Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Hellblazer #13 Review and **SPOILERS**

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He Drinks to Forget

Writer: Tim Seeley 
Artist: Jesús Merino 
Colorist: Carrie Strachan 
Letterer: Sal Cipriano 
Cover: Tim Seeley with Chris Sotomayer
Cover Price: $3.99
On Sale Date: August 23, 2017

**NON SPOILERS AND SCORE AT THE BOTTOM**

Once more into the breach, this would be DC Comics’…fifth creator change over three titles, since John Constantine left the Vertigo universe in 2011? Truth be told, that’s not a bad record. But the run preceding this issue I found so abominable that I, for the first time, declined to review the final two issues. But I believe that every character can have new life breathed into it when handled by the right creator. So are Seeley and Merino those creators in question? Read my review of The Hellblazer #13 and find out!


Explain It!

I have the reputation around the Weird Science DC Comics Dot Com offices of being a fan of John Constantine. I’m not. I’m really a fan of Swamp Thing, and will always consider him one of Alec Holland’s supporting cast, long after such a connection has ceased to be relevant or even known by many comics readers. It’s not that I don’t want John Constantine without the Swamp Thing, but when I see him, I expect to see that cross between Billy Idol and David Bowie, the urban magician with suspect motives and even more suspicious abilities. Truth be told, I haven’t seen that John Constantine since 2011, when he got folded into the DC Universe proper. Now, that doesn’t mean I think every outing of John Constantine since has been a failure. Ray Fawkes had a pretty good tenure on the title, until it got obliterated along with the rest of the Dark line in that “Blight” crossover during Forever Evil. I very much liked much of James Tynion IV and Riley Rossmo’s take on the character that launched with the DCYou. My point is, the edginess of John Constantine that I really know has all but been stripped away, so I’ve come to enjoy a more social take on ol’ John provided he’s still screwing people over in order to save the world from demonic takeover. I mean, that’s really the crux of it, right?
What caused me to stop reviewing the last run of the Hellblazer with issue #10 wasn’t how John Constantine was being portrayed, it was that the Hellblazer had become an absolute failure of a comic book. The basics of comic book plotting and storytelling were thrown out completely by the end of that run, as John Constantine and Mercury and whoever-the-fuck-else was traipsing around spun their wheels chasing down something to forestall an event of some kind. I think. I also felt burned that Swamp Thing was introduced from the outset and then quietly tucked away in the back of a cabinet while all the meatbags flitted around Paris for-fucking-ever. The thing is, comic book creation is a collaborative effort, so it takes a village to completely screw them up the way the Hellblazer had become. It is sheer editorial ignorance or inability that allows such a book to hit the stands on Wednesday morning, or perhaps even editorial meddling. No, since we don’t know what really happened behind the scenes, with frequent artist changes and a whole storyline about Abigail Arcane seemingly dropped (though it may have wrapped up in #11-12; I didn’t and won’t ever read those issues). All we can say, in hindsight, is that it sucked.
But I believe that any intellectual property can be more compelling than thought possible, it only needs the right creative team and the proper context. And Tim Seeley and Jesús Merino are no slouches, as proven right off the bat with a nice, coherently-presented story about Constantine’s drunkenness. Seems that last night, he really tied one on with some mates, and ended up drinking an elixir given by a stranger that caused him to black out. While in slumber, he murdered a man and stuffed him in an air vent—this much he tells the police right away, which was pretty forthright of him, I thought. He deals mainly with an old friend of his, Inspector Margaret, who (naturally) hates John, and recounts a dream of murdering someone that she sees played out on some closed circuit camera tapes—but the assailant isn’t visible! In the end, it turns out it might be these weird, yellow imp things at the bottom of this? I dunno.
So right off the bat, this is way better than the last issue that I read. There isn’t much to the story at hand, but it’s well-told and the characters look consistent. The art is actually pretty great—it doesn’t look like Merino’s usual style, to my eye, but is instead more wrought and grotesque, which really shows the shabbiness of Constantine’s world. There’s also a scene where John gets splattered with blood, and he pukes several times throughout the issue, and these moments are rendered well for your gross-out pleasures. I mean, that’s sort of what we did with John Constantine, isn’t it? We exchanged a mysterious, tortured man for some regular gore and filth. Not a terrible deal, all told.

Bits and Pieces:

The new creative team on this series takes it in the bold and exciting direction of being coherent, and it's a relief to this reader. The story is reasonably engrossing, but not really something that will have you crawling the walls for the next issue. You may, however, want to appreciate the multiple technicolor yawns rendered by Mr. Jesús Merino up close and personally.

7/10
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