Bloody hell, has John Constantine actually lost it? His old pals from America seem to think so…of course he’s gone through a lot recently, what with Kit and all. Yes, we are in mid-swing in the epic tale of perhaps the most famed ongoing Hellblazer writer, Garth Ennis. Garth began his controversial comic writing as a teen back in Britain and America was lucky to get their hands on this bugger.
He’s better known for some of the stuff he’s written in later years but Hellblazer was his stepping stool to mainstream fame. For good reason, too, he brought a new life to the series, hit the ground running with Dangerous Habits and although there were a few bumps along the way he held strong for the most part. Ennis was the first person to write Hellblazer for the Vertigo imprint and helped establish it for a newly-defined group of readers whilst his predecessor Delano was busy working his magic on another Vertigo ongoing, Animal Man.
Ennis’ Hellblazer introduced a slew of new characters, and added a distinct personality to the book…during his tenure the book became populated with a group of wankers, arseholes and bleedin’ basterds. John became a more cunning character, as seen in Ennis’ first arc and the book became much more Infernal. Which leads us to Damnation’s Flame, Ennis’ arc in America. Now something to remember about Hellblazer is for the most part it is pure British, the cast, the setting, the writers, etc. so going to New York City isn’t just an everyday experience.
What we find in America is that some people from ten years back still remember John and when he doesn’t return the recognition they realize that John isn’t the man he used to be… This arc re-introduces a Constantine foe probably best known by his bastardized version as seen in that Keanu Reeves film, Papa Midnite. Not really too similar at all, this sister-slaying Papa Midnite dreams of vengeance…and he sends a much too easy-going John to America’s Hell…although it doesn’t make me jump out of my seat, this is what I call perfect comic book horror.
As the first issue of an arc, this definitely served its purpose. I know some people complain about Steve Dillon’s art but I have to admit I legitimately appreciate it here, especially that last page! But yes, this is definitely an issue to check out and an arc to enjoy, as I said, Ennis had a strong run for the most part and it’s always nice to see a writer’s “humble beginnings”. Ennis brought something to Hellblazer that had been lacking, Hell.