DC ComicsVertigo imprint release of Hellblazer #293, written by Peter Milligan, starts a new arc: The Curse of the Constantines.

Pulling from the last arc, Another Season in Hell, Milligan shows a new kind of Constantine with issue 293: one who might be developing a conscience. For the uninitiated, Constantine made a promise to his dead sister in that last arc to find her son she gave up at birth so she would move on from Hell. He had no intention of honoring the promise even though Satan warned him that there would be earthly consequences.

Sure enough, issue 293 begins to examine the earthly consequences of Constantine’s grifter ways as he begins to feel out of sorts due to his nagging conscience. This manifests in the form of a mass of disemboweled bodies inside the London sewer system that aren’t quite alive or dead. Milligan’s characterization of the world Constantine inhabits may be the best in the book’s entire run. He has a penchant for creating mood and setting that perfectly suits the character.

The addition of Detective Constable Haines from the prior arc adds to the muck Constantine is finding himself in as Haines requests his help in investigating this brutal crime scene. Faithful readers will remember him as a cop on the take from the morally corrupt Terry Greaves, Constantine’s father-in-law. Despite his way with magic and the dark arts, Constantine is still vulnerable to everyday problems such as hassles from the police.

Milligan does a great job building a mystery by making the plot an ambiguous shadow that reveals very little to the reader in terms of answers, but ratchets up the tension and suspense of the horror-like elements of the story. The main questions at this point in the story is “what does this have to do with Constantine?” even though the opening scene isn’t some random aspect of the story.

Now, let’s get to how this all ties into a Constantine family curse. Constantine hasn’t been looking for his long, lost nephew, but his nephew may be running around London when he’s not inspecting dead sheep over in Ireland where he’s been living a regular life with a wife and children. Milligan presents Constantine’s nephew as Brady Finnbar, a dead ringer for a young Constantine, which leads back to that mess of disemboweled bodies in the sewer.

Milligan takes Constantine’s turf of the dark arts and sort of turns the tables as a demon faerie is responsible for the grisly murders in the sewer. However, the reader is treated to a hint that Constantine’s nephew may be the conjurer of this dark spirit.

Showing off his knowledge of classic literature, Milligan plays with the concept from William Butler Yeats’ The Stolen Child and makes it work as a piece of dark magic that may have been summoned by Constantine’s nephew. At the end of the story, the only resolution is that the dead are allowed to move on.  Many more questions remain unanswered as Constantine ponders what’s next as he suspects that he is on a collision course with his nephew regardless of whether he keeps his promise to his sister.

Milligan is always a pleaser when it comes to Hellblazer. This issue’s dense atmosphere and patient storytelling receives and A. As usual Milligan gets an A for fantastic dialogue. There’s a large art team at work on Hellblazer. They are serviceable and provide the right renderings to help the story, but it’s not great. The artwork receives a C+ for maintaining the storytelling, but not necessarily adding to it.