Review: John Constantine Hellblazer – Death and Cigarettes / Author: Peter Milligan / Artist: Simon Bisley / Publisher: DC / Release Date: July 2
In their infinite wisdom, DC Comics recently cancelled the long-running mature minds only Hellblazer comic book series, to replace it with a more PG-13 version, called Constantine. Hellblazer – Death and Cigarettes collects the final issues of the original comic book, and gives the old geezer a sombre and sound send-off.
For those of you who have never heard of John Constantine, all you need to know is that he is an occult investigator who relies on deception, common sense, guts, luck and a near endless supply of hapless allies in order to survive various encounters with the supernatural. Constantine is a magnet for the spookiest sort of trouble; a Scouser who lives in that most haunted of cities, London, who always seems to con or charm his way out of the most dire of horrors. The series is also remarkable in the sense that he’s aged as the book has progressed, which means by the time we get to the end of the series he’s no spring chicken anymore.
In many ways, this final run is a greatest hits of the sort of ideas and stories that have kept the character in publication for so long. We have a tale about his cursed family, a traditional ghost story, and even some werewolves for added spice. If you haven’t picked up a copy of Hellblazer in a while, you may be surprised to learn that Constantine finally got married, and his wife, the appropriately monikered Epiphany, really works as a character and allows writer Peter Milligan to bundle all the highlights of Constantine’s difficult love live into one parcel.
If you’ve never read a Hellblazer story before and wonder what the fuss was about, this last book is an entirely acceptable entry into his very long back catalogue; the stories work well as a standalone and it’s not as if this book will really spoil the many other stories that feature him. (The only way to spoil a John Constantine story would be to make a movie of him with Keanu Reeves as the main character.) Death and Cigarettes is a good send off to a great long-running series, and sets the bar very high for its replacement. If you like your paranormal horror with a hint of Urban Gothic, then this is for you.