From the Hades of Greek mythology, to Virgil, Dante, Milton, Joyce, Sartre, Moorcock, Pratchett, and… Well, you get the idea; I have always had an affinity for stories that take place in hell. As a reader of comics as well as literature, it’s only fitting that I always enjoy reading the plethora of illustrated comic tales that have been set in the depths of the damned. The Hellblazer comic series, published by DC’s Vertigo imprint, is one of my favorite comics of all-time. I knew from the moment that I learned of the new storyline, “Another Season in Hell,” that I would be reading it. Part 1 of that story just started in the latest issue of Hellblazer #287, so let’s go to Hell together, shall we?
Written by Peter Milligan, with layouts by Giuseppe Camuncoli, and finishes by Stefano Landini; Hellblazer #287 starts out with a three-page series of our wily old pal, John Constantine, navigating a wretched tunnel and emerging to behold a glimpse of Hell. In an absolutely perfect opening, Milligan’s writing instantly and completely hooks the reader as he describes the scene in the cynical Constantine manner that we have come to expect and love.
Before we jump all the way into the inferno, we flashback to three days before the present to fill us in on what has lead Constantine to once again visit Hell. The last time John visited Hell, his niece Gemma’s mother ended up becoming a permanent resident there. Gem is now lashing out by sleeping with an old, rich, codger. This old letch is in fact Constantine’s father in-law, who happens to be taking great pleasure in this situation as payback for John sleeping with his daughter, Epiphany. That’s our John Constantine, making “friends,” tangled webs, and leaving a trail of chaos in his wake everywhere he goes.
So it looks like a summoning spell (and a reluctant trip to Hell) are in Constantine’s cards, but first he’s going to need to connive Blathloxi – The Lord of Flatulence into helping him out. What I was most impressed with during this Blathloxi sequence – and indeed all throughout this issue, is how old events from the very beginning of the Hellblazer series are referenced. Just one example of this is how Constantine substitutes snakes in the summoning spell in place of cats. Upon Blathloxi’s appearance, he comments, “Constantine… Hmm, if I remember, I suggested you use cats in the ritual…” This comment goes all the way back to the Original Sins series in which John omitted cats completely. Don’t get me wrong, new readers will enjoy this issue and probably not even realize many of these references are included. Coincidentally, I had just reread the entire Hellblazer series only days before picking up this issue, and with all of those stories fresh in my mind, noticed this new story tying together with stories and events from 20 years ago, and all throughout the series. This is quite a feat, and really gives added depth to longtime fans. Of course, I think that being able to pull this off is a credit to how well the Hellblazer series has been handled over the many years – if it isn’t broken it doesn’t really need a reboot.
Upon arriving in Hell, Constantine’s reputation precedes him and every demon trickster would love to have a shot at him. John is a sharp customer though, and needs to rely on his wits and intuition now more than ever. Unfortunately everyone who gets close to Constantine seems to meet an unfortunate end – a painful fact that he seems to be even more aware of now in his later years. Many of these people ended up here in Hell, floating on display in the Aquarium of Souls. It becomes clear from this factor (and the appearance of the upper management) that there will be no pleasure for John Constantine on this hellish business trip.
Hellblazer #287 was an excellent issue, and I have very high hopes for the “Another Season in Hell” storyline. The writing and dialogue are just top-notch, and what I have come to expect from Hellblazer. The art style pays homage to the illustrations in the early issues of the series, while at the same time appearing fresh and more up to date – especially the colors. That said, I always miss it when Simon Bisley isn’t doing the Hellblazer art (though he did do the cover art for this issue), but I won’t hold others to the high standards of his work.
Speaking of Bisley, he recently illustrated the awesome Hellblazer Annual “Suicide Bridge,” that I reviewed right here on Comic Booked. If you can still find it, I highly recommend picking it up. This Hellblazer #287 issue contains an interview with writer Peter Milligan about “Suicide Bridge” that I quite enjoyed.
As if all of this wasn’t enough; also included in this issue is a seven-page preview of The Annotated Sandman Volume 1. Reading the notes about each individual Sandman panel will make anyone bow down and worship the genius of Neil Gaiman – it’s just mind-blowing.
If you have never read Hellblazer, or perhaps strayed away to check out the New 52 (where Constantine is currently in another comic series, Justice League Dark), Hellblazer #287 “Another Season in Hell” Part One is an opportune time to jump in and read an excellent comic series. Be sure to check back for what will now be my ongoing Hellblazer reviews here at Comic Booked, as well as loads of other goodness. Thank you for reading!