Hellblazer: Rise and Fall #1
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Darick Robertson and Diego Rodriguez
I’m not a Hellblazer guy. I’ve never read an issue of it, and at the most, my exposure to the character of John Constantine is in cameo appearances throughout the DCU. Still, it’s hard to pass up a book by a creative team as strong as this. Hellblazer: Rise and Fall #1 is a wonderful beginning that is, at least to my untrained eye, true to what Hellblazer is.
The first thing that stands out about this book is how much it focuses on John’s childhood. I know the basics of who Constantine is: snarky, somewhat vile, good at heart, and always in control. Seeing his childhood presents an interesting twist because while he still has that personality, he has none of the knowledge or skill to back it up. His confidence is unearned, and it gets him into trouble. I love seeing this aspect of the character play off his current self who’s had time to learn.
This issue plays up Tom Taylor’s strength as a writer: characterization. It doesn’t begin and end with John, he introduces a few additions to his supporting cast who are well-developed despite the short time we’ve spent with them. They serve as a compelling foil to John without being antagonistic. They get along, and that isn’t the easy way out with a character like this. It’s easy to pit people against Constantine, and to flip that around is far more interesting.
Darick Robertson is one of the greats, no doubt. He brings it all to the table: the gore, the humor, the tragedy. Every bit of storytelling masterfully delivered with a style that’s distinct, as well as in line with the book’s tone. Throughout his works, you won’t find a Darick Robertson panel that’s the least bit unclear, and this issue is no exception. The storytelling has focus and never loses it.
The story does somewhat pale in comparison to it’s strength of character, but only due to first-issue syndrome. It’s largely set-up, which isn’t a problem as it’s done well enough that I’m genuinely interested in seeing where it’s going. It’s dark, but it isn’t reveling in it in a way that isn’t fun, which I suppose is Taylor’s modus operandi at this point. I will say, there’s a character reveal at the end that’s exciting, but I don’t like the redesign. It’s a tad uninspired. And, if there’s one more minor gripe I have, it’s that Taylor’s signature “cutesy” sense of humor occasionally clashes with the overall tone in a way that doesn’t feel natural.
Hellblazer: Rise and Fall is as good an introduction to Hellblazer as I can ask for. Taylor’s restrained and humorous darkness meshes with Robertson’s gritty pencils in a fashion that seems as if they’re meant to work together. This book succeeds in building many characters in the span of a single issue while simultaneously building the intrigue in what comes next. In short, I think I’m a Hellblazer guy now.
Hellblazer: Rise and Fall #1
Hellblazer: Rise and Fall is as good an introduction to Hellblazer as I can ask for. Taylor’s restrained and humorous darkness meshes with Robertson’s gritty pencils in a fashion that seems as if they’re meant to work together. This book succeeds at building many characters in the span of a single issue while simultaneously building the intrigue in what comes next. In short, I think I’m a Hellblazer guy now.