« If you will die for me, I will die for you and our graves will be like two lovers washing their clothes together in a laundromat. If you will bring the soap I will bring the bleach. » — Richard Brautigan
Many, many creators, some pretty high profile, have turned their hand at writing the character of John Constantine. And several were inspired to excellence. I haven’t really been keeping up, but I was quite keen on the plots and portrayals deployed by co-creator (with Stephen Bissette, Rick Veitch and John Totleben) Alan Moore, then by the underrated Jamie Delano, but also on brief-but-intriguing turns by Eddie Campbell and… John Smith*. John who? The Grand Comics Database (GCD) lists Mr. Smith as born in 1967 and having been “Managing editor on IPC nursery titles. Editor at IPC. Writer for various titles.” That’s the sum of it.
Flashback to 1992: I had recently quit buying Hellblazer when Garth Ennis, Will Simpson and various hands took over as the art aggregation. By issue 49, the Preacher “Dream Team” of Ennis and Steve Dillon had been assembled: from then on, it would be paper-thin elongated faces and bad teeth all the way. Uh, no thanks.
But ah, there was the briefest of respites for those of us paying close attention: a singular gem of an issue, masterfully scripted, terrifying mood piece in which very little is seen (or even glimpsed) but much is suggested. And the art duties were handled by the very good Sean Phillips, who’s since been squandering his talent on Ed Brubaker‘s derivative “I watch a lot of cable TV” witless fake noir tripe. But hey, people like that stuff, so who am I to criticise?
Anyway, I don’t have it in me to spoil the plot… not that it’s very much about the plot of this very special issue. Here are some choice excerpts, and perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of what I see in it.
Understated, quotidian horror. A job well done.
*I also really enjoy the pulpy adventures of Wyatt Blassingame‘s diminutive gumshoe John Smith, but that’s another set of prints.