Editor’s Note: I’m the one who steps from the shadows, all trenchcoat and cigarette and arrogance, ready to deal with the spoilers.
Let’s start by talking about that cover. It is terrible.
It’s not terrible in a visual sense; it is a perfectly serviceable Ivan Reis cover with a sense of dynamism, and enough flashy lights to attract the casual browser’s eye as he or she wanders through the comic store. So from a pure advertising standpoint, the cover does its job. The problem with the cover is that, for a Hellblazer fan trying Constantine #1 in the hopes that this new title will deliver something even close to what they loved for about a quarter century in the earlier series, it delivers the worst message in the world.
Hellblazer’s John Constantine was a dude who worked in the shadows, mostly by reputation, braggadocio and ruthless cynicism, who used the traditional magics of sigils and binding when he needed to use it at all. The cover to Constantine #1 advertises Constantine as a refugee magic user from Diablo III, chucking force bolts around like there’s some pimply teenager driving him with a joystick while mashing the A button.
The cover promises John Constantine as fantasy action hero, throwing around “magic” ways that Gandalf would find ostentatious and flamboyant. It hints at the polar opposite of what Hellblazer fans like, and it gave me a sinking feeling in my stomach… particularly since I know that it wasn’t the first cover planned for the book. The original cover featured Constantine in a graveyard surrounded by monsters, before it was replaced by this monstrosity… and even then, someone made the decision to airbrush the cigarette out of Constantine’s mouth, further emasculating the character. Hell, based on that carefully-placed force bolt, for all I know they actually took John’s balls as well.
This was the wrong cover if anyone at DC editorial wanted to attract Hellblazer readers in the wake of that book’s cancellation. It is the equivalent of a bar pulling all the single malt scotch off their shelves and replacing it with Four Loco; sure, scotch isn’t a taste for everybody, but you ain’t attracting Islay aficionados with cans of Teenager-Punches-Cops juice.
And finally, this cover is a huge misfire because it commits the cardinal sin of comic covers: it in no way reflects what’s happening in the actual comic book. Constantine #1 has no force bolt slinging action hero in it. Sure, there’s some more straight-up action in the book than you’d find in Hellblazer, including more ostentatious magic of the force bolt variety than you’d find in the original title. But none of it comes from John Constantine, who writers Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes seem to have a pretty decent handle on.
My point is, for an old Hellblazer fan, there is enough good character stuff in this book to make it worth checking out, despite that Godawful “Pew! Pew! Pew!” cover.