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The Hellblazer: Rebirth #1

Written by Simon Oliver
Art by Moritat
Published by DC Comics

A few days after news leaked that John Constantine may find new life on the CW’s successful superhero shows, DC launches the Rebirth issue for this incorrigible magical con man. This Hellblazer character has a reputation for being among the smartest dark fantasies in comic books, but my only exposure to him has been a couple of guest spots in DC books where the heroes get stuck in bad magic or the first few issues of his New 52 run, which didn’t grab me. So I approached this Rebirth issue hoping for a broad introduction and a clever magical con job.
And that’s exactly what I got.
Simon Oliver knows that readers don’t need to know everything about Constantine to enjoy Hellblazer – the character has been around for decades, with books in DC and Vertigo publishing lines, and it’s going to be a bear to catch up on all of his misadventures. So this writer just assumes you need to know that John Constantine is a magician, a Brit, and an unrepenting jerk. He drops a few hints about tragic family backstory and guilt about a mistake in his early career, but it’s utterly unimportant to enjoying the story.
The plot is that Constantine conned his way out of getting his soul collected a few years ago, and now he’s setting up a game putting every soul in London at risk to get his soul out of danger again. Like any good Rebirth issue, the whole affair wraps up at the end of the issue, leaving the reader feeling satisfied. The mechanics of it all are a little hard to follow, but Moritat’s visuals are lovely, especially the way a stream of red letters weaves around key elements of the spells in play.
This book is a perfect jumping-on point for people who’ve heard of Constantine but are scared to invest so much in getting to know him. Once you’ve finished, ask the staff at Ultimate Comics where to learn more – the store in Chapel Hill has the entire original run of Hellblazer in trade. Best wishes for his television rebirth as well.

-MATT CONNER for Ultimate Comics