John Constantine is not a superhero. If Hellblazer #1 does nothing else, it proves that. However, it also proves that that’s exactly what makes him so much fun.
We pick up with John as he leaves New York for his hometown of London. Despite loving–or at least tolerating–New York, he’s driven back across The Pond when a “racist, short-fingered, failed meat-salesman [begins] circling the presidency.” That joke probably worked a little better pre-Brexit, but oh well. Those who first got to know Constantine from his short-lived NBC television show (as well as long-time fans) will recognize the character’s signature dry wit throughout the issue. He has a joke for everything, from his dead parents to the possibility of being responsible for the deaths of 8 million Londoners.
It’s that last point especially that reminds us how much of a hero Constantine isn’t. You see, years ago, John was forced to leave London forever after a demon cursed him. He returns now with a plan to remove the curse, but he has to put 8 million innocent lives at risk to do it. At first, it seems like he’s perfectly willing to make that sacrifice. And while someone swoops in to save the day at the last second, the question remains: would he actually have gone through with it.
Though we don’t get an answer, it’s the fact that we don’t know that makes Constantine so appealing. His moral ambiguity and self-interest make him unpredictable and there’s something thrilling in not knowing if and when he’ll choose to do the right thing. Writer Simon Oliver doesn’t use the issue to launch some ongoing conflict, he uses it to show us how fun it is to spend time with this character. You’d have to be crazy–or boring–not to want to read more.