DC Rebirth: The Hellblazer #1 ‘The Poison Truth’ begins Simon Oliver’s attempts to reboot Constantine: The Hellblazer, DC’s reboot of the New 52’s Constantine reboot of Vertigo’s John Constantine: Hellblazer. So, in all fairness, this was never going to be a smooth step off the starting block.
Set in London, “some years ago”, we are offered the opportunity to pretend that a non-specified length of time, left entirely to our own discretion, never happened. Which was nice of Simon. As a less than enthusiastic fan of both the Constantine: The Hellblazer and Constantine runs, the possibility of a snap-back to the sharp and nuanced writing of the Vertigo years was a tantalizing carrot for me, which Simon immediately began to reel in – with all the subtly of a toddler trying to feed a confused puppy two ice-creams at once.
Within the first two pages we learn that a cursed John Constantine was forced to flee London after an altercation with a demon he’s nicknamed Laughing Boy, only escaping certain disembowelment through quick thinking, customary, Liverpudian whit, and some light plagiarism of Rake at the Gate of Hell.
On the next page he comes back again. Surprise.
We’re reintroduced to Chas – once a nuanced character; flawed, loyal, and heroic in his own ways, now described as a dullard – and a collection of the various super-denizens of DC John has encountered over the last few years, whose participation (or lack thereof) in the current storyline it has been left up to poor Simon to explain away.
The Hellblazer #1 ends with John Constantine cursing in infuriating emoticons, breaking the fourth wall to talk to the reader, and a little part of me dying inside.