THIS WEEK: John Constantine – Hellblazer, Dead in America #1 brings back the same creative team from this book’s fantastic prior run. Plus, Wonder Woman prepares for war and Superman tangles in the Old West.

Note: the review below contains spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.

Dead in AmericaJohn Constantine – Hellblazer, Dead in America #1

Writer: Si Spurrier
Artist: Aaron Campbell
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar

One of the (many) downsides of the weekly comics review grind is that you rarely have a chance to step back, read a run in full, and take stock of storytelling holistically. Sure, you might talk about it a lot, talk big like you’re finally going to make it happen this week…but then all of a sudden it’s Tuesday morning and you got to get that post finished. Well friends, not to brag but this time I actually did it…I read all of John Constantine – Hellblazer in full to prep for the new series this week.

If you’re not familiar, John Constantine – Hellblazer launched in late 2019, part of DC Comics’ Sandman Universe line, from the creative team of writer Si Spurrier, artist Aaron Campbell, colorist Jordie Bellaire, and letterer Aditya Bidikar. It sparked much love and critical praise online…and then subsequently much chagrin when it ended after 12 issues in late 2020. And after re-reading all those comics more than three years later, not only do I think the love for this series was deserved…I actually think it’s gotten better with time.

The 12-issue series was as narratively clear as it was interesting and bold, that perfect superhero comics ideal that took the familiar core of a character and did new, timely things with it. This is all to say that I think it’s a small miracle that the same creative team has returned to pick up the story right where it left off with this week’s John Constantine – Hellblazer, Dead in America #1. After reading the first issue back, the book hasn’t lost a step. If anything, it has returned determined to go bigger (and perhaps more marketable) with every page.

Whereas the first series saw Constantine in his native U.K., deeply entangled with magical problems intrinsic to that country, the second series — as the title makes clear — has moved him to the U.S. of A. And he’s brought with him the surviving members of his supporting cast as well as the bombshell revelation that the first series ended on — Constantine’s heart has stopped beating, making him technically dead.

Dead in America

The book wastes no time in putting a magical layer on top of this country’s defining sickness, too. There’s racist cops and gun violence death cultism, and the crew also finds itself in — gasp — Florida. That’s all well done. What I was more impressed by though was how it managed to find long-standing fantasy native to this country, playing with the tourist trap-y Fountain of Youth. I look forward to seeing what other similar locations the book will take us to in the next eight issues, with this one ending on a trip to New Orleans.

Anyway, that’s all great, but what’s the bigger deal here is that the Sandman Universe of it all is now clear in this new arc, with Dream himself arriving to followup on some old business with Constanine. This was made clear in the promotion cycle for the title, but one of the inciting incidents here is that Dream has come to talk about something from the early issues of the original Sandman comics. In that story, Constantine was in possession of Dream’s sack of magical sand, which he said he had never opened (he said he wasn’t able to) after buying it at a garage sale in San Francisco.

Well, what this series supposes is that…what if Constanine lied? What if, in fact, he and others had been able to open that bag of sand? And what if grains of that sand were still out there, tumbling around America just like Constantine and his crew. It’s a hell of a flash story hook, but it would ring hollow if the creative team didn’t also have such a strong rapport and foundation.

Aaron Campbell is the absolute perfect artist for a Constantine comic, with a half-smoked cigarette aesthetic that feels as gritty as Constantine himself. He can nail Constantine in dark bar scenes, before quickly turning them into giant fantastical horror-laced set pieces, much like he did in the critically-beloved award-winning Image series, Infidel. And his linework is just so perfectly supplemented by colorist Jordie Bellaire and letterer Aditya Bidikar. Si Spurrier meanwhile not only has Constantine’s voice down pact, he’s also given him more sympathetic problems than we’ve seen John grapple with in some time. There’s a surprising amount of heart to this comic, and it continues in Dead in America, played out primarily through Constantine knowing the young man, Noah, is his son.

Dead in America

It all adds up to just an excellent comic, superhero or otherwise, and, as noted above, we are all bloody lucky it’s back.

Verdict: BUY

The Round-Up

  • Superman #10: While Constantine was crossing oceans to go to America, Superman was crossing time to go back to the Old West days and team-up with intriguing new character, Marilyn Moonlight. This is another fun issue within a fun run, one that has uniformly just had the best Superman art. This week with Joshua Williamson’s script we get great-looking pages from guest artists Bruno Redondo (one of the best drawing DC superheroes right now) and Caio Filipe, with colors by Adriano Lucas and letters by Ariana Maher. 
  • Wonder Woman #5: In Wonder Woman, meanwhile, a war is brewing, and the respective sides are assembling their teams. One side is essentially Wonder Woman’s rogues — Dr. Psycho, Giganta, Grail, and so forth — and on the other is Wonder Woman’s many proteges — Yara Flor, Donna Troy, and Cassie Sandsmark. This run from writer Tom King, artist Daniel Sampere, colorist Tomeu Morey, and letterer Clayton Cowles has really been compelling so far. This is maybe the slowest issue, but it’s a nice step back to build toward a bigger clash to come.

Miss any of our earlier reviews? Check out our full archive!