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Hellblazer: City of Demons 1

01/11/2010. Contributed by Ewan Angus

Buy Hellblazer: City of Demons (1 of 6) in the USA - or Buy Hellblazer: City of Demons (1 of 6) in the UK

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pub: Hellblazer: City of Demons (1 of 6) by Si Spencer and Sean Murphy. Vertigo/DC Comics. 22 page comicbook. Price: $2.99 (US), GBP 2.30 (UK).

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Wow! As far as first issues go this one hit the spot. I don’t really know exactly what the spot is or where, I just know that this smashed right into it. In the best way possible.

First off, it’s a mini-series. For some strange reason I find myself strangely unattracted to mini-series. I don’t know if it’s the fact I’ve previously been extremely disappointed by a number of minis that I’ve started or if it’s the fact it won’t continue past the designated number of issues. Although that is also a good thing as it means that my wallet doesn’t get a prolonged kick in the cash. But this? I’m more than happy to spend money on it.

On the other hand, the prospect of getting my filthy paws on a ‘Hellblazer’ issue # 1, was just too appealing a concept. I know it’s not the number 1 issue but it is a number 1. For my obsessive ways, this fills the quota.

Besides what it is and what this book means to me, the content is fantastic. Following good ol’ John Constantine as he embarks on a ‘quiet drink’, this mini-series rams in so much to a first issue you can’t help but beg for more. After being threatened by two young thugs, Constantine works his magic and put them both in a horrendous situation. It then brings into play a good few plot pieces, some of which are tied off this issue but some of them are just hitting fruition. With an awesome new jacket and a subtle attention to punk rock fashion detail, I couldn’t help but be totally mesmerised from the cover to the back.

As for the cover, wow!
Sean Murphy is on hand for art duties and this one issue has cemented his place as one of my favourite artists already. It is that good. It’s all dark, thin lines, details that seem erratic yet fit when you properly take in what is actually going on on the page. The image of John Constantine, all gaunt and arrogant, is ethereally brilliant on every page. I know Murphy has been making watercolour waves with his work on Grant Morrison’s ‘Joe The Barbarian’, a series I will now definitely be checking out and I can’t praise the man enough. He’s got that Lenil Francis Yu scrathiness to his work, but with a degree more cartoon, a lighter take. Not to say it’s cartoony. No, the series flits between the comic and the cute to the dark and the brooding. The body language throughout is spot on.

I feel a bit strange lauding the art work of a story before the plot but I feel that Murphy’s work in this issue really does deserve all the praise it gets. But in no way does the story telling take a back seat to the art. Nope. They’re both sitting firmly in the driver’s seat, sharing the duties. Si Spencer has filled it with ghosts, thugs, magic and satire. Oh, boy, does it have satire.

The dark Hellblazer humour is here, but it’s got a new urgency. It’s a Tory government again and Spencer dives straight into this. Neds hang on street corners sprouting unintelligible lingo whilst John waxes poetical over the state of modern Britain. A poignant piece of spectacular humour comes when John states that he only buys cigarettes with warnings for pregnant mothers as the odds are it won’t affect him.

It’s a rare thing to be totally taken by a first issue, most are filled with too much scene building and background, but this one has me engrossed. I can see why it’s been done as a mini-series, Milligan’s run is hitting a massive point for John Constantine and there wasn’t really any need to disrupt the flow of that series with this. It’s also comes across as a subtle gamble on Vertigo’s part to give a series of this calibre to a relative unknown writer, but it’s clearly one that they are more than confident in and I can see why. Spencer and Murphy have crafted something that gives me the chills it’s so good. Not to mention the fact they’ve gone back to a plot point first introduced in Garth Ennis’s wonderful ‘Dangerous Habits’ arc from 1991 and tipped the hat to not just the writers and artists before them, but to the readers that have been travelling with John. It’s respectful and it’s brilliant.

Ewan Angus

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