Thursday, April 14, 2016

Constantine: The Hellblazer #11 Review and **SPOILERS**

It’s a Deadman’s Party, Who Could Ask For More?

Written By: Ming Doyle & James Tynion IV
Art By: Travel Foreman, Joseph Silver, Ivan Plascencia, Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letters By: Tom Napolitano
Cover Price: $2.99
Release Date: April 13, 2016

*Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*

Boy, did I ever screw up when posting this preview for this issue. Riley Rossmo was the solicited artist, and I damn near blew a gasket with textual glee, but had I looked at the actual preview I’d have seen that Travel Foreman was on pencils. Sorry about that, Travel, but I had come to associate this book’s visuals closely with Rossmo’s style, and I think it’s a shame that he won’t be closing out this run on the book. Not to dismiss Foreman, but this story has been reasonably solid, and to have a couple of nice trades with the same creators throughout...well, it would have been nice, is all. But that’s all in the past! In the present, we have a new issue of Constantine: The Hellblazer with the estimable and suitably freakish Travel Foreman doing the panel work. Does this issue cut the mustard? Probably, if you hold it at the right angle. Make yourself a nice sandwich and read my review while you eat. It’s good for your digestion.

Explain It!:

I used to really dislike Los Angeles. I think I tapped into that typical New Yorker dismissiveness of everywhere else, but I also struggle to understand a city without a robust and reasonably reliable rapid transit system. After having visited L.A. a few times, I came to appreciate the City of Angels, an opinion not shared by John Constantine, who sums up his opinion with, “Fuck Los Angeles.” It’s a bit too sunny, he thinks, but it is a cruel kind of light that gives the illusion of security. Constantine finds himself in L.A. because yuppie demon Neron has practically bought out New York and suffused it with cheap, evil magic, barring well-meaning but assholish mages like John from its borders. So he has come to L.A. seeking help, and finds himself at a Hollywood party thrown by the Archangel Gabriel, who oversees the entertainment industry because of course he does. John appeals to Gabe, who essentially tells him to fuck off because he doesn’t like John. Gabriel even recommends John move to Portland, Oregon, which he says is “very nice for your sort.” He also fake coughs around John’s smoking, despite having no lungs.

Dejected, Constantine finds himself at Totally Not Disneyland, where he tells his gargoyle pal, Bartleby, that he’s done trying to save New York. He helped a bunch of monsters relocate to Anaheim, where they blend in with the costumed corporate logos quite nicely, and now he’s through asking for favors because it’s not really his bag. Bartleby reminds John of his boyfriend Oliver, still back in New York City, but though he gets a call from Oliver at that very instant on his cell phone, John still acts like he doesn’t give a shucks. Constantine takes off to Declan’s Bar & Grill to drown his sorrows and hit on this cute woman sidling near him. John opens with a typical pick-up line, and is shocked to discover that the woman is actually Deadman—or, more specifically, possessed by Deadman. Ol’ Deady tells John that he’s got to go back to New York and fix Neron’s hash, and when John refuses Deadman takes over his body! And then we get to the funniest part of the book, where Deadman assumes control of John’s body and forces him to fly back to New York, and makes him walk all herky-jerky like Steve Martin in that movie All of Me, when he was possessed by Lily Tomlin. John punches himself and pulls at his skin, but to no avail: he’s forced to go to the airport, get a ticket, and board a plane for LaGuardia Airport in New York City.

On the plane, John convinces Deadman to vacate his body and assume control of his neighborhing passenger so they can have a chat. Deadman, thinking John is on the up and up, agrees to switch seats, but obviously doesn’t know Constantine very well since he uses the opportunity to teleport Deadman and his neighbor to parts unknown. I sort of want to follow that story now, like did this woman have a heart attack to find herself suddenly in Aruba or whatever, with no idea how she’d gotten there? Or was Deadman forced to stay with this woman and get her back to New York out of a sense of obligation? Whatever the matter, John disembarks the plane and intends to pop by his apartment for some new clothes and a quick kip (“kip” is the British word for “nap” because everything they say has to be adorable) before going back to Los Angeles, but when he gets to his apartment he finds Oliver sitting against the door, waiting for John: Neron has kidnapped his daughters! Which we knew, because of the end of the last issue. But I had forgotten, so it was a surprise to me!

This was a pretty solid issue that had more funny parts than I expect from this book—and it’s not a dour book, by any means. Like last issue’s dalliance in Fairy Land, John’s time in Los Angeles seemed curiously short, like it was either crammed into the story or severely truncated so that it happened as more of an afterthought. I suspect that storylines had to be rushed a bit in preparation for Rebirth, which is really mucking up a lot of books at DC lately. The art is good, particularly when John is possessed by Deadman, but it’s not great. All of the pieces are in the right places but it just seems overly sloppy, and not a controlled sloppy like some other horror artists employ. If you’ve been reading this book all along, then there’s no reason to stop now—I think our ride with Constantine: The Hellblazer ends with the next issue!

Bits and Pieces

Like Ice Cube said, "L.A. ain't all surfing, son," and John Constantine knows that all too well as he is rebuked by those he solicits for help. Of course, his being a prick and apparently covered in sewer much doesn't ingratiate him to anyone, either. Deadman makes a cool cameo in this book that is really funny, but I get the feeling this whole story has been cut a bit, almost as if the comic book were going to end and then be rebirthed in a few months as something else. Just a funny feeling I have!

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