Hellblazer #287 - 'Another Season In Hell, Part One: The Devil's Wager' - Milligan, Camuncoli and Landini
Story - I don't really know why, but Constantine seems relevant and important again. Maybe it's because Britain is in the grips of a recession under a Tory government, maybe it's because employment is rising higher and higher, maybe it's because Kenny Dalglish is managing Liverpool FC again. Basically, the 1980s are back, and so is Constantine. The character is pretty much the quintessential 80s hero, and for me, he struggled throughout recent times. But under Peter Milligan, the book is hitting new heights and actually moving things forward and this particular issue may be the best yet.
The plot of this issue is pretty much what it says on the cover, John Constantine returns to Hell. And what a Hell it is, Milligan's descriptions are graphic and horrible, but very fitting and really give the issue a creepy atmosphere. I often find the stories that reveal most about a writer is when they have to depict Hell, and this Hell reflects Milligan's cynicism wonderfully. This is an Urban Hell, perfect for Constantine. It was unfortunately pretty obvious that the 'Angel' that John meets was actually a demon, but the fact that John didn't realise such an obvious deception as quickly as he usually does illustrated how disorientated Hell has made him.
But in truth, the creepiest scene in this issue wasn't in Hell at all, it was in a London Restaurant. This story is continuing out of events in previous issues, wherein Gemma Masters, Constantine's niece turned against her uncle, summoning demons and stealing his coat. But creepiest of all, she started fucking the Gangster Terry Greaves, who is not only old, but the father of John's wide Epiphany. Whilst this all sounds very soapy and convoluted, it works very well, and I truly don't know what Gemma is up to with Terry, and the panel where she sexually tongues the Oyster freaked me the fuck out.
Gemma is also the reason why Constantine is in Hell, as she wants him to go there and find out some mysterious secret about her mother (John's sister). So this whole thing is personal, as the best stories are. John taking a trip to Hell for the, well, the hell of it would be a fun story sure, but this has so much more behind it.
Not that this issue is all terrifying demons and creepy romance, Milligan also brings some humour to proceedings, chiefly in the form of Blathloxi, Lord Of Flatulence. Yes a farting demon may be childish, but it was funny. Even little things like John referring to Satan as being 'homoerotic' added some levity.
This was another fantastic issue of Milligan's Hellblazer and one that stands among the best books on the stand. If you've been avoiding Hellblazer for the last few years, think again and pick this up. The 80s have come again in many ways, and Hellblazer being back to it's best is one of the few good ones.
Art - Giuseppe Camuncoli has been the artist on Hellblazer for a long time now, and he continues to do excellent work. His cartoony style may not immediately bring to mind a dark book like this, but he really does fit every divergent tone that Milligan can go for. He can bring the horror, the humour and the mundane. He's great.
Best Line - 'Just like the oyster' Ugh, creepy as fuck.