Review: Constantine: The Hellblazer Vol. 2: The Art of the Deal

Writers: Ming Doyle & James Tynion IV

Artists: Riley Rossmo, Travel Foreman, Eryk Donovan

Collects Constantine: The Hellblazer #7-13, The Hellblazer: Rebirth #1

“This is piss country.” – John Constantine

I readily admit that while I’m a fan of John Constantine, I am by no means a scholar when it comes to the character. Having disclosed that, I think anybody can pick up a copy of The Art of the Deal and enjoy it. You really can just jump right in and have fun reading a wild supernatural tale without feeling this slightest bit disoriented. If you have been reading the series to this point, then you will probably feel even more rewarded.

Co-writers James Tynion IV (who can seemingly do no wrong these days) and Ming Doyle have an incredible understanding of the chracter, especially when it comes to crafting his dialogue; I laughed out loud on several occasions and you probably will as well. Furthermore, his monologues at the beginning of each chapter are remarkably profound and should be savored.

Three artists contributed to this book – Riley Rossmo, Travel Foreman, and Eryk Donovan – and all have very different styles. Some may find it distracting, but I was largely fine with it. As much as they differ from one another, the look is very “Vertigo,” if you will. Although this is set within DC continuity proper, this story has the bite and attitude of the mature imprint.

We join Constantine as he acclimates to life in New York City. Mysterious entities are mauling young lovers in Central Park, creating a veritable nightmare for Craigslist enthusiasts. Swamp Thing enlists John’s help and, believe me, when Swampy comes to him for aid, you know it’s bad. In short, it makes for a nice introduction for what’s to come – you have no idea what you’re in for.

Apparently desperation is the word of the day as longtime frenemy Papa Midnite leverages Constantine into braving a hellish nightclub. It’s like Blue Velvet by way of Clive Barker.

As our favorite exorcist/demonologist/master of the dark arts attempts to foil the Mephistophelian machinations of Neron, we join him on one hell of a journey. Seriously, he visits Hell. But perhaps the wildest ride comes when he makes a stop in the Faerie realm. Orgiastic, chaotic, and wonderfully surreal, it seems like a natural source of inspiration for cosplayers who don’t travel the beaten path.

Furthermore, this book shows the dire consequences one can bring upon themselves when in a romantic relationship with John Constantine. On the flip side, his infinite resourcefulness is on full display and you can expect to see the likes of Deadman and Zatanna to also get involved.

Neron is cleverly outsmarted by our protagonist, but in the end, the side of good doesn’t really win. Not being one to give away specifics, I will say that it makes for a bleak, yet strongly fitting ending. If you want a straightforward “hero saves the world” story, this may not be for you.

Also included is the Rebirth one-shot, which was a nice touch as it bridges two eras. I do, however, hope this is included in the first Rebirth trade for The Hellblazer so nobody misses out.

If you loved the TV show and are in dire need of a Constantine fix, I think this is the prescription you need. I can’t imagine any fan old or new not getting a kick out of this.

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