Comic: "Hellblazer: Original Sins"
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Jamie Delano
Artist: John Ridgeway
Plot: Mage and occultist John Consantine tries to escape the ghosts that haunt him from his past. Unfortunately, his efforts to do so only seem to create more ghosts by endangering everyone who gets closely involved with him.
Review: The ubiquitous John Constantine is one of my favorite DC Comics characters, so it should come as no surprise that his starring title, Vertigo's Hellblazer is one of my favorite monthly reads. Originally created by Alan Moore as a supporting character in the pages of Swamp Thing, Constantine is a mage who's clever, cunning, snarky, cynical, and just a bit of a right bastard.
When the Constantine movie came out, one of the things that upset me the most about it was that they'd gone and made the character an American, as one of my favorite elements in the book is all the British slang the characters (especially Constantine himself) use. Constantine also has a distinctly British attitude that I didn't think would carry over well on an American character. I was right, because they didn't even try to carry any of it over. The movie version is completely unrecognizable from the real thing. What surprised me however was that the movie wasn't exactly bad. In fact, I was annoyed to discover that I kind of liked it on its own merits, even though it was not Constantine.
A friend of mine liked the movie too, and having never read the comics, she asked me if they were as good as the movie. "Oh, they're loads better than the movie," I informed her, and on my recommendation, she bought a trade paperback to get her started. Like most people, she decided to start at the beginning, and she came back to me disappointed, saying that the character lacked any of the depth he'd had in the movie. Having not yet read Original Sins (collecting issues 1-9) myself, I was dumbfounded. The comic version is far more developed than the movie one. Just what was in that book?
Well, the answer, I learned, after reading it for myself some time later, is not terribly much. It's not bad by any means, but let's just say that Hellblazer got off to a bit of a shaky start compared to Constantine's later adventures. I guess you could say that it's very average and doesn't live up to the hype surrounding the character.
Constantine's early adventures largely involve him being haunted by the ghosts of friends whose deaths he's responsible for. Unfortunately the most grievous of his early sins (to which the title of the book presumably refers), the infamous "Newcastle incident" is referenced several times in the book, but not actually depicted in flashback until the disturbingly captivating issue #11, not collected in this volume. A more logical stopping point for the first book would have been issue #12, but unfortunately they kind of leave you hanging by concluding with issue #9, which is part of a crossover with Swamp Thing anyway, so it's a bit of a jarringly sloppy way to end the book.
Constantine here lacks the normal degree of trademark wit and panache that he displays so often in his later adventures, and comes across as extremely lucky and somewhat bumbling in his manner of dealing with the occult. For those of you looking for an introduction to one of DC's best characters, you'd probably be better off picking up the first Garth Ennis trade, Dangerous Habits, instead, because I don't think that Original Sins is liable to hook many new fans. Once you're into the character, however, this book would certainly be worth a look and is entirely enjoyable from a historical perspective.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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