“Onwards we wander, as far as many dare venture…far beyond where any white man has ever set foot.”
Hellblazer #7 begins a new story arc, “The Smokeless Fire,” and welcomes artist Philip Tan to the book. While “The Smokeless Fire” is the beginning of a new arc, it still continues the overarching story with Constantine and Mercury tracking down the Djinn. Their journey takes them to Paris and an old man who supposedly has first-hand experience with the ancient beings.
Simon Oliver continues to pen the book and he and Tan split the story into two overlapping parts that interchange throughout the story. The first takes place within the present as Mercury and Constantine hunt down an old Frenchman who has knowledge of the Djinn. The second part takes us back to the past and the deserts of the Middle East where the Frenchman is on a journey into the unknown. There is also a third layer to the story focusing on a French immigrant and the criminal underworld he finds himself caught up in.
Unlike the two previous entries, Hellblazer #7 incorporates a main action sequence, but it’s really a sideshow to Oliver’s dialogue, especially between Mercury and Constantine. Their chemistry is delightful to see as they each are still wary of the other and use conversation to try and eek out any juicy tidbits to figure out the other’s play.
Oliver’s dialogue excels with the supporting cast too. He provides an interesting side story with Dante, a French immigrant, who is trying to make it. However, he makes some horrible decisions and ends up involved with the wrong crowd. There is one line of dialogue that really stood out to me in this scene and it’s when Dante tries to metaphorically wash his hands of any wrong doing, but the gang leader wasn’t having any of it. “Ain’t nobody in this life gonna do nothin’ for you…except you.” It really hits home that this is Dante’s decision and he has to live with the consequences of his decision.
The action sequence is dramatic, but also has that Constantine sense of humor we have come to expect. The action mixed with the wry sense of humor is highly engaging.
As for the events in the past, Oliver keeps them highly mysterious, but ties them into the overarching search for the Djinn. It serves to show the true danger and power these Djinn are capable of, just by the fear and rumors they spark.
Tan provides a radically different art style to Pia Guerra’s pencils and Jose Marzan Jr.’s inks. It gives the book a mystic quality. From the first page, the art just has that magical feel and it never goes away. In fact, when he gives us a gorgeous view of the desert sky, it’s as if you’ve been transported to another world; it’s breathtaking. He even makes a room full of antiquities look like something out of a horror film by the way he depicts cobwebs hanging off the art pieces and book shelves.
Tan also accentuates certain attributes of the characters to emphasize their roles. In almost every panel where the gang leader appears, his teeth are on full display with a big decaying grill. He’s ugly inside and out. Even when Tan gives us a profile shot, we can still see those nasty teeth showing.
There was one point towards the end of the action sequence that can be confusing. Tan uses a full two-page spread, but there is a random inset panel of a hand appearing to pull the shoelace on a shoe. It’s hard to follow what’s happening and you are kind of left without an explanation as the book closes.
In addition, Tan’s design for Mercury can be a tad irksome, especially when it appears her nose is almost nonexistent. She also has dark brown hair now, whereas before it was a whole lot redder. She also looks to be wearing parachute pants in some panels.
Highlighting Tan’s artwork is colorist Elmer Santos. Santos brings to life that gorgeous desert sky. He even makes you start sweating with a blistering image of the desert on the opening title page. His colors really make you feel like you are in the scenes next to Constantine.
Hellblazer #7 brings on Philip Tan for the art duties of this new story arc and he performs exceptionally. It’s definitely an improvement due to the mystic nature of his art style. The story in general is intriguing with some excellent wordsmithing by Oliver and an exciting action sequence. Combine that with the foreboding mystery of the Djinn and you have a book that demands your attention.
- Philip Tan’s mystical artwork
- Elmer Santos’ coloring is phenomenal
- A multi-layered story with an exciting action sequence
- Confusing inset panel at the end of the action sequence
- Mercury’s new character design