John Constantine is a character every comic book fan should read at least once. Representing the dark underside of the DC Universe, Constantine has still managed to brush shoulders with the likes of Wonder Woman, Batman, Dream of the Endless, Detective Chimp and Jon Kent’s Superman. Constantine (and that “-tine” rhymes with “pine”) is an oddball who refuses to play by anyone’s rules, and he remains a deeply flawed man who has good intentions—occasionally. While Constantine’s beloved flagship series, Hellblazer, ran for 300 issues, let’s take a look at the story that reimagined him as a spry, hip warlock living in New York City: Constantine: The Hellblazer Vol. 1: Going Down by Ming Doyle, James Tynion IV, Riley Rossmo and Ivan Plascencia.

The Premise:

Constantine: The Hellblazer follows our occult detective to New York City, where he must track down a spirit responsible for killing the ghosts of his dead friends. Yes, you read that correctly—ghosts are mysteriously being killed. In case you didn’t know, John Constantine has a lot of dead friends because of the dangerous nature of his work and his tendency to be unreliable. Now, he is faced with the question of whether he can address his shortcomings in time to prevent the disappearance of his remaining friends and his new boyfriend.

One of the things that differentiates Constantine: The Hellblazer from its Hellblazer predecessor is that it’s set during Constantine’s younger adult years. For decades, John Constantine was one of the only comic book characters who aged in real time. So, by the time Hellblazer wrapped up with issue #300, he was middle-aged and had a family. If that’s your image of the character, leave your expectations at the door with this later series, because this Constantine is young and messy, even by his standards.

Let’s Talk Talent:

Constantine: The Hellblazer is co-written by Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV. Doyle is best known for her work as an artist, which can be found in Wonder Woman: Black and Gold, The Adventures of Superman and The Kitchen. She’s the artist behind the gorgeous illustrations in DC Comics: Anatomy of a Metahuman, an art book which rendered the bodies of Superman, Swamp Thing and others like they were a Leonardo da Vinci anatomical study.

James Tynion IV, of course, would go on to write Batman, where he had a hand in creating characters such as Punchline, Clownhunter, Ghost-Maker, the Gardener and Miracle Molly. Tynion is also known for his horror stories, with The Nice House on the Lake being one of the most haunting comics I’ve ever read. If you love this book, then you can catch more adventures with Constantine in Tynion’s Justice League Dark series that followed this one.

The series would not be complete without the fabulous artwork of Riley Rossmo. Rossmo invents an entirely new visual language for Constantine that’s utterly infectious on the page. The art’s exaggerated proportions and expressions lend a playfulness to Constantine’s supernatural experiences. Rossmo’s demon designs are a highlight of this book. 

A Few Reasons to Read:

  • John Constantine is an absolute imp of a human being whose laptop has a cracked screen and is held together by packing tape. I did not make that up, it’s in this story and it suits John perfectly.
  • As much as I love the original Hellblazer series, it’s not for everyone. Its subject matter can get heavy very quickly. Constantine: The Hellblazer, however, is a friendlier point of entry for the character that doesn’t skimp on the darkness and fatalism of the original Hellblazer. Like any good Hellblazer story, it’ll make you sad, but at least you had fun on the ride over.
  • Constantine’s magic operates unlike any other character’s. His magical power doesn’t originate within himself, but rather within cultural and societal beliefs. In other words, Constantine’s power comes from his ability to see the world in its plainest form: chaos. This change in perspective is part of what makes him unique as a character.
  • This book also offers a whirlwind trip through different neighborhoods in New York City, from a strictly supernatural point of view. By this point, we’ve seen scores of different takes on the Big Apple in all manner of comics, but Constantine: The Hellblazer’s vision feels particularly incisive to me as someone who was born and raised there. A demon absolutely would haunt a karaoke bar in Koreatown. If you were a fan of James Tynion’s work on Sandman: Nightmare Country and its take on art students in Brooklyn, Constantine: The Hellblazer is a satisfying precursor.

Why It’s Worth Your Time:

Constantine: The Hellblazer is a horror book that manages to give both longtime fans and sworn enemies of the genre something to enjoy. The world that Constantine walks around is undoubtedly one of horror, with its demons and suffering swirling around him, but it’s one that he constantly dissects. As much as I love horror and the feeling of being scared, I also understand folks who don’t enjoy the sensation. I still, however, believe in the power of horror to unveil and unpack our emotional and cultural baggage. Constantine: The Hellblazer is a story that does that without overloading the reader with a sense of dread or unpleasantness. Give it a try, it’s a fun romp.

Constantine: The Hellblazer Vol. 1: Going Down by Ming Doyle, James Tynion IV, Riley Rossmo and Ivan Plascencia is available in print as a softcover graphic novel and can be read in full on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.

Jules Chin Greene writes about comics for, and his work can also be found at Nerdist, Popverse and Multiverse of Color. You can follow him on Twitter and Bluesky at @JulesChinGreene.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Jules Chin Greene and do not necessarily reflect those of DC or Warner Bros. Discovery, nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.