Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 01.19.2011 – Hellblazer #275

What did the
iFanboy
community think?

158
Pulls
Avg Rating: 4.6
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 12.0%
 
Users who pulled this comic:
Written by PETER MILLIGAN
Art by GIUSEPPE CAMUNCOLI & STEFANO LANDINI
Cover by SIMON BISLEY

Size: 48 pages
Price: 4.99

Now hold on while I explain something, first. If you look at my pull list, you'll see that I gave this comic book a 4/5, and gave another one a 5/5. I still decided to make Hellblazer #275 my Pick. It was the first thing I read, and about 4 pages in, I'd already made up my mind. That is because some things are done well, and some just make you feel a certain way, and when it comes down to it, it's all about feelings, isn't it?

This issue is all about the wedding of John Constantine, and the fact is, this is no jumping on point. I suggested it in the Light Week feature, but really, this was an issue for people who've been around Hellblazer for a long time. The reason it was so successful is because it's building on what came before, specifically Garth Ennis' time on the book, and the havok that Constantine wreaks on the lives of every single person he has a relationship with. If you were around for the Brendan storyline, or the absolutely heartbreaking Kit love affair, you were rewarded in this wedding issue. Most Hellblazer stories are fairly self-contained, but there is a history, and that history is usually Constantine making the same mistakes he always makes, and those whom he has wronged coming for their revenve. That's all you need to know. But every once in a while, all those chickens come home to roost, and what better place than a wedding would there be to do that? In fact, maybe it's not so bad for a new reader, like being introduced to the other side of a family you're now part of. If you want to know more, there are always stories right there. If not, you just avoid the next family event.

Like any protagonist, no matter what they do, you want them to succeed, and like any storyteller worth their salt, Milligan made sure to take that away from you. You knew it had to happen, but you thought, just this once, let it work out for them. The home team needs a win! But that's not the way real drama works. When things started to go wrong (on page one), I sincerely hoped that we'd make it through the wedding OK. I really wanted this to happen. But I know that's not how it works, and like a bus accident, I couldn't look away. I couldn't wait to see what would happen, and how it would hopefully resolve. If Constantine and his supporting cast hadn't been written so perfectly for the last couple of years, this would feel like a stunt. But the folks who produce Hellblazer know that almost nothing is going to move the needle on the sales numbers at this point, so they just get on with telling a great yarn, and for those of us who are reading, it's so satisfying.

If you'd told me at the beginning of Milligan's run that John Constantine would marry this (perfect and wonderful) character, Epiphany Greaves, I would have snorted and said, "that would be stupid." But through very patient and careful storytelling, they completely convinced me. Then, John has a conversation with his old flame, Kit, and it was the absolute capper on the whole thing. This is perfect. This is right. That was quickly followed by the realization that these characters are absolutely fucked. Maybe not now. Maybe not soon even, but eventually, and it's going to be ugly. Or maybe they won't be? Wouldn't that be novel. But in reading it, it'll always be in the back of my mind, and add just a little extra tension to the stories. But for the meantime, I'm on the edge of my seat.

I imagine that drawing Hellblazer is a dream job for some artists. You've got a moody main character who can't help but look iconic and mysterious in his trenchcoat and his cigarettes. Constantine's face is aged and pitted. He's both classic and cool, and so weary, while never admitting it. There's so much characterization wrapped up in this one character. At the same time, the artist gets to draw beautiful women, both mortal and those not of this earth. Then there are the demons and monsters and shades and magiks, where the pencil gets to do fantastic things never before seen. All of this is set up in the backdrop of London (mostly), and it's many aged layers both clean and unclean. So many wonderful artists have made their mark on Hellblazer, like Sean Phillips, Steve Dillon, Jock, Tim Bradstreet,Mark Buckingham, Marcelo Frusin, Leonardo Manco, and more. Guiseppe Camuncoli and his inker Stefano Landini are now right up there. Theirs is now the definitive Constantine, and looking at characters from the Ennis/Dillon era, their work was also of a piece. Cammo's art seems to evoke fear better than many others. He draws the eyes in such a way that there's no mistaking what's going on, and that's certainly a valuable skill to have in a book like Constantine. Just look at Gemma in this issue. He draws John just right. The old people look old, and the young people look young, but not too young. The fabric rumples in just the right way. Gangster and Epiphany's father Terry Greaves looks exactly right, and you can almost hear a gravelly cockney gangster voice through the inks. It's not all necessarily pretty to look at, but it's right.

So why the four stars, Josh? There was one thing to break the perfection of the mood in this book, and it was during the wedding. Nergal approaches the church, and all hell breaks loose. Attackers with red glowing eyes storm the pews, weilding knives and blades. The priest marries the couple, and they kiss, just as Epiphany realizes something is terribly wrong. Then we're at the reception. Just like that. No idea how that got sorted out, or how it happened. It felt like I missed something. But if you took that scene out, the rest of the issue is magic, with a massive cliffhanger to be dealt with in the future. Even with the apparent misstep, the whole thing was just too satisfying not to be the Pick of the Week. If you're a long time reader of Hellblazer, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. If not, well, you probably haven't read this far.

The great thing about comics is that they can be incredibly rewarding for readers who's been around for the long haul, and in comics, the long haul can be decades long. The best of stories weave in and out of this history, and let people jump in at all sorts of places, while still giving something extra to the longtime fans. The market as we know it today does not bode well for this kind of storytelling, and certainly not all comics should have this kind of storytelling. But for some, it's something you can't find anywhere else. I also fear that, if sales numbers are any indication, it may become more and more rare. But a book like Hellblazer continues delivering and culminating in wonderful issues like this,  and I'm going to enjoy it while I can. In the meantime, John's wedding was one hell of an affair.

Josh Flanagan
I wish I had a Chas sometimes.
josh@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. I’ve been reading Hellblazer since the start of this arc and during the course of those 5/6 months have gone back and bought a metric ton of trades of back-issues; this is one of the best series being published right now. Great pick!

  2. @ComicBookGuy37  I agree with you. I simply love Hellblazer. While I am new to comic books, only been doing this hobby seriously for about two years, ever since picking up an issue of Hellblazer I knew that I had to own every trade. Slowly but steadily I have been working to own every trade.

    I am glad that this issue is good. I can’t wait to pick this up. 

  3. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Think I’m gonna jump back on next arc and grab this story in trade. City of Demons really got me excited for Hellblazer again. 

  4. @PaulMontgomery  City of Demons was a incredible. It captured everything that makes John, John. I heard that Hellblazer was really close to getting canceled(Comic Book Shop scuttlebut, hopefully!). But if it does, I feel that that City of Demons is an incredible addition to the Hellblazer lore.

  5. @PaulMontgomery When did you stop reading?

  6. That’s awesome.  I’m glad this got picked.  Hellblazer is by far my favorite on-going title and I’ve been collecting it as long as I’ve been reading.  Glad you enjoyed it.

  7. Hmm, this’ll be my first Hellblazer issue (I’ve read trades before) so I guess I’ll just have to give it a go. One thing’s for sure though – I’m really excited for this book.

  8. Glad to see this book getting PoW love once again.  I’ve been loving what Milligan has been doing. Unfortunately, I’m out of town this week, so my excitement to check this when I get home has only increased.

  9. Really great to see this as the POW.  While I think Hellblazer is rarely less than readable, Milligan has really injected something special.  It’s got a freshness that makes it a unique run, but he’s also rediscovered that anger and relevance from some of the earlier runs.  I would hope that it was one of the only 2 Vertigo titles (along with Fables) that was kind of “beyond cancellation”, as I believe it’s still the flagship, if only due to it’s age and storied history. Long may it continue….

  10. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @josh  I’ve been reading off and on since Diggle left. The last arc I really read was India. I didn’t stop for want of quality. It just got lost in the shuffle. 

  11. Hahaha, brilliant… after months of hearing Josh say that you can jump on anywhere with Hellblazer I finally picked up an issue. This one. And this week, Josh says this isn’t a great place to start. Oh well!

  12. Read this last night. Wow, Josh, you’re right — this really is an issue for the long-time fans. Curious as to how it plays for new readers because it covers MUCH of John’s history across various writers, from Delano to Ennis to Jenkins. It does seem a little awkwardly paced, starting almost as a series of vignettes with no context, but I did like that everything blends together by the end. I kinda wish it was just a bit longer to allow a more natural progression. That said, it was a very fun issue for long-time fans, and definitely true to the spirit of the character.

  13. @GimpTactics  Did you enjoy it anyway? Did it make you want to read more? I think with Hellblazer, it’s more like any arc. But either way, that’s how I started.

  14. @josh : I did! I’m definitely coming back next issue.

    This issue undoubtedly reads differently if you’ve read the rest of the arc and more Hellblazer in general, but there’s enough hooks here for even a new reader to get into. (Caveat: I’m not entirely a new reader, I’ve read bits here and there so already knew the feel of Hellblazer if not the specifics dealt with here.)

  15. YES. Now please do a Hellblazer show guys!!

  16. I’ve never read Hellblazer, but its really cool that a Vertigo book is closing on 300 issues

  17. I think this was my pick of the week as well. Absolutely brilliant stuff!

  18. Looks like I may have to put this back on my pull list. Like Paul I dropped it soon after Diggle left…not for lack of quality but simply due to budgetary reasons.

  19. I really can’t on with the art, I love Milligan but something about the art is such a turn off for me. It breaks my heart cause  Hellblazer/Constantine is one of my favourite series/characters but looks like I will drop after this arc again

  20. Like @GimpTactics , this was my first issue too and I really enjoyed it. Only thing I’m confused about, when Constantine got ‘close’ to Gemma in the toilets, that was actually his Demon-self trying to F*** stuff up for him, right?
    Still, like I say, I loved this issue – will definately be adding Hellblazer to my pull list.

  21. @Doddsickle  yes, that was his other self, and Gemma his John’s much beloved niece. He would never, ever hurt her. The real him anyway. That’s what’s crushing about that part.

  22. @josh Cheers for clearing that up. Can’t wait for the audio show later!

  23. Huge fan of this book, but I recently dropped away from reading it singles.  Now I have a long wait to catch this in trade.  Absolutely one of the best books ever, and here’s to another 275 issues!

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