Review by Frank Plowright
For all his magical knowhow John Constantine has always been a chancer. If there’s an easy option in the here and now he’ll take it and sort out any consequences if they arrive. The live now and pay later approach has led to some close calls, but he’s always squeaked by, and that’s what he did at the start to Marks of Woe. He was on the way out when a lifeline presented, so he grabbed it and now the consequences are starting to squeeze. It could also be argued his greatest enemy is himself, and that’s partly what plays out.
When Jamie Delano wrote the first Constantine solo stories he placed him in the sordid underworld of a decaying Britain where the self-entitled establishment had little but contempt for ordinary people and where racist thugs ran riot. Thirty years later that’s beginning to look too close to reality, although over time it drained away from Hellblazer, and so Simon Spurrier has to go that extra mile in his restoration process. Monarchists should stay well clear, and by the end the unsavoury rise of British racism over the 21st century drops into the spotlight. The metaphors are a little over the top, but the heart’s in the right place.
Constantine going about his equal opportunity offence is again illustrated by Aaron Campbell and Matías Bergara, more constrained, but very good, just in a different style. Campbell is the main feature, his pages skin-crawling and scratchy with Jordie Bellaire’s colouring adding to the discomfort. It’s a fine brew.
The cast gathered in Marks of Woe aren’t just discarded, although the big revelation about one of them is so obviously telegraphed you’ll wonder why Constantine doesn’t pick up on it. They all have viable roles in what’s a thrill ride featuring mermaids, unicorns and giants. Beginning to sound all too My Little Pony? Don’t worry, no Hellblazer fan is going to be disappointed with the bleak, dark and cynical slaughtering of sacred cows by Spurrier and Campbell.