This is the latest in a recurring feature recommending classic comics that you should probably reread now you’ve got some time on your hands. The last one was American Flagg!. Next up: Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits.
John Constantine first appeared in the pages of Swamp Thing under the watchful eye of Alan Moore. So popular was the character, that he spun off into his own series with Jamie Delano at the wheel. After an impressive run that fleshed the mage out, Garth Ennis took over the writing chores in issue #41, the first part of the “Dangerous Habits” storyline.
Ennis instantly put his mark on the character, taking him away from Delano’s more poetic and often metaphysical storylines. In the first part of this arc, we find John alone, disheveled, and already in trouble; by the third page we see he has cancer and is dying. The die is cast and it sets readers on a roller coaster that seeds ideas that will stay with John forever.
Will Simpson provides the art for this run, but his realistic scratchy style, although horribly accurate, is sometimes hard to read. Although technically brilliant, the flat angles and rigid panels become bland, and is perhaps not the best style for this story, however, you are so grabbed by the premise that it’s at first not noticeable.
John visits the doctor and there is no mistake, he has terminal lung cancer and a spiral of depression and self-pity sees John falling into despair.
So with the plot in motion, the reader is left reeling at the events and it’s safe to say that John’s journey forward is harrowing, riveting, and eventually a defining moment in his life.
The first part puts a lot on the table, and Ennis is a master of the long-form story — just wait till he gets to Preacher — and for fans of John, there is a real fear that he may actually not be able to bluff his way out of this one,
I would hate to spoil the end, but needless to say, this arc is so compelling, it was used for the Keanu Reeves movie, which did admittedly steal various plots from the comics.
Ennis hits the ground running with this initial arc, and would go on to become one of Hellblazer‘s greatest writers. If you have never read Hellblazer, “Dangerous Habits” would be a great place to start, with Ennis rebooting the franchise for a new take on John.
You can grab those early Ennis issues quite cheap on eBay, or even handier just find it in trade.
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Louie Fecou reviews films, tv shows and comics for Ready Steady Cut, HC Movie Reviews and We Have A Hulk. He currently runs his own business in between watching films.