Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits (1991) by Garth Ennis & Will Simpson

My horror-themed month continues with one of the best John Constantine, Hellblazer stories: Dangerous Habits. For this, we have to go back in time to 1991 when Garth Ennis became the regular writer of DC Comics’ horror title Hellblazer. This was in the days before the Vertigo imprint existed. (Alas, it is no more!) Hellblazer was “suggested for mature readers,” and was one of a group of “mature” titles being published at that time. These included Swamp Thing, Sandman, Animal Man, Doom Patrol, and Shade the Changing Man.

Cover Art by Glenn Fabry

My Synopsis

John Constantine has faced all manner of ghosts, demons, and even serial killers before. But this time it’s serious! Years of smoking 30 cigarettes a day has left John with terminal lung cancer. That’s right, he’s going to die, and there aren’t any magic spells he knows to make it go away. In fact, he’s even contemplating giving up and ending it all. Who would’ve thought it? “Conjob” Constantine not even trying to talk or trick his way out of something? Unbelievable! But hang on a minute. Perhaps there are a couple of possibilities still open to him. Now you think about it, if anyone can actually pull this off, it has to be John Constantine, right?

My Thoughts

After reading this story again–for the fourth time in total, I think–I can honestly say that this is one of the best Constantine stories ever written. I say that as a bigger fan of Jamie Delano’s run on the title, which covered the first forty issues of Hellblazer. Garth Ennis took over the writing duties from issue #41 and continued until issue #83. I’m not going to go into details of the plot here. Instead, let me write about why I rate it so highly.

Garth Ennis writes a very human John Constantine. By giving John terminal lung cancer, he provides a slap of horrific reality to the laughing magician’s world, reminding readers that some horrors are very real. Ennis then takes John on a fascinating character arc as he first reacts to, and then attempts to fight the deadly cards he’s been dealt. I’m glad to say that Constantine manages to keep his sarcastic sense of humour, as well as his cunning, because he will need all his engines firing if he is to beat this particular enemy.

The original in-comic advertisement for the start of Garth Ennis’s run on Hellblazer

As readers who are familiar with Garth Ennis’s The Boys will know, the Northern Irish writer is not the biggest fan of superheroes. He’s spoken before in interviews of his disregard for the typical caped and masked super-humans that make up so many comic book series. In Dangerous Habits, there are no superheroes. There’s just a man with a damaged past and a few tricks up his sleeve, doing all he can to stay alive. At one point in the story, John asks his new friend Matt if he wouldn’t try everything to beat the disease. Matt, bedridden in hospital with his own cancer, replies “‘Course I’d bloody try everything, son! Who wouldn’t?”

This one is highly recommended for fans of the character or a well-crafted horror story!

For those interested in the story, there is a really good video on YouTube by the talented ComicPOP team. *Spoiler warning* The video tells the story in detail. Here is the link to it.

Thanks for reading!

9 thoughts on “Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits (1991) by Garth Ennis & Will Simpson

  1. I do love Ennis’s Punisher. I don’t like his Thor, but Punisher is great. So I get what you mean by his lack of enthusiasm to caped superheroes – and I’m very intrigued by this!
    I’m going through all Delano’s issues right now, so it’ll take me some time to get to Ennis – but I will get there πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I’ve heard a lot of praise for Ennis’s Punisher run. I’ve also heard Preacher is supposed to be very good. I hope you enjoy the rest of Delano’s run more than Volume 2! As I mentioned in my review, I am a big fan of Delano on Hellblazer. It is very “of its time” if you know what I mean, but I really liked his writing. Some people say it’s too wordy, but I appreciate his style. This could all be down to Delano being the writer when I started buying the comic…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I do enjoy Delano’s style; I feel it suits the character very well. The second volume was bad, way too much self-indulgent and all over the place, but I heard it gets better again after that. Plus, nothing can be worse than those new DC Hellblazer travesties. I have The Fear Machine on me shelf now, I’ll let you know how it goes for me πŸ˜€

        Ennis’s Punisher, particularly the war-related stories, are simply superb. I have only seen Preacher in passing, but knowing Ennis’s style it’s going to be bloody πŸ˜‰

        Liked by 1 person

        • The Punisher sounds good. I don’t know why but he is a character I just never got into. It sounds like you are a fan? Ennis was a huge fan of War comics when he was growing up, so it makes sense that he would be good on The Punisher. I hope you enjoy The Fear Machine. By the way, I highly rate the current Hellblazer run being written by Si Spurrier. I hated the Rebirth run by Simon Oliver. That was very disappointing for me.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I’m a Punisher fan, indeed, as you probably infer from my paper on this character – though my relationship with him is highly ambivalent – as would be with any avatar of violent vengeance πŸ˜‰
            I’ll be checking out Spurrier’s take on Hellblazer too, based on your rec. Oliver is just so horrible that his whole run should be erased from the face of this Earth πŸ˜›

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I read and enjoyed the first volume by Delano (Original Sins) and have been meaning to continue on with it but still haven’t. Your review has me very excited to get to those volumes where Ennis takes over. It sounds much more complex, intense, and focused on the man than ever before. Thanks for sharing this one with us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lashaan! I really like Delano’s run on the title. I think this story is Ennis’s best one. What a way to start his run on Hellblazer! I’d love to hear your thoughts on it in the future. So many books, so little time, right?πŸ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

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