If Alan Moore’s Constantine trekked through the Louisiana swamp or ethereal realms of magic, Delano’s was the poet laureate of global non-places. His John is what Ranciere might call an “anthropologist of the near.” Most of the action in early Hellblazer happens in spaces like the London tube, service entrances, elevators, airplane cabins, customs, buses, taxicabs, bridges, stairwells, hotel room, motels, bathrooms, movie theaters, men’s rooms, busy intersections, and, of course, alleyways, where he keeps tabs on the graffiti like a curator. In one panel, a Tory campaign poster reads “We’ll put the pound back in your pocket” with the tag “By taking it out of mine.” Unlike, say, Alan Moore’s more formalistic word-image counterpoints in Watchmen, Delano’s polyphonic layering is about cramming as much social subtext into a page as possible. Action happens in both the foreground and the background of the panels, mostly thanks to artist John Ridgeway, who draws like a 19th century Strand illustration gone seedy, occult and burnt out. In that first issue I discussed above, John goes to a cornershop to calls his friend Chas on the payphone and buys cigarettes and insecticide. The bodega’s South Asian cashier gets hassled by two skinheads (“Wot’s that stink? Curried Cockroaches?”) and hawks bug spray to John by spritzing it above the counter (“This the best. Kill all creeping crawlings. Like Rambo.”). That’s five characters interacting, all but Chas represented speaking different dialects. Unlike most comics, where characters talk to each other in front of an abstract white background, this encounter happens in a plausible, situated, public space, a realist mise en scène like one you’ve probably been in before yourself. And it all happens in three panels.
-Ken Chen, “The Devil You Know”