JOHN CONSTANTINE: HELLBLAZER, ISSUE #12
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Aaron Campbell
Publisher: DC Comics
WHAT IS IT?
One of what may arguably be the best recent John Constantine stories comes to a dramatic end with John Constantine: Hellblazer #12.
This final issue sees Constantine and "friends" face the man behind everything in a colorful mind-tripping magical send-off.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Damn, has this series been fantastic from the beginning to what is now the end.
We've seen Constantine with his back against the wall with what seems like no way out, but in this case, it's different. This time around, he is against an older, "happier" version of himself. If anyone can beat the Sting look-a-like, it's himself. But, in usual fashion, it's not only Constantine suffering throughout the fight, it's people he has met throughout the series.
Spurrier takes everything that has happened in the (cut-too-short) run and wraps it all together in a tight, bloody gift box. Not much can be said without spoiling the series thus far. So, without further ado, let's jump into why this issue is not only great by itself but an amazing final issue.
Stop, look at that cover by John Paul Leon. No, seriously, look at it. Not only is it gorgeous, but it is so for a multitude of reasons. The use of empty space really helps emphasize Constantine and his hands as the focus. With that being the focus, we have more time to speculate about Constantine and what happens. Having his hands covered in blood while he is shielding his eyes makes it seem as if he has done some unspeakable horror that makes him not want to see it transpire. As we know, this is all commonplace with him. Nonetheless, it's just a damn fine cover, especially for the final issue. Clean and "simple" works wonders here.
Even though the series got cut short, Spurrier is able to write the finale as if this was the planned final issue from the get-go. His ability to wrap up so many stories and the overlaying plot in this manner is fascinating. Yet he doesn't make it a "clean-cut" ending; instead, he leaves a huge new cliffhanger for the next series. Hey, DC Comics, can the next series be done by the same team?
John Constantine: Hellblazer #12 may have double the page count, but it never slows down. From the beginning, we are thrust into the fight that is going on. No time is wasted as a lot is happening and a lot needs to happen. Spurrier makes you feel the weight of the plot constantly, with no time to stop, much like the action going on. However, at no time does it feel rushed.
With this issue wrapping up an amazing series, there are a lot of revelations. And damn, do they hit hard, but most importantly, they make sense. With all that happens and all we learn, it makes you want to re-read the series. Which you totally should!
Spurrier writes Constantine amazingly. It seems in most cases throughout the years, writers either get the character or they don't. He completely understands the seedy bastard inside and out, writing a character you seriously love to hate.
Through Spurrier, Constantine's wit and attitude shine horribly, in a fashion that you love to see. Not only that but, his plan and the way he works around it seems completely in-character.
Anytime Constantine "wins," he (or those around him) seems to lose, as well. Without going too deep into spoilers, this rings true in the final confrontation.
The previous point is emphasized when "The price is always higher than the prize" is repeated.
Although this issue wraps up the series, he also sets up a future plot point that hopefully will matter in the long run. Plus, the cliffhanger is a damn good one as well.
In my notes, I wrote "Art/Colors" more than five times, because damn does the visual team put their all into it. Everyone on the team did a breathtakingly grand job.
Campbell's art helps amplify the gritty dark happenings that transpire. When the art matches the story being told you know you are in for a damn good time, this is especially true with each page presented.
Every page has art that is glorious to stare at, but at the same time is ever so gruesome. Campbell's horror ability works perfectly in each scene, but even more so when magic is involved.
Not only do the horrors have the ability to scare and haunt you, but Campbell is able to perfectly portray a broken Constantine. Constantine retains his famous look, but Campbell is able to make him look like someone who hasn't slept for days and lives on cigarettes and booze. His design throughout is perfect for all that the character has gone through.
Each page's art is amazing, but there is one that stands out that uses a well-known panel grid. This page stands out because of the greatest visuals that I've never seen, and is one of my favorite 9-panel grids. This means a lot, as 9-panel grids usually feel overdone nowadays.
When Old John Constantine calls the younger and "wins," the page is immensely magnificent. The 9-panel grid has Old Constantine in the third, fifth, and seventh panels. Once you look at it you realize that this is done in the style of tic tac toe with the Old Constantine having the winning diagonal row, much like his winning during the story point. Once you notice this, you can't help but be in awe.
Another factor that's great about that 9-panel grid is how the visual team makes your eyes follow this three-in-a-row winning of Old Constantine. They accomplish this in the simplest way, by having Old Constantine smoking, and in the next panel he is in shows a fluid motion. This catches your eyes and guides you to his other panels making it feel like a winning row. Honestly, this page is just fantastic and needs attention.
Having read a few comics Bellaire has colored, I've always been amazed at her fantastic coloring skills and her ability to change her style for what the series is about. If there is ever a need for a colorist who can change their style for genre or even per page, Bellaire is perfect.
I mentioned it a while back, but seriously, the visuals are god-like. Bellaire's colors are dazzling for so many reasons, with each page one-upping itself.
During a single page, Bellaire is able to use such varied colors that she brings the scene to life. One such example is later in the issue where our "good guys" are colored blue, with the others a bright, deadly red. This may not seem like much, but damn does it really make the page shine. Nonetheless, her colors really pop in the trippy magic moments. When the crazy magic happens, Campbell shows it with his fantastic art, but Bellaire takes it a step further with the coloring she employs.
Bellaire doesn't seem to use colors just for the hell of it, instead, each panel with color (or without in some cases) feels like she used that specific hue for a reason. Nevertheless, her colors are as much as a storytelling technique as the words, and art.
I don't say someone is my favorite in something unless I completely mean it. That said, Bidikar has easily become one of my favorite letterers and should be a name you are on the lookout for. He has worked on multiple comics I adore and has made each one amazing, giving his all to them. That continues in John Constantine: Hellblazer #12.
Throughout the series, there are moments when Constantine will whisper something, when this transpires Bidikar will make it known but making the font size smaller. Yet, his fantastic lettering doesn't stop there, with one scene particularly standing out.
When Constantine uses some strong magic, the art starts to warp to show he is using it. Not only does the art warp, but so does his lettering.
Other cases of great lettering (but not limited to) are when Constantine "goes ghost" and when The Vestibulan speaks. Bidikar changes the font style and colors to help portray these moments. Be that as it may, Bidikar's lettering is superb throughout.
Memorable Quote: "You get right down to it, the only trick worth learning is makin' sure you ain't the one being scammed." – John Constantine. With so many quotable quotes, it was quite hard to choose one. Nonetheless, I feel this one really hits the character and his attitude. Plus, a lot of the other ones have a lot of, let's say, not nice words.
I know a lot of times we don't want a team to stay too long on a title, but it feels like this creative team throughout the series was robbed. I hope the best for everyone involved in their future endeavors, but a small part of me wonders what could've been. Yet, that's a good sign, right? They went out with a bang, and damn did John Constantine: Hellblazer #12 go out with a huge magical bang. If there is another series featuring our favorite horrible con man coming in the future, it'll be hard to surpass this series.
I know there's been a lot of notes of praise, and trust me there can be more. However, we'll end on the final page. Not only does it look beautiful, but it references the rest of the run while summing up Constantine as a character on one final page. Damn if it isn't a perfect, fitting end.
Sorry, a final note. Every single person on the creative team absolutely killed it this issue. Not only did each do phenomenally in their "department" but, when all of their storytelling elements are combined you are treated to one hell of an issue, and one hell of a series wrap-up.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Honestly, not much I can add to this list other than one truth, and one subjective note.
Truth: The series ended. Seriously, I was gutted when this was announced and, when finishing this series, I was speechless.
Subjective: Some may not enjoy how crazy the art gets and may find it hard to read. Personally, I didn't have this problem, but I can easily see others having it.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Under Spurrier and team, John Constantine has never been better. Not only is issue #12 an amazing finale to the series, but the end of what may very well be the best John Constantine we've seen in years.
In each issue, Spurrier and team brought the flawed character back to his Vertigo roots while making him feel fresh and relevant. Not only did John Constantine: Hellblazer #12 end the series magnificently – while wrapping it all up and leaving future opportunities – but will absolutely destroy you with the knowledge that this team isn't staying on.
Hands down, John Constantine: Hellblazer has been such a phenomenal ride, it'll make you pissed-off that DC Comics canceled such an amazing creative team's run. If you ever wanted to read a great Constantine series, this here is among the best.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Coda by Simon Spurrier, Matías Bergara, Michael Doig, Jim Campbell, Colin Bell
Thompson Heller, Detective Interstellar by Milton Lawson, Dave Chisholm, Fabian Cobos, Damon Kane
Coffin Bound by Dan Watters, Dani, Brad Simpson, Aditya Bidikar, Emma Price
If you like the art:
Infidel by Pornsak Pichetshote, Aaron Campbell, José Villarrubia
Sweet Heart by Dillon Gilbertson, Francesco Iaquinta, Marco Pagnotta, Saida Temofonte
30 Days of Night by Steve Niles, and Ben Templesmith
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Simon Spurrier (@sispurrier) – Writer
Outlander: Is a British comics writer
Was an Art Director at BBC
Writes for 2000 AD
Aaron Campbell (@olmancampbell) – Artist
Back in 2018 Infidel was picked up for a film treatment
By looking at his Twitter it seems he is quite good at carpeting and woodworking
Is a big fan of horror
Jordie Bellaire – Colorist
Multitalented: Also writes the Redlands comic
Outlander: Lives in Ireland
Award-Winner: Two-time Eisner winning colorist
Aditya Bidikar (@adityab) – Letterer
Lives in India
Multitalented: Bidikar has tons of credits not only as a letterer, but also as a comic writer and prose writer. All his credits are available to view on his website.
Co-hosts a comics podcast with fellow letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, called Letters & Lines
John Paul Leon (@johnpaulleon) – Cover Artist
Started working professionally in Illustration at the age of 16
Has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the School of Visual Arts
Studied under Will Eisner, Walter Simonson, and Jack Potter.
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