Running from Hell in The Hellblazer #22
The Good Old Days story arc continues in The Hellblazer #22. John Constantine and the Huntress track down John’s old flame before she’s used to unleash hell upon London. With a story built around demonic possession, divine power, and gang violence, this arc should be non-stop mystical action. Sadly, it isn’t. And The Hellblazer #22 is just lukewarm at best.
Tim Seeley is a good writer. I loved his Nightwing run. I say that to preface the fact that I’m not liking his run on The Hellblazer. And it’s not just his run. Since the Rebirth issue, The Hellblazer has struggled to find its footing in the DC lineup. What started out as a promising story of John Constantine’s return to London has fizzled out into stories of wasted potential. Tim Seeley isn’t the problem, he’s just a symptom. The latest in a line of writers trying to make Constantine fun.
So far, Seeley has come the closest by picking up dropped plot threads from issues ago. It also helps that he added the Huntress into the world of The Hellblazer. She is able to challenge Constantine’s view of superheroes, his faith, and his misogyny. Much like the writers before him, Seeley manages to capture the voice and personality of Constantine and of London. It’s unfortunate that that isn’t enough to make The Hellblazer #22 interesting.
In a story about demonic possession, hellish grudges, and punk vampires there should be a lot more going on than there is. These are promising ideas that can be explored in a million different ways. Showcase the power of hell, delve deeper into the Huntress’ religious nature, make Constantine competent.
It’s not all bad, however. There is a scene with a tortured vampire that is both genuinely tragic and morbidly uplifting. In it, we see the complexity of Constantine’s personality and the humanizing of two characters who have been mostly closed off for their own reasons. It’s indicative of what The Hellblazer could be.
Along with the disappointing writing is the disappointing art. Much like the writing on the series, the art on The Hellblazer hasn’t managed to find a style of its own. This book has turned into a revolving door of artists as each one tries to leave their mark on the property. In this case, penciler Davide Fabri and inker Christian Dalla Vecchia do a serviceable job, but one that is ultimately forgettable. The demon designs are uninspired, and there are a few instances where they play fast and loose with human anatomy. One of the more redeeming parts is their depiction of a flaming vampire. It’s a seriously fun sequence.
All in all, The Hellblazer #22 just didn’t do it for me. Like I said up top, I’m a fan of Tim Seeley and I really hope this series gets better. Otherwise, I can’t justify keeping it in my monthly pull box. And hey, if this doesn’t work out, DC should just give Seeley a The Huntress series to write. She’s shown up in both his run of Nightwing and The Hellblazer now, and Seeley knows how to make her interesting.
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