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
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.
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.
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