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He’s back folks. After a number of novels that have left me wondering what in the world happened to one of my favorite contemporary authors; Dean Koontz is back to form.

Ashley Bell does what some of Koontz’s best work does; defies genre. One of the things that always excited me about Koontz was the genre hopping that happened throughout his novels. What started as horror would end up being science fiction but only after passing through a corridor of psychological drama. Or one would begin as what you thought would be a science fiction tale only to end up being grounded in reality. Ashley Bell does this wonderfully.

Dean supplies many of the tropes that are incorporated in many (if not all) his novels. We have a strong woman character, a precocious child who is wise beyond her years, dogs that are short of being angelic beings and a hope for humanity and the strength of love that conquers all. None of this should be a surprise for anyone who has read more than half a dozen Koontz novels. Yet it is in his wonderfully fecund writing is Kootz ableto transcend what one would expect to be treading over tired ground.

Koontz truly is an expert in words.  His characters, good and bad, while on the surface seem almost to be carbon copies of each other from previous novels are imaginatively original. Bibi, our main character has so many qualities of Koontz’s historically powerful independent woman as does the main baddie.  However they are written with such complexity and love that they are alive and wholly original.

Now as I gush with a renewed love for Dean, I will say that I still have some reservations.  Dean still has a slight disdain for science compared to a belief in heavenly magic but again it’s in his gorgeous writing that it is not too much of a negative experience.

Koontz’s normal wit and humor filled writing is still in play, but it’s reined in enough not to be exhausting.

This novel does an expectional job of expressing Koontz’s obvious love, and somewhat Mary Sue high opinion of the power of literature and imagination.  How a powerful im  can alter and/or define reality is the main through line of this most recent tale.

I can’t recommend this novel highly enough for anyone that has been as disillusioned by the last slew of underperforming Koontz novels.  It’s not necessarily at the level of Koontz’s hay-day (Watchers, Lightning, Phantoms) or even (the last great one in my opinion; Life Expectancy (2004) but like I said at the top, it’s a return to form.

Many years ago there was a biography written of Dean Koontz (if you’re a return visitor you know my love of Koontz).  The biographer chose to open her book with a selection of first sentences from Deans bibliography.  Showing how brilliant Koontz was at gripping the audience from the get go.

Probobly just as long ago, I read a review of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose.  In it the author proposes that Eco warns readers that what is to follow is not going to be easy, it will require vigilance and some dedication.  You see most of the opening of The Name of the Rose is the, quite verbose, description of an Abby wall.  By describing such a enormous structure, Eco is building a wall between the novel and the readership essentially saying most readers will end up being unworthy to enter.

More ubiquitous would be the Star Destroyer that Star Wars opens with. A gigantic spaceship that devours the screen and dwarfs the small rebel alliance ship it chases.

All this to say, opening shots are used to define a film!  I took the long road but this is an essay; not a Twitter account.

Onto to the opening shot to a pretty awesome flick.  The Revenant opens on a long shot of a stream.  Water rippling through stones and small flora.  The sound of the forest light and still when compared to the water.  This shot foreshadows the long arduous journey our main hero will go on.  Simply shot yet gorgeous.  The tension is built by not showing us what is to come but what may be around the next bend.  The shot continues with a pair of boots, the camera swooping up to the barrels of guns and those whom are aiming for game.

The filmmaker and cameraman have the camera shooting from the bottom up giving us an expanse of the sky and forest, we are the dirt seeing what trods upon us; yet we are so close to the action we become part of it.

For much of the remainder of the film the camera retains much of this position, up close personal sometimes dizzying in it’s sweeping around. It’s used to such an extent that you’re both always aware of it but also so swept in the cacophony of the action that it’s probably the best use of 3D without the 3D.

What about the rest?  Acting?  Spot on.  Decaprio on every again uses his body more than his voice (other than some emotional grunting, but in character).  He has become quite a physical performer (see drunk scences in Wolf of Wall Street); many say this is “his” year (Oscar speaking).  I’m not sure of that; maybe a nod but a win?  It’s a great performance and maybe had his character had more to say I’d agree; but a great job nonetheless.

Tom Hardy?  I think I love him.  He has a wonderful way of disappearing into his roles (aside from an unmistakable drawl of sorts).  There is a scene about God that is going to be used for monologues for years to come.  Another possible Oscar nom for supporting actor.

Before we end I must speak to the screenplay.  If you know what the movie is about (and heaven forbid if I speak to something that may amount to a spoiler even though it’s the freakin’ plot) than you know what Decaprio’s (Glass) journey is for.  This film is based on a novel that is inspired by actual events.  Interestingly  enough in the book Glass’s gun is stolen not ……

This goes to to show how a screenplay can be adapted and how the original conceit of the source material ( the true story, the novel, the original movie) can be changed FOR THE BETTER.  This will be on my ever growing list of movies that are better than the book to battle that never ending argument.  By changing what Glass is after we gain a more emotional base and one most people can relate too as opposed to a rifle (no matter how important your guns are to you).

The characters in this film are human.  There is no perfectly good or perfectly bad arctype.  By the end of the film, you understand where both people can be viewed as both right and wrong, misunderstood yet pretty solid in their convictions.  Yes we know who the bad guy is and why; but it’s that last line ….. Oh it’s a bute!

Some people (my good friend and superior film critic L. Marcus Williams) pointed his issues with what he called “Terrence Mallick like dream scenes”.  I can see what he’s talking about, but while it may have lost a few “points” for me, it didn’t distract from the film enough to make me view this any less than one of the best films of the year.  Most assuredly on my top five.  Emotionally gripping and expertly filmed.

 

it’s been said, no one sets out to make a bad film, more than likely a very true statement.  Several may set out to make masterpieces at every go; fewer still come as close to actually succeeding at that as Tarantino.  Every image, every frame is a love letter to the silver screen.  His pacing is close to perfect and he extracts wonderful portrayals  of his larger than life characters from his cast and via that succeeds in getting just the right reactions from the audience.  Now, whether that be cringes, laughs or shouts is an individuals issue, but he knows when he’s going to get one of those from each and every person.

The Hateful Eight (QT’s eighth feature and a nod to Fellini’s 8 1/2 self-referencing title) is a star studded affair and quite a good time.  Filmed in “glorious 70 mm”, running time at 3 hours 7 minutes (if you see it with the intermission, and a film score by legend Ennio Morricone (who apparently had once said he would never score a QT film after he didn’t like how his music was used in Django, he obviously changed his tune), QT has given us quite a flick.

Eight ruffians find themselves stuck finding shelter together during a major blizzard.  A cowboy, a Mexican, a bounty hunter and his bounty, a hangman, a yet to sworn in sheriff, a black war hero turn bounty hunter and aged confederate soldier, all from different sides of the law and war they must survive the blizzard and each other.

This is a glorious movie going experience.  As I said above the filmmaking is so close to perfect.  The movie is beautiful to watch and such an amusing ride to go on.  The script gives each and every character life and a personality, no one is there just as cannon fodder.  The screen play finds equal amount conversation pieces, monologues and action (bloody bloody bloody action).

There is also the wonderful ability of QT to play with story structure, you kind of see it coming and don’t at the same time.

And there is what i feel keeps The Hateful Eight from being a masterpiece for awards season (it is no doubt one of the best films of the year).  The one thing missing from this film is any ounce of restraint; it is full blown self-indulgent movie making.  I say that as a negative however it doesn’t mean i enjoyed the film less due to it.  I know that sounds odd, but I enjoyed the film, a great deal.  But do to some of the moments that were so over the top it keeps the movie from being a 100 % masterpiece.  Tarantino, as a director does an amazing job of giving each and every scene time to breathe.  However some of those scenes could do with some shortening, maybe I’m getting old but sometime crass is good, sometimes crassness for crassness sake just doesn’t work for me; in this case it’s the repetition of certain elements that could have been cut.

That said, go see it!  Language and really really bloody scenes are abound so if that bothers you stay away.

-also i do believe that the non 70mm showing do not have the intermission so have an under 3 hour runtime (but not by much)

So tonight is the official premier of Doctor Who season 9 starring both Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman. I will, of course be watching with an excitement generally held by children seeing their first magic trick (then again I still watch my magician friends with that apt attention still at 40). Anyway back to Doctor Who..
I was fortunate enough to catch entry into the pre-screening on Thursday evening at the School of Visual Arts theater here in NYC. What was originally advertised as a special screening of the first part of the opening two-parter (with an intro and Q&A by Missy herself, Michelle Gomez) turned out to be BOTH episodes. Holy crap we were elated.
The episodes; The Magicians Apprentice and The Witches Familiar, respectively were, in my not so humble opinion, fan-debadosie-tastic!! (a wonderful term from the film Sexy Beast). My initial reaction (and two days hence) I still think that. I will however not be able to tell how exactly the first episode works with a week wait for the second until tonight.

Several of the initial reviews have pointed out that this two parter is not a very good entry point to the series. This is a point of view that is becoming harder and harder for me to take a position on due to my deep dive into all Who since it came back on air ten years ago. Now this being a SPOILER FREE review I can only go so deep into the episode(s), but I’ll try to dissect a few points.

Again it must be said that I absolutely loved this opener. I throughly enjoyed last seasons opener as well, however I will point out that Deep Breath had it’s issues plot wise. Deep Breaths’ pacing and tone was fantastic and it was a great intro to this Doctors version of mania and intenseness. However there were several points within the episode (towards the end) that if looked into to deeply made no sense whats so ever. It was still an enjoyable episode. How does that tie into the present season opener? Basically all that to say I do not think that this two- parter falls into the same predicament. I can only hope that after tonights and next weeks (re) watch I feel the same. I honestly feel that the plot is pretty tight and the flow, pacing and tone is wonderful. There is a well done balance of humor and drama that Doctor Who generally always gets right somehow. There are some truly intense moments in this episode if you let yourself get swept away in it.

So lets get down to (some) nitty gritty. We open with a wonderful idea of a baddie; and while we more than likely will never see them again (based on how and where they are used) they are a wonderfully creepy idea and it’s pulled off well. And in the same opening we are introduced to a character that if you know old and new Who alike you’ll know. Of course I’m not going to say who it is but I think if you’re new to the series you won’t be terribly lost because I do feel that the episode (like 95% of New Who does) balances shout-outs, easter-eggs (of sorts) for seasoned fans with well scripted story line re-caps, if you will to get newer viewers up to speed rather quickly. There are some really neat classic Who images and references that made me and many classic Whovians clap and become rather giddy, but all in all while people not in know may not get them instead of pulling them out of the story I really do think all it will do is make them explore the history; which is a good thing.

Concerning the emotion that the story is made to evoke, I feel it hits on every level. Last season we dealt with whether or not the Doctor was a good man; the answer inevitably being that he wasn’t either a good man or bad but “an idiot” with a box that “helped people”. Many seasons deal with the idea of ramifications of the Doctor’s “meddling” as it were. So does this episode, but in a positive fashion. I really can’t wait till I can be a little more in depth. Enjoy the episode.

I can’t believe that it was four years ago that I re-read Robert McCammon’s first two novels and reviewed them here.  In that time I read both Night Boat & They Thirst (his 3rd and 4th books respectively), I could’ve sworn I reviewed them as well but I can’t find them so “Oh well”!

I’m back into McCammon and just re-read Mystery Walk, one of the first of his books after the Wolf’s Hour that I can remember reading.  It’s been years since I read this and I can clearly remember being pissed at the HBO show ‘Carnival” for (at this time I thought ) ripping off this book.  I still feel it was a slight rip from it but I can see how much I didn’t remember of the book.

A young man is born from a Indian shaman-esque stock and is able to let the souls of the dead that can’t find peace finally shed this mortal coil.  Another young man, the son of a preacher is found to have healing powers.  These two men and their families become intwined in a battle that is only the beginning, as an ancient evil “shape-changer” is after them both.

The fist third or so of the novel is the young life of Billy ( the one with the power to put the dead to rest) and his family (KKK member father, and Indian mother whose family line has the powers that Billy now has).  This is really my favorite part of the book, how the father, with his religious beliefs deal with his wife and his son having powers that he deems ungodly.  The revelation that he’s a KKK member and how the town deals the family is devastating when you realize that Billy father is, in truth a good man.  It takes time and patience after reading how he loves his son and his inner struggle with everything going on to finally realize that while, yes he does horrible things from our post civil rights POV but can still have pieces of good in him.  My only wish was that RRM took a little more time to deal with this and some domestic violence issues that his characters deal with.  My only thoughts are a) that wasn’t the story he was telling, b) being it was published in ’83, Robert more than likely wrote it before he hit 30 so maybe these things weren’t in the forefront of his agenda, c) he doesn’t actually care about those issues or he’s a minsogynstic racist (note – I do not believe C to be true).  My only hope is that he would deal with these issues differently 30 years later.

The second third (ish) introduces and deals with the preachers’ boy (Wayne) who can heal the sick and looks at again the relationship between father and son; father dealing with powers and truths he doesn’t truly want to be honest with and the oncoming battle between the two boys and it’s origins.  I felt that more time was given to Billy’s young life and travels than what was given to Wayne; not that his story was uninteresting, it was.  I just didn’t feel it was equal.  However I did enjoy how Billy’s relationship with his father was wrought with tension and the trajectory there in contrast to how Wayne’s relationship with his dad became tumultuous after a certain life changing event occurs.  It’s not written on the nose but is brilliantly done.

The final act is the meeting of the two boys and the final battle.  The big bad (ancient evil – a McCammon hallmark) is given no origin and while most of the time I rail against things with no origins I’m beginning to see that that is not what Robert cares about, he’s not in the business of creating creation myths about his monsters/heroes/mystic themes) just telling the stories that have those elements as fulcrums.  I noticed it now after reading this and his most recent The Border.  I can’t wait to see if I can back this thought up when I re-read the rest of his catalog.

Overall I still enjoyed Mystery Walk.  Out of his first 5 novels this is my favorite and I think the starting point at which he begins to really find his rhythm and the shape of things to come.  That said, Baal is number 2 (out of the first 5).

One of my first posts to this blog was my hardcore affiliation to my Nook and Ereaders / ebooks in general. Very recently I have been able to purchase several books by some of my favorite authors a week or so prior to the actual release date but only in hardcover. So the last three novels ( and one forthcoming) I have actually read as a physical ‘book’. Surprise surprise; I didn’t Hate it.
Now, I still love my Nook and all the things it affords me; for example I couldn’t read outside at night in the park, the books (especially Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves (865 pages) were somewhat cumbersome and yes my fingers and hands hurt from holding them. Yet there was something … something that I’d missed. I don’t know exactly what that is.  The weight? the cover?  Maybe all combining into simply some nostalgia?

I haven’t gone completely anti-ereader, but I’m no longer so anti-book anymore either.
All that said, I’m going to now give my fingers some rest and grab my nook.

June 1, 1985.  Alan Moore gives us John Constantine (in Swamp Thing)

Please excuse the lack of editing of this post.  It was originally just notes for myself, but now I would like to concentrate on Hellblazer.  I may refer to these notes in my reviews but I decided to post them for all to see so they can catch up.  Once again all full recaps are available on the websites I linked to in my original Hellblazer #1 post.

The first few issues really intwine with the first issue of Hellblazer and give some backstory.  These notes will also be referenced when I write up my reviews for Constantine the TV series (certainly the focus on Crisis)

Saga of the Swamp Thing # 37 June 1, 1985
While not the first image of John, it is the introduction to him.
Day 4 into the Swamp Things rebirth. John is in England at at bar/rave/psychedelic club (as indicated by the swirling techno colors surrounding him) He’s talking to Judith (first appearance). She having bad dreams and tell John that he know “He’s coming back”.
Day 5 – John comes to America. He visits Benjamin Cox, in Wisconsin (an occultist who lives with his mother). Ben is depicted here as very bad stutterer that is somewhat overweight. he feels that “he” (as in who’s returning) is Cthulu.
Day 8 – John visits with an sister Anne-Marie (in Washington). Anne – Marie is a crotchy faced over women, of heavy weight as well. She feels that “he” is simply Satan (how that name changes throughout the years). Judith, Ben and the sister all agree that “he” will “return” in about 12 months.
Day 11 – John wakes up in the room with a young lady (Emma), in NY who is painting a crude picture of a wasting figure running.
(a comment about Newcastle is made) Emma has red hair and is slim, depicted as pretty.
Day 13- John makes his way to Louisiana and ends up in the backseat of Abby Cable’s (Swamp Things gal) car. He introduces himself to Swamp Thing after threatening Abby with telling her work that she sleeps outside with Swamp Thing?? (brit colloquiums are confusing). “I’m a nasty piece of work” – Great J.C line
He seems to know a great deal of Plant Elementals (of which Swamp Thing is the last) and tries to educate Swamp Thing.
John does not have the patience to continue and leaves while Swamp Thing shouts after him.
while all this is happening Emma’s drawing of the emaciated figure disappears from the page on the easel and appears as a grotesquely copreal figure apparently to harm to all of the people that John has previously visited.
Emma is thrown/jumps out the window of her NY apartment. ( there is a very apparent likeness to Alan Moore in the frame of the city corner top left) Ben has epileptic – esque fit and Anne-marie tears the head off of a childs doll, but both return to normal as the the creature returns to the page.
I initially thought that the writing in this issue was quite plain, very much a set up issue. However that was before I read a review that made me look at the back and forth between the words on the page and the visuals as they relay a certain ambiance. That’s the problem with reviewing a book/taking notes as one reads something.
the artwork is of a bygone age, I can’t explain it.
Saga of the Swamp Thing #38 July 1985

Constantine, still dressed in his blue suit with his trench coat over his shoulders sits at a bar in Rosewood, Illinois. His friend Frank stands next to him (wearing a blue “gay biker cap?” and t-shirt and leather vest (Gay, most likely but no it’s later mentioned that frank is in an ‘open relationship with one of John’s friends Cheryl.). Frank tells John about Emma’s death, telling him that the news is that it was a suicide (John doesn’t buy it)
Frank offers to take John back to LA with him. Frank mention Cheryl (who we would later know to be his Johns older sister? in later issue (49) it doesn’t sound like sister Cheryl but maybe?? retcon). A disheveled man starts in on John, calling him a “fruit loop” Frank pleads with John to let enough alone, but when John crushes his glass in his hand and the the man glances at Johns bleeding hand he himself walks away.

John meets up with Swamp Thing, telling him about the darkness that is coming and certain elements of Swamp Things past are catching up to him, including some dark things in Rosewood.
Swamp Thing wants information on his identity and being. John says to help eradicate the evil that has arrived and he’ll tell him what he wants to know.

The great thing about this issue is how it shows Constantine as a confidence man. He looks like he has everything under control but when backs are turned he ‘exhales’ and admits that he’s over his head. Magic (as it’s later talked about in Hellblazer, is really about what people believe it is) this is where Johns history of simply being a con man with a little extra hidden in his sleeve begins.

Saga of the Swamp Thing # 39 August 1985
(still in Rosewood, Illinois America) present day ‘85

Swamp Thing does his thing but according to John he botched the job and therefore will not tell Swamp Things anything he wants to know, but does claim that Swamp Things growing abilities are thanks to him. John tells Swamp Things that somethings are behind all the horrors that are happening and he will see him Kennescook, Maine in two weeks time. Swamp Thing declares that he does not, in fact, like John Constantine.

Swamp Thing #40 Sept. 1985

Kennescook, Maine

Swamp Thing has dealt with a werewolf ordeal and at the end of the issue John meets up with Swamp Thing to deliver a piece of paper with their next destination. Swamp Thing says he will not go, he wants to return to Louisiana. John says okay and walks away flicking his cigarette to the ground. Swamp Thing looks at the piece of paper; it has Louisiana wrttien on it.

Saga of the Swamp Thing #44
(this issue takes place between issues 2-4 of Crisis on Infinite Earths)
(Abby is reading clive Barker’s books of blood, which by this time all volumes would have been published. obviously Alan Moore or Bissete were fans)

John is in a bar with Mento (of Doom Patrol) they are discussing Crisis and they run into batman.

Saga of the Swamp Thing #45 Feb. 1986

Swap Thing once again meets up with John towards the end of the issues, still pleading for answers. John introduces Swamp Thing to both Ben Cox and Frank North telling (sister Anne-Marie has gone to find their london operative – Judith?). They all will be helping in the “final stages”
(new title – swamp thing)

Swamp Thing #46
(cisis crossover)
This issue takes place before crisis #5 and happens before issue 4.
There is apparently a key death in this issue as well as the answer to the question of balancing good and evil in the universe.
John tell Frank that he will be needed on the last leg so to go back to LA and give Cheryl a kiss.
John transports Swamp Thing to Monitors satalite where a host of costumes hero are (ambush bug included)
The Phantom Stranger makes mention that he though John died at Newcastle (last Winter)
So if Johns introduction was June of ’85 and this issue takes place in real time 9 months later. Newcastle happened at the tail end of 84 or just at the beginning of 85. He says the “kiddie died in the exorcism, he spent a few weeks in the looney bin.”
John mentions the Brujeria as a secret society of male witches that have existed for centuries in the forests of Patagonia, at the southernmost tip of South America. Their central committee lives in Chiloe. They’re called the council of the cave.
The Invunche is the Guardian of the Cave. John mentions that a few months ago (8/9) a Invunche killed Emma. He describes how they disjoint a newborn … John Cries at both this discription and the death of Emma. These Brujeria knew the Crisis was coming and used it do create chaos. By increasing this darkness they are increasing the power of the physic power and plan on ‘bringing something back” when it pops.(the He that has been talked about since issue 37) They plan on destroying heaven!!!
They make their way first to Brazil (the parliament of trees) and then they will head to Paragonia (mentioned in Hellblazer #1)
— This issue is in fact in real time.. Sister Anne-Marie has been in London for two weeks searching of Judith. in one panel there is a poster for midnight movies January : Jubilee, Feb Eraserhead and March is / will be Living dead marathon)
Sister Anne-Marie is killed by an invunche.

—-
The Phantom Stranger makes reference to the Newcastle exorcism from “last winter”. John comments that he was in a “loony bin for a few weeks”. The details behind the Newcastle exorcism were chronicled in Hellblazer #11, albeit with some retconning. The exorcism actually took place in 1978, not the previous winter, and John spent two years at the Ravenscar Secure Hospital as a result of it, as opposed to the few weeks referenced in this issue.——
Swamp Thing #47 April ‘86
Brazil
John brings Swamp Thing to the Parliament of Trees.
John makes mention of the Newcastle ‘team” Frank, Ben, Sister Anne-Marie (was Gary Lester & Ritchie retconned?)

Swamp Thing #48 May ‘86
Patagonia
Frank, Judith and John head to the cave with Swamp Thing
John connect the smell of the cave with a memory of his last time in prison (with a bloke who raped and tortured old women)
john is attacked by an Invunche. Frank and Judith go deeper into the cave and Judith (goes down on?) frank much to his surprise and enjoyment.
John is captured by the Brujeria and finds that Judith has turned sides. She killed both Ben and his mother and has in fact killed Frank. the Brujeria have promised her a place in the Cabal and the ability to turn into a bird, entrusting her to a ‘sacred mission’
John is drowning in sacrificial waters while the grand master turns Judith into a bird (from her head, cool and gross). Swamp Thing enters the picture and John is trying to get him to stop the transformation as bird Judith will be a messenger of darkness. swamp thing saves John and lets Bird-Judith escape.

Swamp Thing #49 June ‘86
Brazil

John realizes that the pearl that bird-judith has flown away with is the encapsulation of humanities fear and will grow into something unnamed.
they split up

-Georgetown, Washington DC
New character introduced – Baron Winters (like a DC Doctor Strange apparently)
again the ‘mess in Newcastle’ is mentioned (at what point did Alan Moore’ know that his creation would have his own series? did he have this whole backstory in place?)
Sargon is also mentioned (he’s a good guy, in the new 52 isn’t he bad?) (DC had a sorcerer group pre-dating John)
This is the point at which I realize /remember that pre-Vertigo John Constantine (and swamp Thing) were still actually part of the actual DC universe. This issue has Spectre, Dr. Occult, Phantom Stranger) and Zantana (they had a tantric studies group together)
The whole magic DC is in this issue.

Swamp Thing #50 (Anniversary Issue)
In Ten issues since he was introduced issue 49 and 50 are the only ones we’ve seen Constantine do any magic of any sort. It’s all been about the knowledge with him. How great is that.
People dies in this issue and one goes crazy.
The content is quite dark but the imagery doesn’t necessarily relate that. John seems to be bothered by the fact that the effort was a draw between good and evil but the way he’s drawn it’s quite comical as is the way Mento is when driven completely mad.

Swamp Thing #52 August ‘86

Swamp Thing and Constantine say their goodbyes
John tells Swamp Thing that he just a normal guy there is nothing special about him. he has an image to keep. He quietly laments his fallen comrades.
He leaves with a joke (how to leave a veggie baffled ) and leaves lol

Swamp Thing #55 December ‘86

Swamp Thing is apparently dead and John Constantine (among others) pay there respects

Swamp Thing #56 Jan ‘87

He’s an allusion in Swamp Things imagination/dead journey.

Swamp Thing #62
as a vision

Swamp Thing #65 Oct ‘87
(Hellblazer will debut Jan ’88 It seems that these few issues will lead right into issue #1)

Hellblazer #1 events seem to occur somewhere after this issue and after his return from Gotham City. One must presume that the Gotham City adventure (of finding a new elemental) doesn’t necessarily take place in the “real time” that Hellblazer adopts.

Abby Holland is having hallucinations about Alec (Swamp Thing) she hears a voice describing breakfast and she reaches into a yellow void thinking the voice belongs to Alec she pulls the figure to her and embraces/kisses it; it turns out to be John who says “ i’m a stickler for safe sex these days”

John tries to recruit Swamp Thing for another “doomsday – esque” mission. But Swamp thing wants nothing to do with it. After insulting Abby (and her throwing her coffee into his face) Swamp Thing commands tiny flora to grow uncomfortably in John’s bowels putting him to his knees. Swamp Thing tells him he is finished as Earth’s elemental and disappears. John gets to his feet, cuts and bags a piece of Swamp Things … eh … sweet potatoes?)

Swamp Thing #66 November ‘87
Gotham City

John pays a vist to Woodrue (the floronic man) in Arkham Asylum and gives him the piece off of Swamp Thing so he can be reconnected to the “Green”, in return Woodrue will tell John all that he sees. John is captured by the guards and comes face to face with (now Dr.) Roger Piggy Huntoon. Hunter places John in a straight jacket. They went to school, where John picked on him just like everyone else did. 15 years ago John slept with a woman Diane who Roger worshiped. Another mention of Newcastle (now it’s alluded to that it was a decade ago (retconed twice?) John picks at the scabs that he created with Roger until Batman crashes through the window fighting with Killer Croc. John escapes.

Swamp Thing #67 December ‘87
still in Gotham City
John tries to pawn a video surveillance tape of the incident at Arkam with Woodrue (reference made to the ’82 movie swamp Thing as if it’s a sequel (with didn’t come out for another two years).
John chats with Swamp Thing about his responsibilities to the green and parliament of trees.
John says it’s time to return home to London; to see how much the roaches have invades …. little does he know.

John Constantines next appearance in Swamp Thing is issue #70
still in Gotham I presume these events seem to continue from Johns last appearance, so I imagine these events occur just before John returns home for Hellblazer #1
this an issue chock full of John meeting with various people
John meets up with Carl, mystic scientist?, Star (a mystic gardener?), and Ming, an acupuncturist. She makes mention that John may not make it to age 40 (which again places his time line in real time)
John meets with a shaman who trades in cigarettes, he paints a picture of Abby and calls her Arcane.
John runs into Roger again and trades a possible “meet/hook up” with Diane for a location on some superheroes.
John meets up with Brenda a native american women who is gotham Coroner. She thinks he wants to have sex with her but he wants her to do some Magik that involves dead man entrails. He needs info about a possible plane crashes. Her price is .. sex in the morgue.
John meets with Freddy, a geomancer.
John goes to see a medium, Jane Day who’s is holding a seminar at a Holiday Inn. He requests her to summon a druid by the name of Blackbriar Thorn (who has “been hanging around Gotham Park ever since Superman and Batman put the beat on him”). the spirit is reluctant but since John is holding a “consecrated coptic crucifix” it appears. The spirit that comes forth has yet another striking resemblance to Alan Moore.

Swamp Thing vol. 2 # 71 April, 1988
John tries to foil a plane crash but Swamp thing mucks it up. John “in this business all of us are guilty”

Swamp Thing vol. 2 #72 May, 1988

Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #73 June, 1988

Swamp Thing Vol. 3 #74 July, 1988

The Cusanus Game – review

Where do I begin with this book?  The Cusanus Game by Wolfgang Jeschke is truly a mind bending novel.  That’s a good start as any.

The Cusanus Game follows Domenica Ligrina a recently graduated botanist who is contacted by an institute affiliated with the Vatican to do a little time travel.  The novel takes place in the near future after the world has been devastated by nuclear / bio-hazard fallout and is a near wasteland. We have mutants (the Back pack for example is one the most interesting character creations in this novel).  Continents are shifting drastically and climate change has left most of the earth devoid of plant life (from what I could gather).  The political structure of the Earth is in utter turmoil  and bands of thieves and freedom fighters are a constant scourge on the liberty of people.  However, science is alive and well (and very well funded apparently via the Catholic Church, which now resides in Germany).  Domenica is hired by this institue to travel to the 15th century to gather seeds and plant life that has been eradicated in the present in order to help revitalize the flora of the mid 21st century.  That’s the plot.

Now the tough part is trying to convey what the rest of the 500+ pages are about.

Niolaus Cusanus, a cardinal in the mid 14oo’s created a game (called Ludo Globi, the game of spheres) to parallel his philosophy about relationships with God.  Think of the skee-ball, you have bocce like ball and a “wooden board displaying concentric circles.  the areas enclosed by the circles were marked the numeral 1 to 9 from the outside to inside; the circle in the center bore no number.” (Jeschke, 90)  Like skee-ball you take the ball and toss it into the circles, the difference here is the ball itself is slightly hollowed out making the arch of the ball when thrown indeterminable.  You can never tell where the path of the ball will take it and your aim is not going to be true, as it were.  This is how you relationship with God is, you may aim for the center and want to follow him directly  100% but you may end up hitting a nine.  That’s okay as long as you keep throwing the ball you’ll never stray to far and God is always there in the center waiting for the times you make that perfect throw.  Domenica is fascinated by the life and mathematical / philosophical writings of the man and just happens to be transported to his time and relative place.  I’m not being glib, it works with the geography of the story which was difficult for me to follow not knowing many of the places being written about.

Now the science – I’m gonna try to explain it; it really is a great idea

In this future the most perfect form of Star Treks holo-decks are a reality.  There are also Solitons, waves that while at a constant speed retains it’s shape (hey it’s real physics look it up).  Now, in this future while they don’t fully understand how this works, the scientist have figured out how to utilize it for traveling through time.  Solitons will pass through an area and transport people to the past and then when the wave flows back in can return the person to the present from which they came.  Time, here, is viewed not linear but as pictures laid upon one-another so the Solitons are simply moving from one “plane” to another.  This is where the “holo-deck” comes in.  In order to travel in time safely, one must visually know where they are going; so the scientists create a visual replica of the area and time to which the travelers wish to travel too.  When the travelers arrive they begin to ask detailed questions such as, was there a tree cut down last year, what was there before that house etc.  Think of it this way; if you pictured the house you grew up in 30 years ago, the street, the trees everything and once you traveled there you begin to research what was there 40 or 50 years ago; what color was the house then (if in fact it was even there and if not what was there in its place).  You record the details as precise as possible, then in the present they re-create this in the “holo-deck” and then your able to travel 10 -20 years before what you were able to earlier and you continue to that till you’re in the 1400’s.  Pretty cool idea and it’s discussed in precious scientific detail throughout the entire book.  It’s amazing and exhausting all at the same time.

The Ludo Globi is analogous to time travel.  You can try to aim but you never really know where you going to end up; and there brings us to the paradoxes of time travel.  Can one change the past; yes and no it seems.  Being that time is “planes” of existence than as one changes the past new realities are created.  Furthermore there are fixed points (as Doctor Who calls them) that the universe will make sure stay in place.  That’s where the Octopuses come in.  This was one of the coolest ideas in the book and yet another example of something far more interesting than the other characters we were following.  The Octopus’s are the Splinter Cell, the Seal Team Six as it were of the time travelers.  Assassins that go in and right drastic wrongs (at least the ones they can alter), known as Octopus’s due to their camouflage nano-tech outfits; blending them in perfectly; there actions seemingly done by ghosts. But like many things in a novel with this many ideas, they are too are only given a moment in the spot light.

oh and then there are angels and talking rats.

******************************SPOILERY STUFF**********************SPOILERY STUFF*************************SPOILERY STUFF************************************

Early on we meet Cusanus and he’s told about a trial of witch and her subsequent burning at the stake.  She defended her innocence and wrote Cusanus letters.  Cusanus states he wished he had been able to interview her due to certain information contained in the letters.  Several pages later this entire chapter is repeated, I thought it was a editors mistake, when just a few sentences are changed.  In this repeated chapter the witch has yet to be disposed of and Cusanus makes the decision to go to her.  You know this witch is Domenica, (based on both knowing what the plot of the book is from the book jacket and that she is caught with herbs and Domenica is a botanist) but Domenica has not traveled through time yet so its plot builder at this point.

There are elements from the prologue and moments throughout the book on the political freedom fighters that while were interesting at the time; I don’t think went anywhere.  Well okay they added a thorough history to a plot element of changing the future of a bombing but it felt too much for too little ??

Then there is the ending; The world or even galaxy (if I read it right) is an organism that will right itself as a body creates anti-bodies to protect itself.  Domenica and several other characters are explained to be anti-bodies for the world.  They do not need the holo-decks or Solitons to travel they only need to imagine where they want to go.  These anti-bodies can also take whatever shape they desire hence the talking rat and angel.  There are questions raised of free will; are they simply tossed around by the organism that is the world to fix things or do they make up there own minds (kinda like the ending of Quantum Leap)??

******************************End of Spoilery Stuff******************************End of Spoilery Stuff******************************End of Spoilery Stuff******************************

I loved the scope of this novel, the sheer vastness of ideas.  The science and philosophy that is discussed would have a book club all its own and I loved that.  It’s a book that I would love to discuss with others.  The ideas are certainly ones that need to be read more than once; more than twice even but the novel … once is enough.

Yet the book gets a solid 4 stars because of the endevour alone   jeschke-cusanus-game

“When Johnny Comes Marching Home”

Written by Jamie Delano, art by John Ridgway

Originally published : May 1988

Setting : Liberty, Iowa USA, Quang Tri Province, Vietnam

Time : August 10, 1987 (and flashbacks to 1968 of the same day)

This is one of those stand alone issues that break away from the overall plot that is being spread through a series yet has the shadow of said plot.  Let me explain;

John has jumped across the pond not only to check up on the Swamp Thing but he comes across information that ties his friends the Resurrection Crusade (from last issue) to the good folks in Liberty.  Their kin was all lost to the Vietnam War and they have been praying and paying with the Crusade to bring their children home.  Well praise the lord they’re coming home.

See the way it works is you send the Crusade your prayer along with a check.  The more sizable the check the higher up the food chain your prayer get with national tv coverage.

The remainder of the issue deals with the kids of Liberty in Vietnam and the horrors they not only witness but some were complicit in.  The timelines/events have become entwined with current day Liberty and Frank Ross (the only one to return to Liberty) becomes mad with his memories and the magic that has boiled up from the “cancer of war” the town has been feeling for almost twenty years.  Frank sees his old comrades in arms as they sweep into town and he (and they) all see enemy combatants instead of their families.  Murder and rape ensue and John can do nothing but sit and watch.  The issue is very stark in it’s depictions of these things.  This is before DC’s Vertigo imprint (1993) that separated DC’s more mature titles from the rest of the franchise, so reading the rape of a women and our “hero” doing nothing about it is quite disturbing.  Just a quick note I wonder, and this is pure speculation, if Delano / DC had any thoughts dealing with the fact that Frank rapes his wife not another women.  Did this fact have any implications in the writing and publishing of this act?  I don’t know.Image

The last page discusses/insinuates  that no matter how many movies are made of war, you can’t know war unless you’ve been a part of it.  John looks upon a disabled vet and states that he became a witness to war and he has “the evidence now where’s the court?”  Jamie Delano and future writers of Hellblazer deal with war in a variety of ways, and if I remember correctly in a very anti-war sort of manner.

Most of the run (if not all) are written by UK writers and many references are made to the Falklands war.  So it is interesting that Delano chose to deal with Vietnam maybe to show how war is disastrous to all and is a human issue as opposed to just the nations that are involved.

HB4“Waiting for the Man” Written by Jamie Delano, Artist – John Ridgway

Date : I suspect this issue begins the “current day and date” timeline.

Setting: Liverpool

Originally published : Mid to late April 1988

Characters Introduced : Gemma Masters (niece), Cheryl Masters (nee Constantine) (sister), Tony Masters (brother in-law), Zed (girl friend)

Baddies : Resurrection Crusade, Damnnation Army, British Boys

In this issue we meet more of the Constantine clan.  We are introduced to Gemma Masters ( via her POV) Johns’ ten year old niece, who dislikes her parents decision to move them to Liverpool.  Her parents have set up with a fundamentalist group called the Resurrection Crusade.  She is contemplating her situation in a park alone when she meets three young children who take her to their home and promise her happiness if she marries their husband.

Meanwhile John is bouncing around using a little ‘magic’ to win at pool and fucking around with Chas (he played a nasty bet that could’ve gotten Chas beat up, but in the end he won and “magically” works a cigarette machine to spit out money as if it were a slot machine).  There is also a wonderful scene where he comes across some punks spray painting hate messages; he takes the spray paint out of their hands and sprays them in the face.  Finally he meets and ends up hooking up with Zed a blue haired (with two white streaks) graffiti artist (that we caught glimpses of in previous issues).

John seems to have brightened up since the events that killed a host of friends, he’s riding the synchronicity and getting paid doing it.  Things are looking up.

Until ….

John hears on the new about the disappearance of his niece and several other children, and takes Zed on an adventure to Liverpool.  We also meet his sister Cheryl and twit brother-in-law Tony Masters.  They have become embroiled with a prayer-pyramid scheme and Tony is completely suckered in even to the point of stating that there is a “bad spirit” in their own daughter.  He is a prat and John knows it.

John and Zed in fact save the day, in direct opposition to the God’s Warriors (The Crusades henchmen would be a good description).  Using both psychic drawing and divination they find where Gemma is and are introduced to the Damnation Army.

I like the fact that Zed has some magical ability as well.  We get the sense that magic is something that is not widely used in the general public but it is real and John isn’t the lone superhero that knows how to use it.  Granted it generally is that he is the only one that uses it for good (but albeit with horrible results sometimes).  John also is shown not to be much of a physical fighter where Zed knows how to kick ass.

This issue is a good set up for things to come moves along well enough.  The story is simple yet very dark and deals with very uncomfortable topics such as pedophilia, kidnapping and dare I say it religious fervor.  We have seen what happens to Johns’ friends when they get involved with him so we never quite know what will happen to any character we come across, so when John races to a cellar where Gemma is about to be sacrificed we really don’t know what will be in store for everyone.

and this is just the beginning.

Original thoughts : The prose is slightly heavy-handed with its calling back and forth to the narratives of John and Gemma but they do in fact work.  Gemma states on the last panel of her first scene “But when you’re a kid you just can’t win”.  The first sentence introducing John is “Sometimes you can’t lose”.  Zed quips to John as they decide to back to his place; “Christ, I don’t want to marry you.” (Marry is in bold in the comic).  It becomes a bit to blatant but again the story and the prose itself works well enough that it is something that can be glossed over.)

Current opinion : (What was I thinking?? it works brilliantly!!  The entire story is intricately balanced between John, Gemma & Zed.  We have the thoughts of children wanting to be grown ups, grown ups acting both wantonly and showing the gravity of being adults. We have Zed and Gemma both running from and into the arms of men.  We have the balance of sex, again the gravity, violence and beauty of it.  The prose is amazing and the back and forth is expertly done.  I can be an idiot sometimes.

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