A few months back I posted a bit of news about Vertigo re-releasing a new edition of the first volume of their landmark title, Hellblazer. Well, the book was released last month, and I just had the chance to read all of it, so I thought it right of me to give my thoughts on the book.
So what did I think about Hellblazer’s first volume? Was it a good introduction to the series that’ll assure me to buy more books, or did it seem too dated for me? Read on to find out!
Original Sins, written by Jamie Delano, collects the first nine issues of Hellblazer, and this new edition adds in two issues of Swamp Thing, which is actually very nice for more reasons than that it gives the book more bang for your buck.
The story focuses on John Constantine, (yes the same character in the Keanu Reeves movie, but the comic is much, MUCH better) who is a sort of a supernatural detective familiar with the dark arts. John resides in the UK, but makes his way around the world as is needed to take care of whatever business befalls him. And business usually deals with various sorts of demons.
Before reading this book, my exposure to the character and the series, outside of the film, was from about 10 random issues that I’d read before. I liked a lot of what I read (some more than others), and I was intrigued to read more of these kind of horror comics, so when I saw that Original Sins was getting a new edition I thought it was a perfect opportunity for me to get into the character more.
Don’t go into this book looking for some sort of introduction to John Constantine’s character, because you won’t find it here. Jamie Delano dives headfirst into the world Constantine lives in, and doesn’t take much time to catch you up on anything. This may be the first issue of his series, but John was created in the pages of Swamp Thing by Alan Moore, so whether a proper into is given over there or not is something I’ve yet to have seen. However, as bad as this sounds, it’s not off-putting at all. I don’t believe Constantine needs much of an intro. As soon as the first issue begins you get immersed in the world he’s defending, and as soon as Constantine starts narrating you’re familiarized with him enough that nothing else matters.
The story begins with a strange case of a man who starves to death while gorging himself with anything he can gets his hands on at a restaurant, and then it quickly moves over to see John visiting the apartment of a junky friend of his. The apartment has been infested with insects of all sorts, and John has to go in to help his old friend, and figure out what the problem here is. This first story leads into the string of stories collected in this first book. All of them are standalone, but they do link together in some fashion, in that John begs the question of “What exactly is going on in Liverpool?”
Each issue and each story gives a really interesting supernatural/horror story, and for someone who was craving just that sort of thing, it was a welcome story indeed. I was generally creeped out by the majority of the stories present, and it reminded me sometimes of watching horror shows like X-Files. Especially in that we got a good mix of different tales, such as the insect plague, interaction with demons, a demon worshiping pedophile, a war story, a story featuring a computer nirvana (that was a beautifully illustrated one), and even the inclusion of Swamp Thing, plus more. It’s a good bag of things that makes for a nice read.
Current comic readers may be turned off by the amount of monologue present in these stories. They’re definitely not meant to be a quick read, as this is the sort of book you take time out of your day to sit and enjoy, and you enjoy it for several hours. The narrative style of the series (or at least as it is by Delano) is to have John narrate the stories in a sort of noir tone. Most of the text is in fact John’s, or someone else’s, narration, but the way in which Delano writes this is perfect. Part of our becoming familiar right off the bat with the character is because Delano perfectly makes us believe we’re inside his head. In such, we develop our own special voice for John as we go on to perceive this chain-smoking, supernatural detective doing what he does best.
The art in the volume is covered by multiple artists, all of which display styles that seem to fit for the time the series was published (late 80’s), and at the same time are pretty original. John Ridgway is the first artist we’re exposed to in the volume, and he pretty much sets the tone for the art in the series. Dark, grand, and a lot of times pretty trippy. These styles fit perfectly for every situation we find John in, be it visiting an insect infested apartment, or visiting the lair of the demon lord of flatulence.
This book is a good read. It features a really nice start for the character, and by reading it you definitely get a good idea of what’s to come in the series. I guess it really sets the tone, both with the story by Delano and by the artwork that joins. Some of the stories collected are not as strong as others, but altogether there was a lot that sucked me in. The book is very much worth the cover price, too, as it collects 11 total issues for only $19.99, and it’s definitely not a quick read. Fans of supernatural and horror stories that haven’t checked out Hellblazer really ought to invest in this one, because it’s the perfect fit, and pretty much the father of all the modern horror comics (I say modern, because there were plenty of horror series before this one). It can be off-putting, as I said, to people who don’t expect so much text, but without that narrative style the story would suffer. Now I just hope that Vertigo does go ahead and start releasing more of these new editions of the series, because I’d love to read on.
GO Rating: 4/5