I started reading Hellblazer at the beginning of Milligan's run, at the behest of Silkcuts, and I absolutely loved it. At some point I'm going to go back and read some more of his classic stories, but the point is, Hellblazer-John was a mind-blowingly fascinating character with a wildly complex morality that was beautifully unpredictable.
The point of this history lesson is thus, I fell in love with Hellblazer like the rest of his deeply dedicated fanbase, and I was as disappointed and enraged when DC decided he could only have one series, and so the New 52 DC Universe 'watered down' younger John took priority over the true character. But part of me has to say, Hellblazer-John aged in real time, and we all had to know that one day he'd have to leave anyways. At least they gave him a grand finale, an anniverserial ending while he was at an all time high. They gave him a truly worthy ending, and because everyone KNOWS he and DCU John are truly two different characters, we know he was given a definitive ending and this new one isn't meant to be a continuation. I meant to make a long story short, but I guess it didn't happen. My point is that I'm not going into this with a bias against it for not being Hellblazer. I didn't have a high opinion of the issue, but it's important to note that comparison to Hellblazer is definitely not the reason, and if it was perceived as such it would undermine the value of my legitimate complaints about this first issue.
My first problem might be a little personal, but for some reason I just wasn't feeling Renato Guedes' artwork. Things just felt a little too cartoony for the atmosphere of the story. Constantine feels like the kind of series that would lean towards the more realistic and detailed artwork, to emphasize the sort of unnerving sense of magic being just beyond the reaches of normality, but on a different wavelength or something. It was just hard for me to let myself get fully drawn into the world.
The story for this issue feels kind of rushed. We barely get an intro to John when suddenly he'd off around the world with his new sidekick searching for a mystical artifact. It breezes by such key factors as his living arrangements and general m.o. to dive right into a story an I feel a little out of the loop. Especially since, yes, I've been reading him in Justice League Dark, but this issue doesn't exactly mesh well with his appearance there, despite the same writer. Why is he confused about the Cult of the Cold Flame trying to kill him? The entire Zero Issue established that in spades. Where's anyone else he knows? Is this before, during, or after segments in Justice League Dark? Why doesn't he even mention the team in passing?
This issue does a good job at showing us a Constantine who's closer to his Hellblazer counterpart than many might expect. There's a very cold and callous betrayal in this issue, though it felt a little forced, especially since we barely got to know the guy before he was killed. I can't decide if it was good to know he's still a backstabber, or a forced attempt to go "HEY LOOK HE'S STILL A BACKSTABBER!" I also feel like the Helllblazer John would've shown less regret, but there I go comparing the two, which I said I wouldn't do. But I need to mention it at least a bit, because it feels like this John is stuck in a tug-of-war between Hellblazer-John and JLD-John. I don't know what to make of him here.
In Conclusion: 3/5
Ok, so I spent pretty much the entire review talking about what I didn't like, but it wasn't so bad. I'm genuinely liking the tone of the character, his explanation of magic as cheating the functional laws of the universe is something that just screams 'Constantine,' and he's definitely still an anti-hero, it's just that the writing rushed through setting things up and I don't feel we have a proper sense of the character's life setting or overall general m.o. I just find it kind of hard to muster up strong enthusiasm about this series so far.