Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Hellblazer #18 Review and **SPOILERS**

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How the Bardo Was Won

Writer: Richard Kadrey 
Penciller: Davide Fabbri 
Inker: José Marzán Jr. 
Colorist: Carrie Strachan 
Letterer: Sal Cipriano 
Cover Artist: Jesús Merino with Carrie Strachan 
Cover Price: $3.99
On Sale Date: January 24, 2018

**NON SPOILERS AND SCORE AT THE BOTTOM**

This series has gone through a few title changes since John Constantine got folded back into the DCU proper, but there’s one they’ve never tried: The ‘Ellblazer. Come on, it’s perfect! Instead, I’m saddled with reviewing the plainly-named The Hellblazer #18 for your edification and enjoyment. Well, edify and enjoy!


Explain It!

It would be one thing if your soul was cast into Hell and subject to tortures and torments for all eternity. But what if you got on well with Lucifer? What if you found your attending demons quite affable, and struck a tenuous understanding with them that allowed you a certain amount of freedom from the barbed wire-ringed lashing poles? I think you’d take it at face value, buddy, and probably turn up whatever you think passes for charm in the netherworld. Despite being a complete prick in actuality, John Constantine has plenty of what we would call charm, and when he finds himself in the Bardo Realm after sent there by the cultists, he’s able to talk himself out of it.
Everything is revealed in this issue: the enlightening Buddha gun sends spirits through the Bardo Realm, not quite prepared but still ascending to nirvana or whatever. This is why the murdered scrawl “THANK YOU” on the walls as they die, because they achieve peace or something? Regardless, the Bardo spirit tires of John Constantine and realizes he isn’t meant to be there, so he gets sent back to the world of the living. Later, Constantine links up with that other cult…Golden Dawn, were they? The one with all the hipsters to take out their rivals with the Buddha gun. They’re going to a hospital to murder someone in his bed, though I couldn’t be bothered to figure out who or why.
There’s so much extra shit happening in this book, and simple things like people’s names and their attending covens are not reiterated in this issue which makes it singularly difficult to understand. This is basic comic book stuff. In the end, Constantine saves the day, I think, and then leaves in a huff promising never to return to San Francisco again, and it may be the best ending I have seen in comics for a while. Also some guy gets set on fire? I dunno.
This three-issue arc was convoluted and lacked some simple comic book storytelling devices that might have made it more understandable—though the fact that most everything was explained in this issue suggests the whole thing was at least an issue too long. Also, John Constantine doesn’t use magic. Again. Why the hell isn’t he using magic? People around him use magic, but he’s just smoking cigarettes and making snarky remarks. Which is what we love him for, plus he does magic. No complaints or accolades for the art really, there’s nothing worth seeing here outside of a trade collection, if you’re so inclined.

Bits and Pieces:

Aside from a fairly fun exchange between John and a scary, blue demon, this issue offers more of the overly-complicated, barely-explained stuff we've been getting for the last two issues. Maybe I'd understand it better if I were a Buddhist? This comic fails on some basic comic book storytelling necessities, and the blame for that falls squarely on editorial.

4.5/10
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