Story arc: Original Sins.
Writer(s): Jamie Delano & Rick Veitch.
Artist(s): John Ridgway, Alfredo Alcala, Rick Veitch, Tom Mandrake, Brett Ewins & Jim McCarthy.
Colourist(s): Lovern Kindzierski & John Costanza.
Letterer(s): Annie Halfacree, Todd Klein & John Costanza.
Publisher: DC Comics.
Release Date: October 1988.
Genre(s): Comics, Horror, Fantasy.
My Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆.
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.
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.
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?