Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 02.20.2013 – Hellblazer #300

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Avg Rating: 4.6
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 9.6%
 
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Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli & Stefano Landini
Cover by Simon Bisley

Size: 48 pages
Price: 4.99

I’m sure a lot of you thought this was a done deal. It just so happens that I have Pick of the Week on the same week that the last issue of Hellblazer hits the shelves. It also happens that Hellblazer is the one series I have been reading consistently for the last 13 years or so. I never dropped it. I never lost interest. I never wanted it to go away. The market didn’t feel the same way, unfortunately, and despite being objectively excellent for longer than almost any title out there, this is the end of the road for the original version of John Constantine. Obviously, this development is rife with symbolism for the company and the imprint whom he most represented, but let’s focus instead on this final issue of a legendary run of excellent comic books.

This Pick of the Week wasn’t a sure thing, even after I read it. Luckily, rather than my usual week where I burn through a bunch of comics and then write this review right away, I spaced out my reading, and had time to think. And I had to think about it. The ending wasn’t exactly the clearest thing I’ve ever read, but like the series finale of The Sopranos, the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. The issue itself wasn’t really all that different from a regular issue. Everyone thinks John’s dead, and he’s clawing his way back. We’ve seen this before. I think I’ve seen it quite a bit, actually. Except this time, it really was going to be over. This is an unusual thing in most comics. This isn’t even part of a shared universe, and it’s a mature readers book about a character who isn’t really all that much of a good guy at the end of the day. Anything could happen. But instead, we saw John out, much as we lived with him previously. Granted, his average day is pretty strange. There was certainly a formula to writing Hellblazer, but I just never got tired of it. I like that Peter Milligan just went with it, choosing the route of acceptance, both as the creator and in the mind of Constantine. For just a moment, we all thought, maybe we’ll get out of it, but like the series, John and the audience both knew it wasn’t to be, and the story reflected that. The sadness of the issue isn’t for John. He’s had his ride. He knows it. Instead, Epiphany, John’s recent-ish bride stands in for us. She’s sad, sure. She’s never known anyone like John, and she never will again. But she’ll love again. She’s young, and there is a lot of life to be lived. That’s us, or it’s me, at any rate. John is, after all, and Englishman, and when the other bastards win, you take it on the chin, and go out with dignity.

The team of Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini have been on this book for so long that it’s just what Hellblazer looks like. I’m having a hard time remembering when it wasn’t this way. I know there were other artists, but this is just the way it is, and it’s hard to comment, other than to say, they did what they always do, which is great. The thing that I do notice though, and the thing I’m going to miss about Hellblazer is that this is a book where the artists can do their own art. It was never rounded off for mass consumption. If you’ve got an offbeat style, this is a book where you could shine. This same week, we saw Camuncoli’s art in a Spider-Man book, and it’s not the same thing. When I think back to all the artists who are favorites of mine, so many of them did stints on John Constantine. It was grimy, and ethereal, and violent, and sexy, and you could smell the old city of London, and the mixing of brimstone and tobacco smoke. Colorist Brian Buccallato came in with the assist, keeping things muted, with browns and blues, the only real color showing up on Epiphany, who represents the future, and life, the one character whose life John Constantine didn’t ruin. I like that an awful lot.

What about that ending? I had to chew it over for a while. I think it went like this: John let’s Gemma pull the trigger on him, since he wasn’t going to make it anyway. He dissipates into nothing, and we find ourselves zooming towards a pub in Liverpool called The Long Journey’s End. Is this a real place no one can go? I don’t know, but I don’t think so. In the pub, we find a withered John surround by what looks like Karen Berger, Shelly Bond, Will Dennis, and someone else I don’t know from Vertigo editorial. To the other side, we see three chaps, who I assume are the current creative team, Milliagan, Camuncoli, and Stefano Landini. Along the walls of liquor are the names of everyone who ever worked on Hellblazer, an area I spent a long time perusing. It’s not a normal ending. It’s not a blaze of glory. But somehow, somewhere, John’s gone down the pub. He’s gone back home. He’s a story. He’s enigmatic, and what happens doesn’t always make sense, and it’s not his way to explain it to you. Is John happy to be there? What does it mean? I’m not sure, but I kind of like it that way. It also feels like a bit of a throwback to Hellblazer #120, by Paul Jenkins and Sean Phillips, where John meets his creator, Alan Moore, in a pub, setting up a precedent for the crossing over of worlds, and the acknowledgement of fiction within the fiction. The thing is, I don’t know what it means, but I’m still thinking about it. I don’t want it explained to me. I want to roll it over. I want to come up with my own ideas, knock those down, and think of some more. It was never easy being a fan of John Constantine, so why should this be any different?

Josh Flanagan
Cheers, mate.
josh@ifanboy.com


Comments

  1. So would you say issue 300 is a good jumping-on point for the series?

  2. Josh

    if you could cast any actor at any age to play constantine, who would you pick?

  3. I left at 278 great review. I won’t be reading The dcu series. Sad to see it go. I was on The book from 178 to 278. That 100 issues. I just felt Milligan run was to long for me . I was gonna jump back on when a new writer came on but well we know what happen. So just saying my fave hellblazer issue was shoot one shot vertigo put out two years ago by Warren Ellis sad to see this end. But it never sold well so not angry.

  4. I also had to think about this issue for a while and the more I thought about it the more I enjoyed it. John’s life has always been a mystery and his ending was appropriate. It’s funny that you mentioned the artists who have worked on this book because my love for Sean Phillips’ art began here. He drew my favorite Constantine. Great review Josh. I will say that as I’m sad to see this book end, 300 issues is an amazing achievement for a book of this kind. It’s a testament to all the talented people who worked on it. From Jamie Delano & John Ridgeway to Peter Milligan and Giuseppe Camuncoli and everyone in between, thanks for all the stories about the greatest character comics has ever produced.

  5. *****JOSH DON’T READ THIS, ‘CAUSE THIS IS THE END INTERPRETED******

    Look at John’s face, the look of utter shock and surprise. Look at who he is looking at. I got it after reading a few times, and I’ve had chills off-and-on for the last few hours thinking about it. No better way to end the greatest series of all time.

    • But that’s just your interpretation. Man.

    • I know. And my interpretation has made me the happiest Hellblazerhead in the world. The only thing that may eclipse this feeling is if they ever release Paul Jenkins run in trade.

    • I like that interpretation. I have no idea if it’s “right” or if there is a “right” interpretation.

    • @manwithoutbeer: Can you elaborate on your interpretation?

    • I didn’t want to spoil it, but I believe John Constantine is looking at you, the reader (like GM’s Animal Man, when Buddy does peyote). All the drink on the wall is everyone who’s written his life. He realizes this. In the panels before we reach the bar, as we’re floating through Liverpool, a cat is freaked the fuck out by looking at us. Look John in the face at the very end, and tell me it means something different. That ending is still breaking my mind as I think about it. Its execution is perfect.

      The only thing that’s left a mystery (for me) is why John has aged so heavily. Is that what he’d look like without demon blood in him (I believe he’s 62 or 63 canonically at this point)? Has he been at the bar (his own real-life heaven) so long that he has aged that much (in his 80s), and he’s just now turning around to find out who’s been watching his life, maybe after he’s relived all the Hellblazer creator’s chapters in his life himself? Who knows..

    • @manwithoutbeer: I see what you are saying!

  6. I enjoyed both the issue and this article a great deal. Well written, Josh.

    I’m going to go reread the issue and stare at that last panel a bit.

  7. I knew it!

  8. This makes me SO happy.

    I have been reading HELLBLAZER since this team came on with 250. It was a Christmas issue and I was feeling particularly maudlin that year. Since the intervening four years, I have always had a shot with John. It was a hell of a ride. He will be missed.

    -J.

  9. “It was never easy being a fan of John Constantine, so why should this be any different?”

    Well said, Josh. You managed to stay optimistic and positive, but I could almost hear the mournful tone throughout the review. And I feel ya.

    I tried to read this slowly and make it last, but the issue was so well paced that I found myself tearing through it the first time. I’ve been off and on the series for about 9 years. In that time, I’ve also read a lot of the recommended back catalog. Still, initially I thought the ending was in reference to some story I had missed. But after thinking about it for a few hours, I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter in the best possible way. I too wanna come up with my own explanation. Or maybe not. Maybe it can just drift through the ether and the mist of fiction. In a silly little way, it make me feel like John’s still out there somehow. And he is. He’s crossed the line from ongoing tale to legend.

    I knew the gang at the end had to be editorial. I recognized Berger. But for a moment, I thought the guy all the way to the right might be Josh. Silly, I know. But these guys know people. It’s happened before.

    • That’s very flattering, but I actually don’t know a single member of this creative or editorial team, so definitely not me.

    • Haha. Figured it might be a long shot. You’re just one of the most outspoken fans of the series that I know of within the culture. Which probably says more about my limited “bubble of excitement” than it does about anything else. But still, it wasn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility.

  10. I’ve always been a casual Hellblazer fan, but never dove right in. Is there anywhere one could find a “required reading” list of the seminal stories?

    • read all of it.

      no, seriously.

    • https://ifanboy.com/articles/john-constantine-where-do-i-start/

      I just ran this list by my local library’s catalog because this review made me want to read more Hellblazer too.

    • The problem with “all of it” is my library has exactly none of it. That is a roughly $600 investment that I can’t make.

    • I started with the Delano trades, you can find them for less than cover price through Amazon, and they’re currently being reprinted. I’m pretty sure you’d have to read Ennis’ run if you wanted to get a lot of the “required” stories. That’s where I’m currently at, just finished Dangerous Habits, and I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve read so far.

    • For me, the best of the best is

      Jamie Delano- Original Sins, The Devil You Know, Pandemonium

      Garth Ennis- Dangerous Habits, Bloodlines, Fear & Loathing, Tainted Love, Damnation’s Flame (The last volume, Rake at the Gates, does not wrap up well).

      Warren Ellis- Setting Sun

      Brian Azzarello- All of it, it is one whole cohesive story, just like:

      Mike Carey- All of it as well

      actually….that also goes for

      Andy Diggle’s and Peter Milligan’s runs as well.

      This wasn’t much help…If you want the best of the best of the best, go with Jamie Delano’s first two volumes, and Ennis’s run. Everything below that is still amazing also though.

  11. I’ve been following Hellblazer steadily for a year so it feels more like a death of the character than a period of my life. I can only imagine what 13 years must feel like.

    I hope we see more of him someday, but I doubt dc will want to put any constantine stories out after they are finished sucking a version of him into dc continuity. Also, Milligan was great. and that cover as well.

  12. So now Fables is the top DC/Vertigo numbered.

    That is an unexpected plus.

    Matthew

  13. I am going to miss this book. Even if nothing major was happening i could just read him talking to different people every month. I think i would buy a Epiphany book too. The trials and tribulations of Piffy, Alchemist for hire. Five years in she could find a way to get John back.
    I just know I can;t read the DC version of John. There are a lot of gaps in my trades so i can go back to those. Do Josh’s suggested reading list from the Mini.
    Nice piece Mr Flanagan, cheers.

  14. This was as satisfying an end to the Milligan, Camuncoli, Landini, Bisley era and the most personal and meta ending for a character I’ve read since Joe Casey’s “Automatic Kafka”. Cheers on the great pick, Josh. We’re all gonna miss this bloke…

  15. dark days in corporate editorial driven comics…waiting for on last con-job…
    Dan Didio’s soul burning on an altar of sacrifice so Karen Berger can live again and pull John out of this jam.

  16. That last page was bleak. Having been in Northern pubs like that I know why Constantine looks so shocked. The cloth cap is a perfect detail.

  17. end of the road for the ORIGINAL version of Constantine?

    This pale embarrassment has no resemblance to the terrifying, charming, brilliant but damaged anti-hero that Moore created back in the pages of Saga of Swamp Thing. I’ve read pretty much every appearance of Constantine in all 300 issues of his own book and other crossovers and compared with Moore and perhaps Garth Ennis, there isn’t another writer that can capture the horrible, snarky, sinister, scheming heart of the magician ESPECIALLY Peter Milligan.

    Holy God, this “last issue” was an unexpectedly bad conclusion to a sometimes brilliant but oftentimes weak and disappointing series. Somebody please never let Peter Milligan near a pen or word processor ever again.

    Constantine is dead – has been for a long time. This ridiculous watered-down quasi-Constantine that has destroyed the once-promising Justice League Dark will almost certainly fail miserably in the “real” DC Universe. Won’t come soon enough for me.

    • Why in the hell would you read all 300 issues if you have such a disdain for every writer’s characterization, save for the dozen or so issues of Swamp Thing, and Ennis’s run? That shit ended 20 years ago, and you continued to suffer through every issue after that? Sounds pretty masochistic. Go rain somewhere else.

    • For me, the character got only really interesting after Moore was done with him. Oh and I also think that Ennis run is great but overrated. For me the best ones were Azzarrellos and Diggles and I have read every issue, except the Jenkins run.
      Loved Hellblazer and I will miss it.

  18. Finally got my hands on it yesterday. I tipped a few in honor of the old John Constantine. He’ll be missed.