I've just popped into Piranha Comics in Kingston-Upon-Thames for my weekly collection of comic books. The usual mix of superheroes and action-adventure that comics suits so well. But in between them all is one of comic books' dirty little secrets – as secret as something that has been adapted into a movie starring Keanu Reeves, a TV series on the CW with a character who has been popping up in their other TV shows as well and who is meant to look like Sting, could ever be.
John Constantine, created by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette and Rick Veitch almost 35 years ago, gets a new lease of life today in a new series from DC Comics, written by Londoner Si Spurrier, and it involves the man coming home to London, after spending a spell away dealing with all those American superheroes and the like. And he finds a country, a city, that has been moving on without him.
But he always has a type, doesn't he? Will Nat survive her first storyline? Odds are never good.
The first issue is called Green And Pleasant Land, and as angels come to Peckham, it gets very William Blake very fast indeed. Painter, poet, philosopher and mystic of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, he's currently got an exhibition of his paintings and prophetic visions at the Tate in London that I really must pop along to before it closes. If you don't know Blake's 'And did these feet in ancient time' poem, originally written as a preface to his epic Milton: A Poem in Two Books, and then turned into the hymn Jerusalem after his death, it known as England's unofficial National Anthem, embraced by the left and the right alike, the central message of which has to be that England is such a great place that surely Jesus must have visited her at some point. Makes sense, doesn't it. It's like a little England version of Mormonism. But the language is now deep within England's view of itself, for better or worse.
And did those feet in ancient timeWalk upon England's mountains green:And was the holy Lamb of God,On England's pleasant pastures seen!And did the Countenance Divine,Shine forth upon our clouded hills?And was Jerusalem builded here,Among these dark Satanic Mills?Bring me my Bow of burning gold:Bring me my arrows of desire:Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!Bring me my Chariot of fire!I will not cease from Mental Fight,Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:Till we have built Jerusalem,In England's green & pleasant Land.
Okay, back to the comics.
And John Constantine realises that he has been away from London for quite a while, and may be slightly out fo his depth, though he'd be loathed to show it. In his absence, whether in American jail or in an American superhero team, and he probably wouldn't be able to point out the difference, we have had a new Prime Minister or three. And Hellblazer does always like to look at those in power, or whatever political stripe, and the deals done to get them there. Former Prime Minister-but-one David Cameron had a certain story about him that made the headlines, erroneous or not, about his young days as a student and a certain pigs head. And in today's John Constantine: Hellblazer a certain Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in the depths of the Houses Of Parliament basement, has a rather magical abattoir to engage in his filthy pursuits.
More William Blake Jerusalem there. And no that's not a stretch of language regarding the sword, Blake could be a filthy bugger when he wanted to be, And Boris Johnson, an eloquent columnist and journalist-turned-politician, 'making love to the nation' sounds rather like him. But if you needed to be sure…
The shock of blonde hair is unmistakable. Thing is, if a paper did expose Johnson as someone having magical sex in the wounds of corpses, animal or human, in the bowels of Parliament, he'd still win the upcoming General Election against Jeremy Corbyn by a landslide.
John Constantine: Hellblazer #1 is published by DC Comics today in all good comic shops. I bought mine from Piranha Comics in Kingston-Upon-Thames. Piranha Comics is a small south London comic store chain with a small south-east store in Kingston-Upon Thames's market centre, which runs Magic The Gathering nights on Fridays, and a larger south-west store in Bromley, which also runs Magic nights and has an extensive back issue collection and online store. If you are in the neighbourhood, check them out.
JOHN CONSTANTINE HELLBLAZER #1 (MR)
(W) Si Spurrier (A) Aaron Campbell (CA) John Paul Leon
John Constantine is back in London, back to his old tricks-and just in time, as things have become very dark indeed in his old stomping grounds. A small-time gang lord has found himself dealing with a big-time outbreak of supernatural weirdness…and without any allies to call on and nothing left to call his own, John doesn't have much choice about taking a paycheck from one of London's worst, or accepting the help of one of the gang lord's would-be foot soldiers. But what should be an open-and-shut exorcism turns out to be nothing but…and the author of this madness may just be getting started on their terrible masterpiece!
The original Constantine is back in this series from Si Spurrier (The Dreaming) and Aaron Campbell (Infidel), with nothing to his name but decades of bad memories and an unearned second chance. How, exactly, will he squander it? There's only one way to find out…In Shops: Nov 27, 2019 SRP: $3.99