Like a lot of DC characters, John Constantine’s journey in the New 52 was a bumpy one. Moving Constantine from the mature readers Vertigo imprint to the main DC continuity softened a lot of his edges in the first Constantine series, but the subsequent Constantine: The Hellblazer was a vast improvement that found an intriguing direction for this new interpretation of the warlock. That was fun while it lasted, but with the Rebirth relaunch comes a new The Hellblazer series, one that skews closer in style and tone to the Vertigo stories of Constantine’s past. Writer Simon Oliver is a Vertigo veteran who understands the type of gritty, intense storytelling that imprint is known for, and Moritat’s textured, atmospheric art with colorist Andre Szymanowicz is a great fit for Oliver’s script.
This preview of next week’s The Hellblazer #1 takes advantage of Constantine’s Vertigo history when Swamp Thing pays him a visit to cash in a favor. Constantine replies by telling him he won’t be his “kinky booty-call, body-swap sex object,” a reference to that time Swamp Thing used Constantine’s body to have sex with his girlfriend in Hellblazer #10. That moment represents a lot of what makes Oliver’s take on Constantine work: He pulls from the character’s expansive history, and uses it to create both humor and drama. Even in the lighter moments, the deep shadows and subdued colors of Moritat and Szymanowicz’s artwork sustain a foreboding mood throughout, and the most compelling aspect of The Hellblazer is seeing how this creative team will gel as Constantine’s story continues.