Two of the first Vertigo Resurrected specials were devoted to Hellblazer, Vertigo’s longest running title. The focus of the Resurrected series is on previously uncollected Vertigo stories. Despite the imprint’s healthy trade collection program, there are a great many of these, and many are high enough quality to justify reprinting. But “Shoot” is an exception: it is an unpublished Hellblazer story written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Phil Jimenez & Andy Lanning. It was completely finished, and solicited as issue #141, as you can see from this cover image:
B&W scans of the entire issue have been available on the Net for years, so in that sense the horse was already out of the barn before DC finally decided to publish the issue here. The central character in it is really Penny Carnes, the college professor investigating mass killings; John Constantine shows up towards the end. It could have just as easily been a Transmetropolitan story, I think. But it’s a very well-constructed story, beautifully illustrated, so it’s nice to finally see it published in final form. There has now been more distance from the Columbine High School massacre than there would have been if the story had been published in 1999 when it was first solicited. But Ellis’s story still asks some disturbing questions about the psychology of mass murder. The rest of the book is devoted to reprints by a star-studded cast of creators, drawn from several Vertigo anthologies: Strange Adventures, Weird War Tales, Heartthrobs, and Flinch. I get the impression they were chosen for creator star appeal rather than relative quality–I’d say there are worthier stories buried in those anthologies–but they give a good indication of the range of stories included in the originals, as well as gathering together some notable collaborations.
Hellblazer #1 presents two previously uncollected Hellblazer stories. The two-part story by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon (#57-58) comes from the uncollected period prior to the “Fear and Loathing” storyline. “Mortal Clay” is a ghost story, and like most Hellblazer ghost stories, it’s also a morality tale. Corpses are being stolen for ballistics experiments: Constantine and Chas get involved when Chas’s recently deceased uncle becomes one of them. The experiments are horrific enough, but it turns out they are also preventing the souls of the departed from moving on. Constantine creates a portal, and the vengeful souls swarm the research facility. Chas gets his revenge in a more direct, physical way. The second half was the reason I bought it: “Newcastle Calling” by Jason Aaron & Sean Murphy (#245-246). The story returns to the central event in John Constantine’s early life in magic, the demonic summoning in the basement of a Newcastle club that went horribly wrong. The focus is a television crew making a documentary about Constantine’s punk band Mucous Membrane. Strange things begin to happen shortly after the crew finds the now-abandoned club. As Constantine travels to Newcastle, we find that the strangeness extends to the entire city. The ending is a bit anticlimactic, as John recaptures the fear elemental off-panel. But it’s an interesting look at the early Hellblazer mythos, contrasted with horrific results happening in the present. Nice job by the whole creative team: it would be good to see them do more work on the title.