REVIEW: John Constantine: Hellblazer #7: The Only Time You’ll Read “Gamete Package” in a Comic

A mermaid holds up a severed head, with narration reading, "For love. For love and the hopes of a smile... a little violence was no great cost."

John Constantine: Hellblazer has taken us through many seedy aspects of England, but in issue #7, the beginning of a new arc, we go somewhere new: Billingsgate Market, a fish market in Canary Wharf.

John Constantine: Hellblazer #7

Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Aditya Bidikar (Letterer), Aaron Campbell (Artist), Simon Spurrier (Writer)
DC Comics
June 23, 2020

Constantine smoking a cigarette silhouetted by a fish tail

The issue opens with narration from an unseen source. It details a man, the narrator’s beloved, a “great man… fond of smoke, fond of shadow.” The page ends on a panel showing John Constantine from behind, collar turned up and a cigarette in his mouth. “Oh–he’s imperfect,” reads the narration. “He’s made mistakes.”

Turn the page and it’s revealed that the narration isn’t speaking of John Constantine. It’s speaking of a fishmonger — a fishmonger with a curious necklace. From his neck dangles a pink conch shell with an unmistakably yonic shape.

The narrator, at this point still unknown, walks us through the trials and tribulations of her poor, put-upon lover, the fishmonger. He’s younger and less experienced than the other fisherman, and they’re unreceptive when he challenges their beliefs. They swallow up the xenophobia delivered to them by the member of parliament speaking from the TV, who suggests that the ever-present bogeyman of “The French” is responsible for the lack of fish to be caught. Nobody wants to hear about his suspicion that they are actually to blame; it’s easier and less frightening to blame French interlopers.

But what about that mysterious shell charm? Who is the narrator? And why is John Constantine involved at all? The answer to all three is that our narrator is a mermaid, and this is the sort of grisly mermaid story that hearkens back not to Disney but to Hans Christian Anderson and folkloric stories of selkies, echoed in modern storytelling like Alyssa Wong’s “The Fisher Queen.”

A panel showing a man standing out next to the ocean, blowing into a small shell. A sound effect reads, "Ooooo," and narration reads, ""--He ventured to the foreshore where none would see, and he blew into the shell as the old man had taught him, and... and..."

What does a fisherman want with a mermaid? The same things that every man has wanted from his female partner throughout history, with the politically infused commentary we’ve come to expect from this team. The horror is the actions that occur within — grisly violence, yes, but also the trickle-down of hateful rhetoric spewed by those in power to the working class, which begets the grisly violence. Those who stoke the hatred reap the benefits of power and profit and never see the consequences. That’s horror.

Simon Spurrier’s writing this issue is a wonderful mixture of opaque and obtuse narration from the mermaid, horrible propaganda speech from the member of parliament speaking on TV, and thrilling vulgarities from the fishermen. Throughout the series, Spurrier’s dialog has been equal parts musical and crass, and this issue follows suit. “I think fishing’s fucked because we fucked up the fish,” has a nasty little melody to it, as does “Old Frogfish McGreasyhair.” Though Spurrier does sometimes stray into wordiness — which is fine by me, a lover of flowery prose — his dialog is always fun to read. Where else will I find the phrases “A holy convergence!” and “nobbin’ a mermaid” on the same page?

As in previous issues, Aditya Bidikar’s lettering is key to the dialog succeeding. Not only does the sound effects lettering add a wonderful haunting quality to the page, but the use of italics, sizing, and bolding helps guide the reader through the sound of each speech bubble as well. Every bit of space is used to its fullest potential, with smaller text in larger bubbles lending the words a sense of meekness and more cramped lettering giving the reader the impression of a speaker becoming increasingly unhinged. Because Spurrier’s work is dialect-heavy and sometimes wordy, Bidikar’s lettering allows the reader to understand what’s happening even if they’re not familiar with the phrasing.

Aaron Campbell and Jordie Bellaire are no less important to this issue’s success. The final page is a haunting one, a mixture of ethereal beauty with gruesome violence. Campbell’s often wonderfully grainy, textured linework meshes well with the loose, flowing lines required by the scene, and Bellaire’s wonderful use of blues and reds emphasize the horrible nature of what’s occurred there. On the one hand, it’s beautiful; on the other, it’s painful, the vibrant red drawing the eye and suggesting both burning pain and the redness of blood. The artwork throughout is beautiful and eerie, but the final page encapsulates how well this team works together — Spurrier’s whip-smart dialog, Bidikar’s distorted and onomatopoeic lettering, Campbell’s mastery of both smooth and gritty linework, and Bellaire’s purposeful use of color come together to showcase the highlights of this series on one single page.

In short, Spurrier, Campbell, Bellaire, and Bidikar excel in John Constantine: Hellblazer #7, crafting an incisive, grim, and grisly horror story with a final page that will leave you shuddering.

Melissa Brinks

Melissa Brinks

Melissa Brinks is a freelance writer and co-creator of the Fake Geek Girls podcast. She has an affinity for cats, cooking, gardening, and investing copious hours of her life in fictional worlds of all kinds.

4 thoughts on “REVIEW: John Constantine: Hellblazer #7: The Only Time You’ll Read “Gamete Package” in a Comic

  1. Yes Ma’am, I’m really enjoying reading the rest of this site’s reviews.
    But I sure am taking my own sweet time as I’ve only quite a few up until now.
    But I can’t get over your Hellblazer reviews. It’s really great. I love reading it. Maybe it’s my inner Hellblazer fan clawing it’s way out.
    But it’s a shame that issue #12 of the current Hellblazer series is going to be it’s last one.
    Heart breaking really.
    Looking forward to your reviews of the upcoming issues.
    Have a great day Ma’am!

    1. Thank you so much! I’m also very sad about the non-renewal—it’s a really great series that brings the character into the modern world, and I honestly believe it’ll be held up as an example of what Hellblazer is capable of, storytelling-wise.

  2. Hey Ma’am! I read all of your Hellblazer reviews on this site. (Did you review them all? I don’t remember, forgive me if I’m wrong about it though)
    And I really loved the way you reviewed it. Particularly this and the previous one.
    I’m still new to this site, so I’ll explore and read other reviews from you and other reviewers.

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