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Hellblazer #8

by John White on March 22, 2017

Writer: Simon Oliver
Artist: Philip Tan
Colorist: Elmer Santos

Publisher: DC Comics
The Smokeless Fire Part 2 follows John Constantine and Mercury as they pursue the thief of Henry’s desert journal, but their quest faces the constant interference of the mysterious Misabel and a single disobedient Nike.  With the machinations of a Djinn in the background, this looks to be another case of Constantine taking on more than he can hope to handle but will his mistake cost the life of another companion?

Picking up where the last issue left of, John finds himself on the wrong side of the bars in a Parisian prison after the events at Henry’s apartment. While he exchanges words with the French authorities, Mercury has a meeting of her own with Adnan who offers her power beyond all measure as long as she allows him to serve her. Although it is clear from a mile away that this deal cannot possibly end well for anybody, the revelation that Mercury has the ability to control Djinn is an interesting development that adds a depth to an already interesting character. Sprinkled throughout this issue are references to how Mercury does not really know John Constantine all that well and how he always inevitably lets down those closest too him. Although this is foreshadowing is a little heavy handed, there can be no doubt that Simon Oliver is setting up a betrayal between these two, but Adnan’s offer does make me wonder who will betray whom.

The writing in this issue by Simon Oliver has both its pros and its cons. What is working for this issue is the dialogue of every character. During his run, Oliver has worked to build up the personalities of each character, even if at times it is at the expense of the story. Each line Constantine speaks only adds to the evidence against him that his is a careless performer more adepts at wisecracking than any real problem solving. Contrasting that is how Oliver writes Mercury. For a character that has been around for almost as long as John Constantine, she is in many ways a fresh slate. Although introduced years ago as a powerful child, this version is much more confident and inquisitive young woman. Where Constantine is all action without forethought, Mercury is pure analysis and heart. However, all the wonderful characterization does not entirely make up for the fact that the plot of the story is plodding, and ultimately, not engaging. The introduction of the character Misabel, another beauty from John’s past that would rather see him dead, does add a little drama to the issue that might otherwise be lacking. The art by Philip Tan is perhaps the best thing in this issue and does as much to convey the mood as any words on the page.  Although it is not the most exciting issue he has written yet, Hellblazer #8 does seem to be gathering all the elements of a good Constantine story, which will hopefully pay dividends down the line.

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