Shiny Shelf


Hellblazer #250

By Mark Clapham on 24 December 2008

‘Hellblazer’ is 250, and this big number coincides not only with Christmas, but with a creative changeover on the book, so here’s a festive special with five seasonal stories celebrating Vertigo’s longest running title and hardiest character, John Constantine.

Anthologies like this can sometimes involve creators bringing their less than A-game to the table, but thankfully that’s not the case here. A bitter old sod like Constantine is perfectly suited to the bittersweet, often melancholic and occasionally brutal stories that Christmas inspires, and a wide range of writers and artists deliver diverse stories here.

Best comes first, and it’s a New Year’s story rather than a Christmas one. Dave Gibbons writes a more straightforward Constantine than others, and a more straightforward story – this is very much a magician on a mission, saving a baby in a London crammed with drunken, reckless revellers. Sean Phillips has always been, and will always be, my definitive Constantine artist, and the combination of the two is sharply enjoyable. I’ll always be delighted by further ‘Hellblazer’ work from Phillips, but on this basis I’d also welcome Gibbons writing for the book again.

Two nasty little tales from writers with substantial previous runs on ‘Hellblazer’, Jamie Delano and Brian Azzarello, are told in very different ways, with very different endings. Both are bleak, but also darkly funny and not without hope, and catch their respective writers at their inventive best. David Lloyd’s art is as distinct as ever on Delano’s story, while Rafael Grampa is every bit as good as you’d expect a peer of the Brothers Ba to be.

The slightest story in the book comes from incoming regular writer Pete Milligan, with art by Eddie Campbell. It’s not a bad story as such – and, you know, it’s Eddie Campbell for chrissakes so it looks great – but it feels more like a standard ‘Hellblazer’ story than anything else here, perhaps because, rather than this being a one-off deal, Milligan is limbering up for his run.

Finally, horror writer China Mieville delivers a haunting little tale which, unusually for a writer primarily known as a novelist, is highly visual. Giuseppe Camuncoli is an artist I primarily know from superhero stuff, but he takes to Vertigo work brilliantly here, and his cleaner style is a nice change for the imprint.

This is a great one-off issue. If you haven’t read ‘Hellblazer’ in ages, or indeed have never been a big fan of the character or comic, pick this up nonetheless – it’s a great little collection of dark, standalone stories that rewards the reader for their time and money. Highly, highly recommended.

Well, it’s Christmas Eve, and that’s me done for now. I’ll just take this opportunity to wish all Shiny Shelf’s readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and to thank all our contributors for all their work in 2008. Cheers!


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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named markclapham.com.




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