#78 - Hellblazer: Hard Time

No one has pulled off a trenchcoat with such style before or since...John Constantine makes our top 100

Our next entrant in the list is a character who started out on Swamp Thing, someone so popular he was plucked from his bit-part character status and given a series of his own. I'm talking about Hellblazer, a man you might know better as John Constantine, or who some of you may only know as Keanu Reeves. Hellblazer: Hard Time comes in at number 78.

Originally this book was going to be called Hellraiser, but Clive Barker's 1987 hit horror film put the kibosh on that. Instead, the adventures of John Constantine were bundled under the name Hellblazer, and as time has turned out, this was a more suitable name for the character. Constantine is a mystery of a man, equal parts low-down conman and sometimes saviour of the world. He is a confidence trickster who will manipulate you to his own selfish ends one minute, then sacrifice what he has gained to save your life the next.

Constantine is such a popular character in the graphic novel world that not only was he given his own series, but he also made star appearance in other books. Some of the notable ones are Green Arrow, Green Lantern and The Sandman, all of which may be appearing in our list. Or maybe they won't. I guess you'll have to keep reading to find out.

Hellblazer: Hard Time is one of the best Hellblazer stories, and that is why I have chosen it to stand out from the others and appear in this list. In it, Constantine is finds himself in a brutal prison ruled by the corrupt. His home comforts, including signature trenchcoat, are taken away from him, and he has to survive with his wits alone. Even for John Constantine, this is a challenge. Hard Time might have some over-used prison motifs in it (trouble in the showers, rival gangs), but Brian Azzarrello's writing manages to put a fresh spin on them. Some of the things he chooses to show us in Hard Time are just downright scary, but it is impossible to shut the book until you've finished it.

Now, Hard Time does get criticism. Some people aren't impressed with Azzarrello's run on the series, and they feel he has handled some essential parts of the series badly. When they say this, they usually mean the mystical elements of the story, something that should be inherent in Hellblazer tales. All I can say is that I don't agree, because Hard Time is one of the best Hellblazer graphic novels written. Try it for yourself.

Read Hellblazer on Amazon: UK Readers   US Readers

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