What happens when you have a book that you enjoyed for what it was, but cannot score It higher due to technical issues? You just deal.
Sometimes, being the Issue after a major celebratory one is more of a burden than being the Issue itself. Due to months and months of reader hype, and creators that are all too human and needing time to recharge their batteries, you have a situation just asking for someone to be let down after. Still, it doesn’t mean that the issue in question has a “get out of jail free” card to be bad, as said Issue can help to keep interested readers on board by establishing future storylines to look forward to, something that Invincible Iron Man and Fables have done well after their big celebratory landmarks. Will HellBlazer #276 join them? The honest answer is not as pretty as I would like it to be.
On the surface, the writing of Hellblazer #276 does nothing terribly wrong. The Dialogue is solid, and the story does what it’s engineered to do, and that’s to give new reader’s a sense of what John Constantine is really like. However, when one goes a little bit beyond the superficial surface, you’re left with a story that leaves you flat because of the whole action/reprisal mechanic that’ll ultimately serve to drive away readers, due to its unevenness.
Without giving too much away, John Constantine is faced with Eviction, due to a greedy Algorithmist (who serves as this stories antagonist), with the main character’s response being to death curse said antagonist. Now when you take that reaction by itself, it definitely seems over the top, but when you add the fact that the Death Curse was a Druid Reprisal to the Roman Empire destroying their culture the unevenness of the sequence of events is increased three fold. What this does for the non-initiated is to make John Constantine an unsympathetic asshole, which many people will not want to follow. Now this isn’t to say that he has to be a nice person to be palatable, but when you present him in this light, you’ve gone beyond having a person using dark power for good intentions, and gone into the “abusive dick” territory. An unfortunate turn of events that not even a series of entertaining character moment with Epiphany could save.
When judging this book for its merits, I have to say that the art definitely outstrips the story itself. Simon Bisley does an excellent job setting the mood with the character drawings, and the backgrounds that surround them. A lot can be said about these characters just from looking at them interacting with each other without the dialogue to support them. However, this reviewer still feels that the art has issues, with the biggest issues surrounding the flashback sequences, which feel rushed compared to how good the rest of the art is. If only a little more care was shown to the art, then this would’ve came off a lot better, but it’s an overall standup effort, and I hope to see more of his work in the future.
The bottom line is this, if books were scored on the first page, this would’ve gotten a 9 (it’s the reason why I didn’t Byrne Steal this, like I was originally going to), and if they were scored at face value, it still would’ve gotten an 8. However, when you take a critical eye to this book, and as the question “Who was this aimed for?” ,is where this book falters. Hellblazer isn’t something that most people will read on a lark normally, and the people that did for #275, may find that they want to get off with this issue, which it’s unfortunate, because I can see the effort the Creative Team put into this issue (which is why I plan on giving #277 a shot), but the effort just didn’t equal to a favorable result. Hopefully March’s Issue will be better.
Final Judgment: 6