THIS WEEK: Tom Taylor and Darick Robertson make their Black Label debut with Hellblazer: Rise and Fall #1. We look at how the duo fares on the newest John Constantine adventure.


Hellblazer Rise and Fall #1

Hellblazer: Rise and Fall #1

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Darick Robertson
Color Artist: Diego Rodriguez
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Cover Artists: Darick Robertson and Diego Rodriguez

The latest Black Label release is here in the form of Hellblazer: Rise and Fall. John Constantine’s latest story takes the character back to his roots, reuniting him with old friends and confronting him with past failures. 

As a standalone introduction to the character, Hellblazer: Rise and Fall works well. I confess to not being terribly familiar with Constantine outside of his appearances in the Arrowverse, and his characterization here feels like it falls solidly in line with his TV counterpart. In that sense, Hellblazer: Rise and Fall will be a perfect gateway for people who are interested in the character but not sure where to start.

Writer Tom Taylor does a nice job in this first issue of establishing the central mystery of the series. It’s a compelling two-pronged mystery, with a bizarre series of murders that also involve figures (both living and otherwise) from Constantine’s past. Rooting the mystery in Constantine’s background is a solid way to raise the stakes for him, and to give what’s otherwise a fairly procedural story a more personal feel. Taylor’s character work here is also on-point, with each character having a distinct voice, and new characters feeling fully-formed upon their arrival, particularly in their relationships to Constantine.

Hellblazer Rise and Fall #1

Those characters benefit in no small way from artists Darick Robertson and Diego Rodriguez. Robertson is an artist whose work I’ve enjoyed for a long time, though mostly from afar as outside of his early ‘00s Wolverine run I’ve not read much that he’s worked on. His linework is gorgeous, and his storytelling is superb. The imagery of this story is at times bizarre, at others utterly horrific, and Robertson’s clean, realistic style makes the extraordinary elements of the story stand out that much more. The color work from Rodriguez complements Robertson’s linework perfectly, accentuating the iconic, rumpled look of Constantine, the dirty, lived-in look of the Liverpool setting, and the horror and absurdity of the book’s more out-there elements. They’re a strong duo, and the art in this book is a joy to look at.

If there’s any complaint to be made about Hellblazer: Rise and Fall #1, it’s that it does feel very introductory. As I mentioned above, I’m primarily familiar with Constantine from his TV appearances, but even I felt like this started off a little run-of-the-mill (and it’s odd to think that naked people with wings secured to their backs impaled on church steeples would be ‘run-of-the-mill’). From chatting with fellow reviewers who’re more familiar with Constantine, I get the impression that his normal adventures are a bit messier and more complicated than what’s presented here. That said, it’s just the first issue of a series, and the final page does throw in an unexpected element that I’m sure will add some hurdles for Constantine and his compatriots.

Hellblazer: Rise and Fall #1 is an entertaining start to the series. It’s as new reader-friendly as they come, and mileage may vary for longtime Constantine fans, but it’s definitely got this reader interested in where the story is going to go.

Verdict: Browse.


Round-Up

  • “Joker War” continues on in Batman #98, and after a few issues that have felt like treading water, the conclusion of this one finally feels like we’re finally getting somewhere. Artist Jorge Jiménez‘s work has been stellar throughout the story, and this issue is no exception, with one instance in particular that’s both visually spectacular and exceptionally fun. Hopefully the final two issues of this story can carry the momentum of this issue’s conclusion.
  • The first issue of The Dreaming: Waking Hours was a wonderful debut for the series, and I’m happy to say the second issue builds on that start and takes the series to some really exciting places. G. Willow Wilson adds intriguing new elements to the Sandman Universe, and hearkens back to elements from the very first issues of the original Sandman series, and it all looks absolutely gorgeous thanks to Nick Robles and Matt Lopes‘s spectacular artwork. If you’re a fan of Sandman at all, or even if you just like a fantasy story with a lot of heart behind it, do yourself a favor and jump on this book.
  • I have not been reading Shazam!, but I decided to check out this newest issue because Superboy-Prime is on the cover and I can’t get enough of that little snot. Having read the book, I’m still not sure why Prime is in it, and he doesn’t really seem to do anything of importance. That aside, this was a remarkably easy comic to get into and follow seeing as it’s the final chapter of a 14-part story, which is a huge compliment to Geoff JohnsDale EagleshamScott Kolins, and co. I don’t know if I quite feel compelled to go back and read the issues I missed, but I definitely enjoyed reading this one.
  • Strange Adventures #5 takes the series, of which I’ve already been somewhat wary, completely off the rails. From Adam and Alanna’s not-so-sly commentary on “cancel culture,” to J’onn J’onnz saying there’s no way to minimize loss of life during an alien invasion (some superhero), to Adam’s casual racism regarding Mr. Terrific toward the end of the issue. If I were a big fan of Adam Strange and his mythos, I would be livid about how he and Alanna are being portrayed here. Is that the point? Honestly I have no idea.
  • Robin Drake and Spoiler get the spotlight in the newest Young Justice, in a nice one-and-done story that ties up some loose ends for Steph and solidifies her position as a part of the YJ team. Honestly this issue is worth it for the final page alone, which features a welcome event that many of us have been hoping for for a while. Thank you, Brian Bendis, for eliminating the need for that intervention.

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

1 COMMENT

  1. Completely agree with your take on Strange Adventures. It’s interesting that ever few generations DC decides to “darken” Adam Strange’s wonderful Silver Age adventures. It started with an appearance in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, followed by a horrible “deluxe format” miniseries in the late 80s/90s. King seems to be following in those footsteps, questioning whether Strange is a hero or some sort of naive/violent colonialist, portraying Alanna as manipulative. Horrible stuff masquerading as “mature” comics.

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