John Constantine, Hellblazer: Pandemonium


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John Constantine, Hellblazer: Pandemonium


  • Words: Jamie Delano
  • Art: Jock
  • Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics
  • Price: $24.99
  • Release Date: Feb 11, 2010

John Constantine, occult detective, journeys into the heart of darkness.  That cold human insanity known as war makes the conflict the Hellblazer fights more palatable than ever.

Delano returns to that book that made his name.  A significant contribution was made to the Hellblazer mythos by the writer.  He was the major architect of the first three years of Constantine’s solo book.

He returns with a dubious journey into Iraq and the evils that are really at play in the games political powers play.  The story opens with John squatting in a friend’s place., contemplating on poker and its allure as entertainment.  Soon, he is enraptured with a mysterious Muslim woman.  When a museum explodes, it turns out that good old Constantine has been set up by the British government. They need his skills in a matter in Iraq.  A mysterious prisoner has become too powerful to contain, and the detective needs to find out what it is.

The characterization is spot on.  It’s like the writer has not missed a beat.  Here is the hard boiled humanist that hunts the darker side of reality for a price.  He is cold and charming.  Brash and likeable.  He is everything he has always been.  Nods to recent storylines, including Dark Entries, make it seem that the writer has never left.

Better yet, Delano narrates the graphic novel like it is a novel.  At least, a dime pulp anyhow.  There is a cadence and demeanor that makes this a more realized fantasy noir than Jim Butcher's tales of Dresden.  The reader is drawn into this dark realm and made to view it in all its gory splendor and detestable glory.

Delano is bringing all kinds of literary devices into play.  John appears old and tired and is a physical symbol for a war that has seemed endless.  The bluffs and bets of poker run throughout the plot.  It almost seems contrite at times, but that ability to bring these characters to life makes it an enjoyable ride regardless.

At first, it seems that Delano is writing Apocalypse Now starring the occult comics superstar, but that brief intersection of influence is short lived and sorely missed afterwards.  There is a symmetry to the book that makes the story seem forced, the resolution contrived, and the climax all too predictable.

Fortunately, Constantine is not the only perfect character to distract us from the underwhelming plot.  In Aseera, we see John’s perfect foil.  She is skeptical of the magical in reality, but has seen horrors of another type.  The double agent working for both her homeland and the British Secret Service is a walking contradiction with her own dark past.  She is the perfect partner to our blond anti-hero and the sexual tension is believable and thick.

Jock is the perfect illustrator for the book.  His moody art morphs easily between the dreary streets of a London that is headed towards some Spider Jerusalem inhabited future and the bright sunlight of the desert.  He has as much fun playing in the realm of demons as he does in the chaos of war.  The color pallette makes it all stand out and definable.  The artist also brings the allegory in the appearance of the protagonist to reality.

is an entertaining diversion that is possibly a little too clever for its own good.  As a statement on the evils of war, it is concise and powerful in its depth of observation.  As a character study, it presents two believable people realized fully into a fictional world.  As a story, it is predictable, but hey, we are all only human and that is what Constantine is all about.

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  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Feb 24, 2010 at 4:52am

    Very curious about this one, forgot all about it. Did you ever check out Delano's Avatar series Narcopolis, Lee? Was wondering about that one too ...

  • Lee Newman

    Lee Newman Feb 24, 2010 at 6:43am

    I very much dug Narcopolis. It was very Brave New World ish and it was hampered by a Newspeak, but it was a solid comic. The other one he did for Avatar about the pirates made no sense at all.

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