Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Hellblazer #17 Review and **SPOILERS**


Your Own Personal Buddha

Writer: Richard Kadrey 
Penciller: Davide Fabbri 
Inker: Jose Marzán Jr. 
Colorist: Carrie Strachan 
Letterer: Sal Cipriano 
Cover Artist: Jesús Merino with Carrie Strachan 
Cover Price: $3.99
On Sale Date: December 27, 2017


I’m gonna tell ya, San Francisco is one of the nicest cities you’ll ever hope to visit in America. I may have begun my review of the last issue the same way, but San Francisco is that swell of a city that it can be championed twice. Down by the Wharf, there’s a museum called Museé Mécqanique that is a lot of fun—don’t let the Frenchie name scare you, it’s just a collection of coin-operated games and amusements dating back to the 19th Century. And almost all of it can be operated by you, the attendee, for a quarter or two! They’ve got crazy mechanical vignettes and old-timey baseball games where you can belt a steel marble against a tin backdrop—plus a bunch of terrific video games like Death Race and Robotron 2084. Highly recommended! More recommended than The Hellblazer #17? You’ll have to read my review to find out!

Explain It!

Here’s what I expect to read from a John Constantine/Hellblazer story: someone petitions his magical help because a mutual best friend has died, or the ghost of that actual best friend haunts Constantine for aid. Using magic, Constantine finds out that a demon or a different ghost or maybe some kind of ancient evil from the primordial soup from whence all life sprang is behind everything, and plus it’s going to end all life on Earth or is threatening the person he’s fucking at the time. So, using magic, John Constantine finds the Macguffin that will save the day, and then, using magic, John Constantine chucks it into the maw or jams it into the ribcage of whatever is the threat, and in doing so one of his best friends dies anyway because being Constantine’s friend is the surest route to suicide. Now, I don’t think all Constantine/Hellblazer stories should read this way, but there are certain recurring elements that should show what is interesting about this character: it’s the magic. He is a magician. And, indeed, I like when he does stupid parlor tricks to light his cigarettes or to make a bus driver waive his fare.
What we’ve seen a lot of in this series since Rebirth, aside from Tim Seeley’s all-too-short time on the title (though I hear he’s coming back!) is a lot of John Constantine not using magic. Like, magic stuff happens around him, but he’s not doing a lot of it. And that’s sort of a problem to me, because is John Constantine isn’t a rakish, rogue magician, then he’s just a slovenly, chain-smoking asshole—little more than a mid-1990s Dennis Leary. So after being captured by…the Bardo witches? I could swear it was the Golden Dawn last issue, but it’s some coven of street clothes-wearing witches that have John Constantine in their clutches, and accuse him of killing Jenny—you remember, the one who fell victim to that serial killer which has his prey scrawling “thank you” on the wall before he offs them—and when an amulet of truth proves he wasn’t lying about committing this murder that is exactly like a series of other murders occurring before Constantine arrived to San Francisco. And that takes up about half the issue.
Meanwhile, the other witches who I guess are the Golden Dawn? They’re making a mandala, something-something about a magical gun? Look, I just started getting so lost here. And all the while, Constantine is being talked down to by these suit-and-tie witches and he’s not using any fucking magic. Use some magic, goddamit! So the thing is, somehow this gang of bad witches kills people either by or directly after showing them true enlightenment, which is why they scrawl thank you after their brains paint the walls behind them…I’m just not buying any of this. At the end, Constantine and one of the ladies from the witches that captured him get shot, and he gets transported to a Tibetan Bardo realm, about which I’m sure we’ll learn a lot less in the next issue.
This is just bad. Poorly told, names and concepts not reiterated (which is really a growing problem at DC Comics these days—we need to be refreshed every issue, folks, it’s serialized storytelling), and the main guy we want to see using magic doesn’t even use it. There aren’t even that many instances of magic in this book, which is too bad since that’s the primary draw. I wouldn’t have minded if John Constantine wound up in the same dubious place at the end, so long as he conjured a spirit dragon or made a million copies of himself or did something magical to show he’s still got it. Without that, all he have is a shabby Sting with lung cancer.

Bits and Pieces:

A slow-paced, confusing story that features the main character not doing a whole lot for most of the issue. The burgeoning threat is weird and doesn't have any stakes attached to it. The art is fine, but certainly not enough to warrant buying this comic book.

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