“It was harsh and unyielding, barren and near lifeless, but at the same time so much more. And with each passing step deeper into its heart, its true nature began to reveal itself.”
John Constantine and his current partner, Mercury, continue their hunt for knowledge of the Djinn while our tale with Henry takes us deeper into the desert where danger is closer than the next sand dune.
Hellblazer #8 oozes a feeling of impending horror. The tone of the book from the very beginning makes you uneasy and puts you on edge. It gives you a sense of the darkness being there, but you don’t know what kind of shape it will take nor how it will strike. It keeps you on edge and highly engaged. This tone is created not only through Simon Oliver’s writing, but Philip Tan’s artwork and Elmer Santos’ colors.
Oliver’s writing is very good right from the start. He creates a foreboding feeling and doesn’t let go of it. He builds on it. One of the ways he does this is by keeping us in the dark. Instead of providing a direct translation for French in one of the opening scenes, he gives you French and then an English translation. It keeps you on your toes as you try to figure out the French based on the English translations.
Oliver also maintains the combative chemistry between Mercury and John Constantine. There are some solid one-liners and good jabs given both ways. Unfortunately, there weren’t as many as in previous issues, but those jabs would also take away from the dark, creepy tone. And Mercury’s dialogue became a little repetitive as the story progressed. While Mercury and Constantine don’t get as much in the way of dialogue compared to previous issues, Oliver still explores and captures Constantine’s brash personality in an excellent back and forth with Mademoiselle Misabel Lefebvre.
As far as the story beats, Oliver continues to explore Mercury’s relationship with the captured Djinn Adnan and even uses a fantastic comparison with Constantine to show how they are in the same situation. The relationship with Adnan also gives us greater insight into Mercury’s character and adds even more mystery to her.
He also explores the French immigrant family briefly and how the book about the Djinn is already taking a toll on them both mentally and physically. This scene really ups the horror factor and puts you on the edge of your seat.
Philip Tan’s artwork is as mystical as ever, but he adds a touch of horror to his page layouts. He does this by creating panels with objects in the foreground with little or no character depictions at the top of the pages. If he does use characters, he’s usually giving us a camera shot where we are looking at their backs. These choices build tension and create suspense.
There are some issues with the artwork. A few close-up shots of Constantine have him appear more feminine than normal. His eyelashes really stand out and it just looks wrong for John Constantine. However, there are a lot more strong points than weak ones. His depiction of anything involving magic is absolutely wonderful. It looks and feels fantastic, even otherworldly. His landscape images can almost transport you there, they feel so realistic.
Bringing it all together is Elmer Santos’ colors. He uses a very dark color palette to create the creepy, horrifying tone. But he brings Tan’s magical drawings to life with bright oranges, reds, and yellows on black backgrounds or greens and blues on a black background. He really draws out the mystical nature of Tan’s work.
Hellblazer #8 takes this new arc down a dark, horror-filled path. Oliver and Tan keep you on the edge of your seat with a great combination of dialogue, narration, panel layout, and artwork. The highlight of the book is still Constantine’s back and forth with Mercury and Mademoiselle Misabel Lefebvre. There were some struggles with the depiction of Constantine, especially close-up shots. If you are looking for a book with solid characterization building and good dialogue you can’t go wrong with this one!
- John Constantine's dialogue with Mercury and Mademoiselle Misabel Lefebvre
- Phillip Tan and Elmer Santos’ mystical artwork
- Mercury’s dialogue was repetitive at times
- Close-ups of John Constantine are extremely feminine especially his eyelashes