In the United States, the universe of comics is largely organized around superheroic figures or iconic characters who belong to editorial structures and who see different authors. Just think of Batman: created by Bob Kan and Bill Finger, the character passed through the hands of Denis O’Neil and Neil Adams, Franck Miller, David Mazzucchelli, Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb, Scott Snyder and Greg Cappulo, Jim Lee, to name only the most iconic authors.
By preserving certain main and essential characteristics of the character, everyone was able to fully take possession of their universe to create stories that resemble them: thus, for the authors, the characters appear as spaces conducive to fully deploying their authorship in the light of of standards that are difficult to transgress (diegetics, Batman’s vocation comes from the murder of his parents, morals, Batman does not kill, or even graphics, his costume is gray and black).
Based on a certain number of constraints, the authors have every opportunity to impose their style and offer more or less memorable variations. In doing so, some characters offer more or less obvious latitudes to manipulate narrative arcs or even narrative tones.
In the superheroic panorama, John Constantine is perhaps one of the characters whose tone, approach and orientation will reflect that of its authors, as he was thought of from his beginnings as figure of the strange, adapting to the identity of the demons he fights. Imagined by Alan Moore during his revival of Swamp ThingConstantine indeed bears the imprint of its creator through the literary ambition required by this ambiguous character, while leaving room for each of its screenwriters to invest it fully.
It is therefore judicious on the part of the French publisher to gather the numbers of the series in the format ” (an author) presents Hellblazer “, both eachrunhas a strong internal coherence and an immersive universe. After, therefore, Brian Azzarello, Warren Ellis or Garth Ennis, it is the turn of the stories written by Paul Jenkins to be brought together in a remarkable collection, an essential for any lover of this most exhilarating marginal series, but also for any lover of singular comics.
Paul Jenkins approaches this universe with a resolutely spiritual dimension, which is announced from the first story, yet at the margin of the other stories. This sees John Constantine provoke an ancestral creature invoked by the aboriginal peoples to finally save them from small financial groups wanting to claim their lands (the demons do not always come from infernal limbo): the fight with the creature then takes place in the time of dreams, a parallel and highly psychedelic universe that will hover over many episodes.
The rest of the album sees the character return to his native land, England, with his punk friends, which allows the scriptwriter toaddress political and social issues (which do not necessarily constitute the heart of the scenarios, but which underlie them).
Jenkins captures particularly well the literary force of the character and his adventures which mobilize the intellect more than the biceps. He immerses Constantine in introspective phases, giving him a bit of humanity, while rushing him into remarkably well-crafted complex plots, original and esoteric thrillers that will delight even readers not fond of supernatural stories.
Indeed, the quality of the writing transcends genres to linger to develop convoluted narrative arcs that all end up mischievously falling on their feet. We thus take pleasure in getting lost in the maze of these demonic conspiracies in which John Constantine often seems to wade before he lays down his cards during memorable conclusions.
In the drawing, we find Sean Phillips in very good shape. An early work, he possesses the ardor of a sometimes wobbly realistic drawing, but which is embodied by its clumsy deformations (especially in this infernal universe). We already perceive all his talent for directing which will make him famous, in particular in his representation of long dialogue scenes: the main narrative engine of this cerebral series, he manages to energize sequences almost exclusively built around scathing lines.
If one can sometimes find his work with Ed Brubaker a little wise, the paranormal dimension of John Constantine’s adventures allows us to rediscover his line in all its fever.
hellblazer, one of the most original series in the DC universe, has allowed its renowned screenwriters to develop real writing ambitions in order to give substance to this colorful character. Paul Jenkins, more than a simple heir or smuggler, leaves his mark on the protagonist, a true source of inspiration in himself, who will delight readers.