Graphic Novel Friday: Sort-of Endings for Hellblazer and Swamp Thing
Recently, two iconic Vertigo characters bid adieu to the status quo in comics, either ending their grand run or finishing a stellar arc with select creators.
One of the most surprising announcements in recent comics news was that publisher Vertigo elected to end their longest running series, Hellblazer, with issue #300 (available in digital format or via our third party marketplace). Writer Peter Milligan diligently wrote the book for as long as I read it in single issues, and his issues comprise the most consistently entertaining run in comics that I’ve read in the past decade. Milligan reinvented anti-hero, dark warlock, possible immortal, chain-smoking John Constantine as a reluctant husband and grown-up. Sure, Constantine still ran into the usual demons and forces of evil, but under Milligan’s pen John met and wed Epiphany, a young witch who tamed the cad, who showed him that there was more to life than death. In Milligan’s 50 issues of Hellblazer, John traveled across the world, was attacked by his own trench coat, lost a thumb, gained a nephew, and sacrificed his father-in-law to the First of the Fallen (not a good thing).
I read the final issue three times last weekend because Milligan infuses multiple twists into the overarching plot surrounding John’s ultimate fate, or fates. His interactions with Epiphany are heartfelt and heartbreaking husband and wife moments. Plus, Milligan ties up many loose plot threads without making it feel like a chore or checklist. And that last page? Wow. Coupled with longtime Hellblazer artists Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini, this is the way to end a beloved series—with a literal “bang” and a metaphorical one. I suggest beginning with the Scab collection and reading from there to this final issue. It all makes sense at the long journey’s end, I promise. John Constantine will be folded into the proper DC Universe with Constantine #1, out later this month with a new creative team.
Thanks to Alan Moore’s iconic run on Swamp Thing, where John Constantine was first introduced, the two characters have been entwined for decades. And it’s fitting that writer Scott Snyder, who obviously loves Moore’s Swamp Thing, should end his tenure with the Swamp Thing in tandem with Hellblazer. In issue #18 (released this week and available digitally or via our third party marketplace), Snyder and artist Yanick Paquette shockingly end their year-and-a-half run on the character with surprises, transformations, and goodbyes.
I’ve been a fan of Paquette’s since his Terra Obscura days, and this issue is his best work to date. When we see Alec Holland and Abigail, longtime star-crossed (and cross-species) romantics, overcome by flora, it’s a beautiful thing but it’s also an image loaded with finality. Moore fans will appreciate Snyder’s clever interweaving of old roots while he trims for new growth, balancing a love story with grim horror. It’s a gorgeous single issue, one that makes readers sorry to see this creative team depart, but so happy that they did so on a resonating note. A new team will continue the plotlines with issue #19.