The Price Of Friendship – Hellblazer Annual #1 Review

Last night I got into an argument with a bottle of vodka and the vodka won. I woke up feeling pretty low, but you know who probably feels worse? Anybody who makes the mistake of palling around with John Constantine, that’s who. This is a fact that we are told goes back as far as Constantine’s childhood in John Constantine: Hellblazer Annual. “Suicide Bridge” takes Constantine back to his old stomping grounds in Liverpool. The mother of a long missing childhood friend is dying and his family would like him to work his mojo to determine what happened to her son, so she can die with some piece of mind. As is typical for Constantine, the search for answers never goes smoothly.

Spoilers after the jump!

Why does a seemingly well adjusted kid with no obvious problems to speak of suddenly run away from home? What does a mysterious picture of a bridge that was torn down in 1921 have to do with the disappearances? Is Constantine himself responsible for the missing childhood friend? These are the questions writer Peter Milligan seeks to answer in this double sized one-and-done, with art from Simon Bisley. This is only the second time Hellblazer has had an “annual” issue; the first one was back in 1989. Milligan discussed some of the inspiration for the story with Comic Book Resources:

First, a little bit about my inspiration for the story. Close to where I grew up is an old Victorian bridge that spans a busy road. This bridge has long been known as “Suicide Bridge.” A number of years ago, I walked beneath that bridge and saw the aftermath of a suicide. I was struck by how dark the blood was that had splattered across the road. How dark, and how much of it. The mystery of why the stranger jumped, and the darkness of the blood, stayed with me. I worked through some of those thoughts and memories in this story.

That’s a hell of a thing to have seen. Indeed, the story Milligan writes from it is pretty dark. Constantine reaffirms for himself that, even in childhood, it has never been safe to be his friend. Even something as casual as giving away a photograph Constantine has no use for has dire and unexpected consequences. However, the investigation of his friend’s disappearance does allow him to close out that chapter from his childhood. Sometimes you really can’t go home again, especially when you’ve got a hot 23 year old wife waiting for you in London. Seriously.

You don't really want to sleep with Joh Constantine anyway, Dora. His STDs are probably demonic at this point.

Simon Bisley’s art complements the story. It is dark and moody with expressive facial features. The characters all seem to have very intense eyes, even the undead characters. I’m reminded a little of Edward Gorey.

Oh, John. You always take us to the nicest places.

“Suicide Bridge” is a spooky, tight and entertaining read. Bisley draws Constantine so vividly that you get the impression each scar is part of a relief map outlining all the damage, wear and tear he has taken in his lifetime, as well as inflicted on others. If it wasn’t safe to be his friend when he was 16, you’re left wondering what’s in store for his young wife, Epiphany, now that he’s close to 60.