Hellblazer: Original Sins by Jamie Delano and John Ridgway (plus other artists) is the definite starting point of the adventures of John Constantine –England’s favorite chain-smoking, amoral magician.
Johnny boy isn’t a knight in shining armor or Harry Potter all grown up. And this graphic novel isn’t for oversensitive or politically correct readers.
On the surface Constantine is the working-class English pond scum of the magic world. He is selfish, cunning and utterly ruthless. Oh and his magic isn’t half bad either.
This all sounds pretty bad, but you see Johnny is really a survivor. Worst of all he is a survivor with a conscious and empathy. But he doesn’t let that slow him down.
Hellblazer: Original Sins features a couple of loosely related stories featuring Constantine as he fixes supernatural messes, betrays old friends, fights yuppie demons and prevents the birth of the Anti-Christ.
Ready to have your mind twisted by Delano’s brilliance and John Constantine’s best (and worst) shenanigans in 1980s England?
Buckle down and get your crucifix out… this one’s a screamer.
An Anti-Hero Comes Home… Fear & Social Decline in Thatcher’s England
But Hellblazer: Original Sins isn’t just horror. It deals with some pretty hectic social issues that anybody who grew up in Margret Thatcher’s England or late 80s/Early 90s Western Europe can relate to.
From the Satanist scare, to intimidating Pentecostal sects from America spreading their wings. Stories covering everything from child abduction to the AIDS crisis. Hellblazer: Original Sins covers it all.
Let’s dig into Constantine’s messed-up little life.
Evil Spirits, Junkie Friends and Bad Decisions
It all begins with John Constantine coming back to the decrepit cesspool that is London after his run in with the Swamp Thing in the USA.
John is exhausted and happy to be back home. On his way to his flat his land lady, Mrs. M. gives him an earful about his disreputable friend, the druggy one, coming by the house.
She’s also irritated by the fact that she’s now 17.50 pounds short because she posted that package to the States for him.
John settles up with Mrs. M and has a really bad feeling about this. The only druggy friend he has is old Gary Lester, and Gary doesn’t mean anything but trouble.
His hunch is confirmed when he finds Gary in his bathtub, alive but crawling with insects and in total heroin withdrawal.
After getting rid of the bugs and getting Gary shot up on his ‘medicine’ (what are friends for?) –Constantine gets the whole story.
You see his old buddy Gary was spending time in Morocco living the junkies dream. Smack and young lads galore… Yeah.
Thing is, Gary is also a dabbler in the dark arts. He’s a small time hustler without much talent but he’s got an eye for opportunities.
So he senses that a little black boy, used as slave labor by an evil Moroccan business man, is actually possessed by a powerful spirit. An ancient and evil spirit.
Of course Garry tries to capture said spirit and all hell breaks loose (literally).
Yuppies from Hell and Taking Financial from the Devil
In his next adventure, Johnny uncovers a stunning secret and something we’ve all suspected –yuppies are demons from hell, literally.
These upwardly mobile and ambitious young hell spawn are cashing in on the social decline, fear and fast living of 80s England.
They offer over ambitious young professionals seeking fame, money and success Faustian bargains. All of the world’s riches for the paltry sum of your soul. Needless to say it’s a buyer market, there are plenty willing victims.
As one not unaccustomed to deals with the Devil, Constantine decides to level the playing field by creating some panic in the market. Only hitch is that he has to go to Hell to do this.
To find out if Constantine makes it out of Hell and for many other equally freaky stories, read Hellblazer: Original Sins today!
The Art and Writing of Hellblazer: Original Sins
Jamie Delano captures John Constantine perfectly.
The rawness of John’s amorality doesn’t sit well with the classic hero image. Part of it is just the fact that we are dealing with an insanely practical man from a working class background.
But Delano also shows us that his ruthless actions and dead friends torture Constantine. He does what he does because he is a weak, selfish human being.
It’s this intensely human failing that makes reading Hellblazer: Original Sins worth it.
In some ways Hellblazer: Original Sins reminds me of a cross between the movie This is England and the TV show Supernatural.
Jamie Delano captures the feeling of decline and rot of England in the late 80s.
Margret Thatcher had successfully broken the trade unions and industrial manufacturing that had provided the working man with a level of safety, self-respect and comfort.
You really feel transported into a world of suffering and social tension.
A world where things go bump in the night and evil, demonic thing claw their way into our world.
Beware, Delano tackles some hectic topics like drug abuse, child abduction, homophobia and AIDS. There’s also a lot of violence and disturbing situations. Not for underage or sensitive readers.
I love the art. While it’s mostly provided by John Ridgeway some chapters are illustrated by the motley crew of Rick Veitch, Tom Mandrake, Brett Ewin and Jim McCarthy.
Irregardless their styles fit the dark, threatening and frankly oppressive world that John Constantine inhabits.
Is there something I didn’t like about Hellblazer: Original Sins? It would have been awesome if there was more of thread to tie the different stories together.
This happens about half way through the book, but at the end it hints more at thing that will occur later in the series than during the events of this graphic novel.
Aside from that Hellblazer: Original Sins is a fast-paced introduction to England’s most ruthless, yet human magician. No Harry Potter happy endings here.
This is what magic would look if it were real. Dirty, abused and used to make a quick buck. And Constantine is just the man to drive this point home.
PS: Doesn’t matter if you’re a horror fan or not, Hellblazer: Original Sins is worth it for the witty dialogue, social parody and British charm alone 😉