Hellblazer: Original Sins by Jamie Delano

details
Title: Hellblazer.
Story arc: Original Sins.
Volume: 1
Writer(s): Jamie Delano & Rick Veitch.
Artist(s)John RidgwayAlfredo AlcalaRick VeitchTom MandrakeBrett EwinsJim McCarthy.
Colourist(s): Lovern Kindzierski & John Costanza.
Letterer(s): Annie HalfacreeTodd Klein & John Costanza.
Publisher: DC Comics.
Format: Paperback.
Release Date: October 1988.
Pages: 304.
Genre(s): Comics, Horror, Fantasy.
ISBN13: 9781401230067.
My Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆.

thoughts

Horror has often been a genre that was thoroughly laughed at with its mediocre, simple and predictable stories as its foundation to all of its scary and supernatural elements. It is only with time and experience that I’ve come across excellent examples of stellar horror stories that don’t only look to be superficially scary but that takes the time to explore ideas with an unprecedented psychological depth added to them. The mere thought of these ideas can send chills down your spine or leave you in awe at the ingenious design set forward. In the comic book medium, the format allows artists to draw upon their imagination to bring some of the most disturbing and frightening concepts to life. It is, however, only with a competent writer that the story can truly find a form that can give the vessel the weight it needs to get the ship to sail fluidly. Over at DC Comics, there is one character who thrives within a supernatural world that borders the horror genre, and it is none other than the blonde English gentlemen with a love for chain-smoking, booze and sex: John Constantine.

What is Hellblazer: Original Sins about? This first volume collects the first nine issues of the Vertigo series and includes two issues of the tie-in stories featured in Swamp Thing. Known as the Liverpool native magus who understands the complex balance between the world of the living and that of dark magic, John Constantine is an anti-hero who struggles to come to term with himself and the reality in which he lives. While the true price of magic is one that he comprehends better than anyone else, he still lives in a world where there are individuals who are ready to blindly sacrifice themselves for sinister power. Unfortunately for Constantine, he will always be just around the corner, sucked into the mess that follows the irrational actions of these individuals as he tries to resolve the situations, whether he likes it or not. If anything, leave it to him if you want to get out of a sticky, and also bloody, situation.

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Within the DC Universe, there are a lot of great antiheroes who are wrapped within stories that compel them to be complex and flawed heroes while maintaining their shroud of villainy. It is usually, however, a form of evil that is somehow justified rationally without completely venturing in the realm of insanity. John Constantine is one of those characters who are witty and self-conscious yet cowardly and manipulative in his ways to handle situations. Writer Jamie Delano does a phenomenal job in developing his character as he drops him in countless situations where John Constantine is forced to acknowledge his role and responsibility as someone who can venture between Hell and Earth. With his cynical perception of life, coupled with the psychological torture that he has to cope with as an addict of dark magic, he finds himself in a strange situation where he’s still conscious of what darkness can do to anyone but also to him.

Jamie Delano’s prose is what gives this story the edge and keeps it from completely tumbling down the mountain. Although the volume is a collection of unconnected stories, what he accomplishes through his flowery and poetic writing style showcases his ability as a master wordsmith who can wrap his readers around his literary fingers. Although the supernatural elements are completely omnipresent and captivating, the artwork does struggle a bit to capture the reader’s attention from cover to cover. It also doesn’t help when the dialogue bubbles’ positioning and the panel structure invites confusion in the reading direction, where at times you are to read from left to right on both pages rather than just one, while at other times the order in which you are supposed to read certain bubbles isn’t as evident as it could have been. The artwork by the various illustrators’ in this volume is also a bit hard to digest, although the colour palettes work wonderfully with the character’s world. It conveys an atmospheric, gritty, depressing and sin-full setting that naturally screams vice, misery, and evil.

Hellblazer: Original Sins is the exploration of a selfish magus’ life tormented by the ghosts of past mistakes and of his self-discovery as the unapologetic wielder of dark magic.


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The movie directed by Francis Lawrence and starring Keanu Reeves is loosely based on the Original Sins and Dangerous Habits story arcs! Have you seen it?

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25 comments

  • For some reason I always get Hellraiser and Hellblazer mixed up in my mind so it took me a second to wrap my head around that you weren’t going to be talking about Pinhead.

    I did watch the movie and have to say I barely remember it. I think the one thought I had was something along the lines of “Well, that is one movie franchise that just died”. I think I felt bad for any fans who had gone into it expecting a great Fandom movie.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hahahah no Pinhead here, that’s for sure. I think the “Hellblazer” name is less and less known or attributed to Constantine nowadays too. But those who love the character or want to know more of him must know that this is where it all began.

      Ahh.. it definitely killed the franchise. Constantine, however, totally deserves a solid movie for himself. His character IS story-telling material. Hopefully, they won’t leave the character in that CW Network show and not have him on the big screen someday. He’d be perfect to start a Justice League Dark live-action movie… someday… One can dream.

      Liked by 1 person

  • What an amazing review, Lashaan. Even if I wasn’t interested in a title, you make it so enticing to read it. You found a great way of pointing out the flaws here. As this is a release from 1988, there has been amble time to make changes in newer comics of today. A very timely read with the new movie in theaters currently.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Scarlett! It is indeed a peculiar but fascinating story to pick up. This is the original series that is highly praised by fans of the character but there are other series where the character is central though and they are definitely appealing in their own, modern, ways hahah

      Like

  • It’s a shame about the confusing speech placement – that must have really distracted from the story.

    I really like the idea of him being addicted to dark magic though. It gives me those dark Willow Buffy season 6 vibes. He sounds like a character I could spend time with – I like them a little bit evil 😅

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a bit messy but if you’re okay with a slower read where you take the time to analyze the overall structure before really reading the bubbles, then it won’t be too much of an issue here!

      Oh, I can assure you that everyone loves John Constantine. He has a very cocky, manipulative, charming and self-centered personality. A recipe for disaster. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  • Never got round to reading Constantine comics after seeing the movie; it wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t good – only Tilda Swinton as Gabriel saved that thing from being disastrous (the CGI was really horrid) and Reeves held his own as Constantine – but the story was just meh and hobbled the whole thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They definitely didn’t put their efforts in the right places for that movie. So much potential, all wasted. I do know that they could totally achieve a fantastic dark comedy/horror movie with John Constantine. Only if they took the time to do it right.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Dang Lashaan I feel you there because if the discussion bubbles are not correctly placed and all I would have had a hard time reading it! A good structure in comics is essential else it gets too crowded and you don’t follow anymore. I also don’t like bubbles with lots of dialogs in it. It feels “crammed” and more like a book than a comics.

    Like

  • Awesome thoughts sir. I’ve always been curious about Constantine, not a favourite by any stretch (odd, given I’m from Liverpool haha) but like yourself I like horror when it’s done well. His appearances in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing are interesting enough to have me want to check out the original run.

    I like what you have to say about the art and the panel structure – it’s such an important element of any comic book, so many times have I been misdirected around a page due to messy/jumbled placing of word balloons and the flow of the images.

    I did see the Keanu Reeves movie and at the time I only had a vague inkling that it was based on a comic book character, interesting to learn from your review that it’s actually based somewhat on this story!

    I’ve never watched the TV series but have seen the JL Dark animated movie which was quite cool.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What! I’d have thought he’d be a character you’d have loved for his origins and personality! 😛 But yes, it’s pretty cool that the Swamp Thing and Constantine are pretty close.

      I have to admit that it was a bit more complicated than what Grant Morrison accomplishes in Arkham Asylum. I got lost a bit too often and it really is sometimes annoying.

      Yep, the movie is based on some story arcs from the original comic book run but it is far from being loyal to the source material. The character definitely deserves a better adaptation. I’d be all in to see an adaptation set within the Worlds of DC. It would make for a cool way to introduce a Justice League Dark movie.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Ooo, i don’t think i’ve seen that movie yet!
    Nor have i heard of the graphic novel to be fair 😀

    It’s true though that there are a lot of horror things out there that are not really scary, but mostly just ridiculous. I also prefer the ones that add a bit of psychology as well and not just blood and guts flying around.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahah there’s always time to check out the comic book or the movie, although the latter isn’t entirely necessary or representative of the comic book 😛

      Yep. I do love the horror stories that focus on the concepts of fear as well. For example, IT was an EXCELLENT horror movie. Did you see the trailer for chapter 2???? I can’t wait! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, no i haven’t yet!
        But the first movie was really good… i know a horror movie is done to my tastes when i have to cover my eyes half the time 😀 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  • Great review! 🙂 I’ve never actually read a comic centered around Constantine before, but it’s definitely on my to-read list. I’ve only ever read comics that just so happen to have him in them, but I tend to enjoy his character when he pops up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! I too see him more often as a secondary character, especially in stories like Justice League Dark. It was nice to finally see what he was really about in his own classic series. Might indeed be something worth trying out at some point. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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