Category: Hellblazer


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.

“Going for It”

Written by Jamie  Delano art by John Ridgway

Originally debut : March 1988

Location : Spitalfields, England (a Jack The Ripper haunt)

Time : June 11 ’87 – The issue is past event.  The current time line is late ’87 (from issues 1 and 2)

Characters introduced : Ray Monde

HB3

This issue has it’s ups and downs for me.  It’s a very political and business oriented issue and I’m not too knowledgeable  of Thatcher era England nor am I great with the financial world.  The issue takes place on election day June 11th and it revolves heavily on the commodities of souls during the election.  What the issue does establish is this :

John is familiar and has a history with daemons.  More importantly he has fucked them over in the past and they are knowledgeable of him.

Hell and it’s denizens are introduced in more formal fashion in this issue than in 1 or 2.

John, like Sherlock Holmes gets bored easily and searches for things that will peak his interest and in this case his friend Ray Monde (” an outrageous fag who runs a far-out clippings agency from a junk shop in Camden.  He’s got a feel for synchronicity and a penchant for the bizarre”)

this issue creates the idea of synchronicity which will be repeated throughout the series.

John may have tricked the demon in the previous story line but he truly cons the demon in this one.

John may be smart but he really puts himself in the middle of a lot a shit that he may not always be confidant he can get out of (which is fun).
A stand alone issue for the most part and some twisted nuggets here and there but not much I can really dote on.

I will make a note on the way John is dressed.  In previous swamp thing issues and the first several issues of Hellblazer, John is quite a dapper dresser.  Always in suit and his trench.  Yes he drinks like a fish and smokes likes a chimney.  But he is as clean outside as he is dirty inside.

Title A Feast of Friends originally published Feb ’88

Written by Jamie  Delano art by John Ridgway

Location : New York

Time : November ’87

This is the issue that we really see what kind of man Constantine can be; a true and right bastard.  However we are made to feel for him because he’s doing the only thing he can do in the situation.

A hunger demon Imageis loose about NYC making people become consumed by their own hungers and desire.  There is a neat panel where A man chokes himself on classic comic books (in the panel are the issues Action Comics and Watchmen, which was about a year to two years old at this point and a nod to Constantine creator Alan Moore).  The only thing Constantine can do is entice the demon to re-enter John’s friend who released it in the first place.  We see John lying to Lester’s face but we also see how John hates this reality.

(in talking about Gary Lester’s mother) John says “She never did like me.  Bad influence, she said.  People should listen to their mothers.”  John knows what he is doing is shite but it’s the only thing he can do.

This is apparently not the first time John has had do the unthinkable, and Gary Lester is not the first of his friends that have gotten dealt the short end of the stick.  This is evidenced by the visitation of several of John old mates in their ghostly form.  We again see Emma, we are also introduced to Sister Anne-Marie, Frank & Benjamin.  All killed by the Invunche.  John makes comments that they all new “high stakes” they were dealing with.  He gets angry with the hauntings as the only way of dealing with it, however as he tries to go to sleep, he thinks about how empty his bed is and how he missed Emma; G’night John she whispers.  “Her soft voice, next to my ear, is the last straw.  I suffocate my sudden sobs in the pillow and wait for dawn.”  John is a bastard, he knows it and hates himself for it.

No wonder I love this character.  He is a bad-ass magician who is a wise ass to demons to their face but he is so damaged and can do nothing but keep kicking.  He drinks himself into a stupor continuously as Gary screams till he is utterly consumed by the demon trapped inside him.

John is headed back to London as he needs an “Ocean to separate himself from Midnite, Gary” and the thought of a city that doesn’t even know how much it owes to him.

HB1Hellblazer has been my favorite comic book for some time now.  I can’t seem to remember how exactly I got into it but I have every issue.  The series is Vertigo’s (DC mature line of comics) longest running title and much to my despair is ending this February (2013).  I have decided to go back and read an issue a day (or there so about) and review them, trying to really capture and excogitate on what makes John Constantine so wonderful a character to me.  Up until recently DC had published inconsistent trade-paperbacks of the series, missing many issues right in the middle of the run.  Currently DC has re-issued a new set of volumes reprinting the full series in order (previous trades would have maybe issues 16-19, 22, & 24 for example, never printing issues 20, 21 & 23).  The most current volume (4) brings us only to issue 33.  I hope they publish the following volumes on a regular basis so I don’t have to delve into my comic boxes for each issue (all that UN-bagging and re-bagging is such a hassle :).  I hoping that this review series will last just about a year completing the full 300 issues series plus Annuals, one-shots, mini-series and the popular guest appearances Constantine has had in comics such as Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and Alan Moore (Constantine’s creator) Swamp Thing.  Furthermore there have been several websites devoted to Hellblazer that have been and will be indispensable to me in answering questions or providing insight that I may have missed and I feel obligated to post a nod to them and I suggest checking them out : http://www.insanerantings.com/hell/index1.html

http://www.qusoor.com/hellblazer/introduction.htm
& most recently discovered : http://hellblazer.wikia.com/wiki/Hellblazer_Wiki

Thank you to all those who worked on these websites and made my enjoyment of Hellblazer even more complete.

These entries are not going to necessarily synopses of the issue, but of course plot lines and events will be discussed (for detailed stuff like that and more check out the sites mentioned above) but more so my experience reading them and a critique on the characters growth throughout the series and the writers take on him.  However they  will most likely have spoilers, but as they say it’s not the destination but the journey.  So spoilers or not read on and enjoy my travels with the trench-coat wearing con-artist bastard that I’ve loved for many many years.  This will also be the longest of the entries (I’m pretty sure anyway) due to much-needed introductions and initial ruminations.

Trade Title : Original Sins issues 1-9 originally published  1/88 – 9/88 & Swamp Thing issues 76 & 77  originally published 9/88 – 10/88

Issue # 1 Hunger written by Jamie Delano art by John Ridgway

November (based on issue #3 that takes place back in June of ’87,  this issue is seems to be  taking place more than likely in November’87)

Locale – Greenwich Village, NY; England: Sundan, Back to New York

This is not the first appearance of John Constantine. Much like Batman & Superman (and any number of superheroes now that I think about it) John first showed up in Swamp Thing #37 (June ’85) and several times thereafter, getting his own book several years later.  There are plenty of references to events that have taken prior to this issue, some are reveled later in the series while others are only understood fully by reading Swamp Thing.  In this first issue we are introduced to a well dressed (dapper blue suit, nice trench-coat) blonde haired Englishmen who has just come back from being “here and there” for “months and months”, including Patagonia.  A little reading up on Swamp Thing establishes that John has been living in America with his gf Emma, whose death is discussed in this issue.  I wonder, as I re-read this issue what I thought about the mention of Emma and her death at the hands of the Invunce not having read any Swamp Thing and not knowing what this was in reference too.  Did I just expect that it would be explained in later issues and then by the time I read those later issues I had forgotten about Emma?  I was introduced to this series when I was much younger and most likely did not read and comprehend as much as I do now.  (New comment)  I’ll have a post with the dates and brief activities of John in Swamp Thing in a day or two, it’s not going to be very nice to look at or in depth but it’ll give quick notes to what John had been up too prior to the launch of his own series.  It will also give the backround needed to understand the “Newcastle Crew ghosts”)

Another old acquaintance of Johns is waiting upstairs in his apartment much to the despair of Johns landlady Mrs. M.  John finds his friend and apartment covered in insects.  Gary Lester is drug fiend mixed up in magic who has recently been on an excursion to the Sundanese where he performed an exorcism on a boy and is now being driven mad by demon by the name of Mnemoth.  Mnemoth is now being slowly released into New York after Gary sent the demon (who he trapped in a bottle) in a package to America care of the recently deceased Emma.  In these first few pages we get a lot of knowledge about the character John Constantine.  We know he has a sordid history and seems to be used to dealing with these types of issues, but even more so due to the fact that Gary keeps saying “John will know what to do” we understand fully that Constantine is good (if not the best) at dealing with them. We follow John to the Sudanese where John goes through a mystical question and answer session to find out the history of Mnemoth, again the idea that he is adapt at this stuff being reinforced “Why does primitive magic always hurt?”

This interaction with the shaman uncovers something wonderful about the book; it quietly discusses political and social issues within the framework of an anti-hero/supernatural comic book.  While in Sudan we discover that the demon Mnemoth is a demon of hunger, feeding on the need, the ravaging need to consume.  In the Sudan the need to eat is paramount and their starvation gives way for the demon to terrorize the people.

The Shaman then takes a young starving child and binds the demon to him, etching magical tattoos into his face in hopes that the demon with devour both the child and when unable to escape itself be destroyed.  The shaman regrets not staying and watching to the end, where if he had kidnappers would not have taken the child (with the demon inside him) and sold him for tobacco, where Gary finds him and wants to exorcise the demon (again the desire and urge to do what they tried to do in NewCastle becoming more and more unbearable to fight).

A few  main character points are revealed here and throughout.  Constantine considers himself a bastard (and others refer to him as such) and the realization that he is  will land quite the punch to the readers over the next few issues and lay the ground work for the entire series, there are wonderful clues to the ending of this story-line that I noticed on this second (or is it hundredth) reading of this issue.  Second, he is an awesome wise ass.  Lastly this is the first time he is referred to as the “Laughing Magician” which is a term a future writer will take and run with wonderfully.

We are then introduced to two more very popular, important and recurring characters; Chas (at this moment in time cab driver, and seemingly lackey to Constantine who “owes him one”)  and Papa Midnite a voodoo high priest who is a high-class, high rolling, club owning, Zombie employing, fight club entertaining Voodoo priest with a sister trapped in hell/skull in NY.

The writing in this first issue is just beautiful.  I don’t know if I ever noticed how much so before.  The comic is gorgeous prose set to pictures.  The artwork is saturated and the horror like quality of the story bleeds through the color of the book.  There is so much going on in the passages and within Johns thought bubbles that I have to take my time with each page/issue more so than when I read say Batman.

Right now, we don’t know too much about John.  There are little hints to his character and behavior and history. One of my favorites is a scene in which John visits the apartment of his dead ex gf Emma and is emotionally winded after seeing a painting detailing her death by the current resident.  When he is visited by the ghost of Emma he tries to compose himself and doesn’t treat her all that well, almost shielding himself.  She says to him; “Yeah, We’re all here.  All your old buddies”.  He asks, “Where’s here?”  to which she responds, “work it out John, Where d’you think?”.  That’s a character I want to follow.  Why are ‘all’ his old friends dead and in (apparently) hell?  And why, should he know that?

I’m looking very much forward to tracing how he changes with each author and artist.

… New…

Magic stuff : Ancient binding spells and The Pentecost Effect (the ability to understand other languages not your own) both used by the Shaman.  Zombie employees.