magic perfectly echoes how large swaths of society have viewed comics. Although blockbuster adaptations have started to change the rhetoric regarding comics, this type of storytelling has largely been considered a lesser art form. With this issue, Spurrier’s work makes a strong argument to the contrary.

Spurrier uses Ballat’s metamancer magic to fully embrace the horror trappings of the best Hellblazer comics. By sacrificing parts of his body, Ballat can rewrite parts of the narrative as he sees fit. However, the power of this sequence lies not only in horror visuals but in what they represent. The fictional writer’s bloodletting serves as an excellent visual portrayal of the sacrifices comic book creators make for their stories. The entire creative team puts a part of themselves into their work. Spurrier’s script perfectly captures this reverence of this subtext while simultaneously embracing the horror and humor that makes a Constantine book work. Ballat’s mutilated body is a testament to the sacrifices that creators make to complete their stories.

In the end, Ballat must make the ultimate, if not unwilling, sacrifice for Constantine’s story to succeed. As The Kindly Ones bear down on our protagonists, the Hellblazer forces a gain of Dream’s sand down Ballat’s throat, drawing the triumvirate’s attention toward their next meal. Unfortunately, Constantine doesn’t make it out of the conflict unscathed as Justice blasts a hole through his stomach. Thankfully, the hitchhiker from the first issue (whose true identity I won’t spoil here) reveals himself as the true emissary in time to whisk  John further away from his enemies.

I would regret not mentioning that Si’s work on John Constantine, Hellblazer: Dead in America #6 also expertly discusses the pitfalls that comic creators can fall into. Constantine elaborates by saying, “Problem is, some sods just wanna focus on the way they see the world. Keep ‘emselves at the centre of the story.” John’s statement serves as a warning that singularly focusing on the way you see the world can be particularly dangerous as your point of view is not the only one. If we can only see the world from our perspective, then we lose the perspective of others and the ability to empathize. Spurrier’s statement commands the need for diversity of perspective in this art form.

“We took the wrong f*cking weirdo.”

John Constantine, Hellblazer: Dead in America #6

DC Comics

As strong as Si Spurrier’s script is, none of it would be as effective without Aaron Campbell’s artwork. Campbell’s artwork perfectly captures everything from the ethereal nature of the Dreaming to the horrifying visuals of Ballat’s metamancy. Aside from the excellently depicted dark and dungy visuals, the artist’s best work comes during the final battle with Ballat and the Kindly Ones. Campbell’s panel layout is excellent as it simultaneously captures the fourth wall breaking metamancer’s abilities and the horror vibes of the action. Particularly, I love the smug look on Constantine’s face as he uses the metamancer’s magic against him before shoving the sand down his throat.

Additionally, Jordie Bellaire’s colors breathe life into this tale of the perished protagonist. Jordie’s colors perfectly convey the atmosphere of each setting throughout the book. However, his work on the Dreaming remains one of my favorites throughout the series.

Brilliantly written and illustrated, John Constantine, Hellblazer: Dead in America #6 is a stunning examination of everyone’s favorite storytelling medium: comic books. Spurrier’s text explodes with horror and humor that only a Hellblazer comic can bring to the table. Spurrier uses the inherent horror of Hellblazer to perfectly convey the narrative’s subtext surrounding sacrifice. Additionally, Aaron Campbell’s panel work perfectly captures the fourth-wall-breaking abilities of the metamancer and the horror vibes of the story’s conflict. Moreover, Jordie Bellaire’s colors bring the story of our perished protagonist to life.

'John Constantine, Hellblazer: Dead in America' #6 review
‘John Constantine, Hellblazer: Dead in America’ #6 review
John Constantine, Hellblazer: Dead in America #6
Brilliantly written and illustrated, John Constantine, Hellblazer: Dead in America #6 is a stunning examination of everyone’s favorite storytelling medium: comic books. Spurrier’s text explodes with horror and humor that only a Hellblazer comic can bring to the table. Spurrier uses the inherent horror of Hellblazer to perfectly convey the subtext surrounding sacrifice. Additionally, Aaron Campbell’s panel work perfectly captures the fourth-wall-breaking abilities of the metamancer and the horror vibes of the story's conflict. Moreover, Jordie Bellaire’s colors bring the story of our perished protagonist to life.
Reader Rating1 Votes
8.8
Spurrier’s text explodes with horror and humor.
Si Spurrier uses the inherent horror of Hellblazer to perfectly convey the narrative's subtext surrounding sacrifice
The discussion of some of pitfalls creators can fall into is excellently delivered through dialogue.
Campbell’s panel work perfectly captures the fourth-wall-breaking abilities of the metamancer and the horror vibes of the story's conflict.
Jordie's colors perfectly convey the atmosphere of each setting throughout the book. However, his work on the Dreaming remains one of my favorites throughout the series.
I have to wait a whole month to read the next issue!
10
Fantastic
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