REVIEW: Hellblazer: Pandemonium by Jamie Delano and Jock


John Constantine is 56 years old. We've known about him since the summer of 1985, but as a matter of record, he's pushing sixty. He began service as a supernatural consultant (occultant?) to Swamp-Thing under the pen of Alan Moore. He showed up with some handy mystical intel, then skulked off through the bayou again. He may have been an excuse for DC artists to draw Sting in an overcoat, but those early appearances opened the door for tenure in his own series. These days Hellblazer's not just a staple of the Vertigo comics label, but of horror comics in general. Constantine's just the bad granddad you want to turn to when making the case for comics as big kids' reading. The book has surpassed the 250 issue mark, and while Sting is off plucking a lute somewhere, John Constantine is still chainsmoking Silk Cuts and stomping lesser banshees and poltergeists. Fact of the matter, twenty-five years later and there's still some bad, bad juju in the world and one old soul who's apathetic enough to bother with it. It's simple. Since he's yet to aspirate in his sleep, John's still on the clock. 

To celebrate, Vertigo presents a new graphic novel by original Hellblazer writer Jamie Delano called Hellblazer: Pandemonium. Delano's homecoming will be the draw for many. But for plenty of others, the real cherry is Jock, who provides all of the art, wall to wall. If you've ever stuck your face inside an issue of The Losers or Green Arrow: Year One, you're hauling ass to the shop right now. You're dialing them in advance to hold a copy. You're crashing into that telephone line, you selfish oaf. There are other, innocent people on the road and you could just as easily have plowed into a school bus. You're…abandoning the scene of the accident and hobbling the rest of the way to the shop. Because if you're a Jock fan, you know this isn't a regular attraction. Sure, he's got covers on the racks month in and month out. But he's not always supplying the guts. If you've only ever seen those Scalped pinups, then may I invite you to partake in some, shall we say, of the magic.

John has been fighting his own war on terror for years. The tentacled terrors. The fangy, wingy, horny, tumorous terrors of Hell that have hitchhiked into our homes and hearths. But now there's this new War on Terror being fought by the West that has to do with oil and religion and some old books that could've done with a few more appendices. Nobody trusts each other and there are cameras on posts. Lots of cameras. Lots of posts. And more than a few people blowing themselves up. Not being blown up by somebody else. Not Yosemite Sam handing off a bowling ball candle and running away. People actually setting them off and holding on and never opening their eyes again. Demonic avatars and hellhounds are scary, but at least you know where that comes from and what it wants. Terror is something that happens even though it doesn't make a lick of sense. Constantine would probably be fighting that kind of terror if he could. But there's nothing to shake a wand at. He sticks to his demons. 

That's until a mysterious woman in a burqa catches his eye in the London underground and a bunch of genuine Spooks solicit his services for a mission in Iraq. Constantine is embedded. Allied forces have contained an individual responsible for inflicting massive destruction upon the local populace, and even locked away and sedated, the man continues to wreak strange, psychological havoc upon his captors. Would John like to have a chat with the guy?

While there's no shortage of magic and mayhem–even literal Pandemonium–the true beast of this story is, of course war itself. Every aspect of war as an entity. The obvious violence as well as the unseen horrors. The distrust. The anxiety and paranoia. Profit at its expense. Constantine's final showdown with the big, hairy nasties of Hell is a means to an end. The world is sick and John has to trudge through it all to get to the brass ring. He arrives back home safe and sound for a drink and a smoke, but there are still kids picking through refuse, learning only to hate and want. Nothing else. So, it's maybe not a magical adventure yarn. This is pretty grim. Not even tricking your way out of cancer grim. It's just down and out, wizard without a cause nihilism. And that's okay. Just have a Power Girl handy in case it gets too heavy.

I mentioned John's age earlier not just to remark on his legacy or the incredible milestone in comics it represents. I mention it because it's fairly unusual for a comic book character to reach his mid 50s and keep on going. He didn't get that way because of a spell or lab accident gone awry. He just continued to age. Like I also said, he started out as something of a Sting impression. Maybe a little Billy Idol in there. And while, we'll probably always look at Constantine as being wholly iconic of that 80s comics scene, that black nail-polish Vertigo thing, he's not just puffing along on nostalgia. Without reinventing or rebooting himself, he's lingered on. Not past his welcome, but longer than many might've guessed. I'm reminded of a blog I check out on occassion. The Impossible Cool. You look at people like David Bowie and, sure, Sting (even with the lute) and they have that effortless air of cool. That swagger. It's not the clothes or the haircut. You can buy those. But you're not gonna replicate it. Can't bottle lightning. Can't bottle magic. Well, anyways, that's what I think John Constantine is for comics. Age might give him even more relevance. He's seen a lot. And we've had the chance to see those things with him. So all of this old dog learning new magic tricks business is earned. Wouldn't it be cool if, say, Spider-Man could try that? It's not On Golden Pond. Just a bit of seasoning.  

We start worrying when it gets to Keith Richards territory. For now, it's all good.



Paul Montgomery is still somewhat disturbed that Constantine is older than Paul Montgomery's mom. Find him on Twitter or contact him at


  1. I’m sure this comes as no surprise to anyone, but I loved the sweet hell out of this book.

  2. Thinking I should pick this up.  Love Jock’s work.

  3. Delano and Jock. Picked this up today. Sooo looking forward to it. I’m an old school Constantine fan… I’ve got every issue, and I do have a real fondness for Delano’s version of John, as — aside from Moore’s enigmatic take — that’s the Constantine I really got to know first.

  4. I have  been following John since he first appeared in Swamp Thing and really, really excited about this.  Ennis and Dillon…. enjoyed their run much more than on Preacher.

    Josh, I remember you saying that you pick up all Hellblazer issues like Ron buys X-Men.  Do you remember that dismal period following Ennis?  (Can’t even remember the creative team, but they quickly undid alot of what Ennis established).

  5. Nice to have you back with a new article, Paul. I particularly enjoyed your tangent of the reader hobbling to the store. Good work.

    The last book about Constantine I read was DARK ENTRIES and I rather enjoyed it. This is a different creative team, I know, but I find stand alone tales like this enjoyable. I’m looking forward to reading this one.

  6. Unfortunatly my experience with Hellblazer is limited to the move Constantine, though I did enjoy it.  Is this book something I can just pick up or should I just start at the beginning, because I don’t mind and plan to eventually anyway.

  7. @AlanRob – You can definitely pick this one up and enjoy it right out of the box. No previous Hellblazer experience needed. 

  8. @AlanRob: I haven’t read a ton of HELLBLAZER, and I enjoyed this. It’s a self-contained story.

  9.  @UncleBob – Didn’t Paul Jenkins follow Ennis? Or am I missing someone? Was Eddie Campbell before or after Ennis. I cant remember, but he had a fairly forgettable run as well.

  10. @paul and coner thanks! ive been wanting something to jumpstart my interest. maybe this is it!

  11. This will be purchased next week with the next Starman Omni.  Very excited for it!

  12. errr…conor  I’m so so sorry 🙂

  13. @daccampo:  that’s it!  you have an awesome memory.  I can’t remember, but were you the member that explained to me how Lyta Hall and Carter Hall were connected?  If so, I am very impressed.

    If not, then still, good show.


  14. @daccampo:  It’ was you.  You da Man!

    So I guess many of my questions will be directed towards you, even if you hadn’t started the thread.

    I feel we are likely the same age group, but do to circumstances that were my control there are gaps in my memory, so hopefully you can fill in some of the holes.

     It’s a shame that while there are a crapload of trades, there are a few gaps, a few of Ennis’ arc never collected.  There was a shorth done on Jack the Ripper (inhabiting Prince Charles ?), and also a short about John investigating missing cadavers (one of them a relative of Chas) that were being used for arms testing.

    And to attempt completeness, Neil Gaimen also wrote a 2 issue story.


    Unfortunatley, I can’t see DC ever collecting all the issues starting from #1.  (there will never be a deluxe edition) Too bad. 

    I would be happy to get it in the Essentials format (if that is the format I am talking about): big thick black and white books at a very reasonable price.

    one can only wish.

  15. @dacampo:  just wondering, what did you consider the highpoints of Hellblazer title:

    1. Ennis, +/- Dillon  ****** (even his return to the series, "son of man"

    2. Jason Aaron (although only 2 issues)

    3.Andy Diggle

    4. Jamie Delano

    5. Brian Azarello (mainly and only for the first arc (in prison)

    6. Warren Ellis

    7. Mike Carey

    8. and the rest (Jenkins, Mina)

    the jury is still out on Milligan


    ***note:  I wasn’t too engaged with Azarello’s and Carey’s runs because each run seemed like the overall framing plots were long and tedious.  That being said, Azarello’s first story with John in the pen was classic Constantine.

    But I can’t deny the appeal of the acclaim of most of the above.

    I can see and hope this book will neve be cancelled.


    Am I leaving anyone out?


  16. @Conor Yeah, but there’s quite a few references to Delano’s original run.  It’s a great story though and I recommend it to anyone wanting to get a grasp of what Hellblazer is all about.

  17. So yeah… when I read that Jock was doing the interiors I actually jumped out and was about to run to the store, until I realized the store was way too far away. So I waited until today to get it. Haven’t read it yet…

  18. First of all, fantastic book.  Loved it.  And it serves as a great story for someone who has never read HB before. 

    @Unclebob – That storyline with Jack the Ripper is collected in the Bloodlines trade, I think. 

    The unfortunate thing about the stuff after Ennis (Jenkins, Campbell) not being collected is that (I am pretty sure anyways) a lot of it was illustrated by Sean Phillips.  It should be reprinted for that reason alone!  I am considering trying to track down the singles and getting them bound someday. 

  19. @sunnyvale I disagree.  Jenkins run was exceptional and one of my favorites of the series.  So to say the trades should be published because of Sean Phillips alone is really taking away from what Jenkins accomplished.

  20. @Vada – I have nothing against Jenkin’s writing and story, sorry if I came off that way!  I want it collected regardless of the art, but the fact that it’s Phillips should give DC/Vertigo more incentive to get it out there.

  21. I wonder if DC will go back a la Swamp Thing and give the Constantine run proper TPD or HC treatment that includes all the issues…

  22. @vadamowens: There may be references but you don’t NEED to know them to enjoy the story. I had no idea there were references and I enjoyed.

  23. As a huge Constintine fan, this is definitely on my list.  Nice to see it getting the high marks.


    Ever since that issue on Detective comics that jock drew I’m getting anything he works on. It’s a problem.

  25. @rjspring – I highly doubt it.  Those Swamp Thing HCs were perfectly timed around the Watchmen flick, giving people a chance to find more Alan Moore, and none of the creators on Hellblazer have his level of notoriety, except maybe Ennis.  I would probably purchase an Absolute Dangerous Habits, if one were released.

  26. @UncleBob — as I recall, Gaiman wrote a one-issue story, drawn by Dave McKean. I want to say it was issue #27. It was a ghost story. Awesome. Also, around that time, Grant Morrison wrote a two-part story, which I think was illustrated by David Lloyd. I believe at least the Morrison issue is reprinted in one of the Hellblazer collections (a "best of" edition).

    I’ve never actually ranked the Hellblazer writers before. It’s odd to me because so many are so different. I really liked Delano’s run because it was the first I read, even though it did get a bit wonky at times. I do remember loving lots of Ennis’ run — even though I think he perfected his voice on Preacher. Ellis did some great stories. Mike Carey as well. Andy Diggle. Azzarello was fantastic and at times frustrating.

    My least favorites were Denise Mina, Eddie Campbell, and I guess Jenkins, although I didn’t hate his run. It had a lot of good bits in it, including Sean Phillips artwork.

    I’d love to see an Essential or Omnibus series collecting HB from start to finish. That’s definitely one frustrating aspect of the series — and for me it’d be double-dipping! 

    That said, the cool thing about the Constantine stories is that the continuity isn’t all that important. Yes, if you’re careful, you can see that Carey and Diggle both built on stuff that came before. But it’s done in a way where it’s generally not necessary to know the original stories. So, you really could pick up most collected editions and read them in any order and it wouldn’t affect you too much.

  27. Bizarrely, I just found this:

    Its’ actually a collection released to coincide with the Constantine film, but it looks as thought it’s the only place that has reprinted the Neil Gaiman issue I mentioned above. Strange, but I get it — Gaiman has cross-over appeal, and it’s a stand-alone story that does serve as a nice Constantine tale.

  28. I only started reading Hellblazer with Diggle’s run, and that’s my favorite take so far. That said, I still have a whole lot to read. 

  29. And that’s a great example, Paul, as Diggle’s run calls back to stuff (Ravenscar) all the way back in Delano’s run, I believe. And yet, it’s told in such a way that you never really felt like you HAD to read 200+ issues to understand where he was at that point.

  30. So very bloody good, and so very bloody gorgeous.  Delano can be hit and miss, but it seems that whenever he comes back to John it’s like coming home.  Marrying this character and the mess that is the Iraq war is the perfect inspiration for him, that kind of real world cluster**** seems to get his creative juices flowing.  To begin with I thought it might seem a little contrived to bring John to Iraq but of course war is the perfect place to find demons.  Especially loved that early page of Docklands as portrayed by Jock, and the changing colour tones were excellent. 

    Most of all though, the ending was perfect.  Suddenly, back on home soil, the old anger is back, both in Delano and Constantine himself.  There was hell to pay and it was a joy to behold.

    (Also, since everyone’s weighing in, I’m a biiiiggg fan of the Carey run.  It’s not got much of the old social commentary but it’s great for occult mystery.)

  31. Diggle’s run is my second favourite, behind Ennis.  I quite liked the entirety of the Carey and Azzarello run; nice long-term stories.  I’m sure they weren’t great in single-issue format, but all the trades make for a great read.

  32. @dacampo:  it was called "hold Me"

  33. @dacampo: it had an awesome artist…. B. Siekowitch (I know it’s terrible spelling).

    For the same reason the iFanboys liked Seige #2 so much (Ron saying some pages of the art is burned in his mind)  I really liked Ennis/Dillon’s run.  There are so many shocking moments.

    My favorite was the last page of one of the issues where John was holding an empty box (that use to have his ace in the hole, Gabriel’s heart) with the word balloon : "Oh Shit."  Me and my friend reference that moment to this day, whenever the shit hits the fan.

    ALSO, the Premise of Preacher was based on an arc in the middle of Ennis’ run.

  34. I know I’m going on and on (never wrote these many comments) but the reason I couldn’t really get into Azarrello and Careys tenure was that each issue did rely on extended continuity of respective authors.

    Hellblazer and Sandman (and late discovery of Swamp Thing) are really what brought me back to comics in the 90’s.

  35. sorry… it was McKean.

  36. @Conor I’m a completionist to a fault.  So when I hear or read a reference that is probably in earlier material, I want to know what it is.  I guess that was my only point.