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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.

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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.

“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.

I was in court.  I had an early morning arraignment in a Long Island Court house for a ticket I received for either driving w/o a license or insurance, I don’t really remember.  I heard it on the radio while roaming the parking lot for a space.  I heard the rest of it second-hand from the chit-chat from the populace filling the court-house.  The court-house sent everyone home an hour later or so.  I was home watching the news with my mother and grandmother growing more and more afraid as we couldn’t get in touch with my father who worked in the city.

After waiting for felt like eons we received news that my cousin, a NYC firefighter was among the fallen.  That’s where I was on 9/11.  What about you?

I was working.  Working a shitty job waiting tables in NYC with no access to the outside world beyond cell phones (which we were not allowed to have on our person while on the floor).  A customer told another employee and word got around the restaurant, but no one was really certain.  The crowds were yelling and cheering in Times Square an hour or so after the president made the announcement.  New York (and America) was delighted and overjoyed to hear that Bin Laden was killed by our troops.  That’s where I was, where were you?

Zero Dark Thirty (named for the military time in which the surgical attack took place : Thirty minutes after midnight (Zero Dark)) is the film  that tells the tale of the stalwart agent that for her entire time working the US government did nothing but search endlessly for Americas Most Wanted Man.

The film begins with what is extremely realistic 911 calls made on that fateful morning, against a black screen made for only our minds to harken back to the images that play relentlessly on every channel every Sept. 11.  Skip a few years to the belief that torture of the enemy combatants will lead us to viable information concerning future attacks.  Many people are (and will continue) to argue whether or not the director and screenwriter are advocating or protesting the effectiveness of torture.  I think they do both.  It is no secret that we as a government body (and it is assumed the films agents) received valuable information through torture.   However the film also shows, without any uncertainty that it didn’t always work.  The film is necessarily about whether it’s right or wrong, it’s more to the point that it happened and it was a part of the time line of what will be the climax of the film.  Bigelow does a great job of throwing us right into the (action, fire: they all sound so inappropriate) situation.  As a viewer you are instantly all three characters : you feel the power of the torturer, you feel the pain and humiliation of the victim (even though he is part of the killing of thousands of people) and you feel the disgust and confusion of the onlooker; here being Maya our hero agent.   These are things that Bigelow does best throughout the film, you are part of the investigations, you are part of the mystery and in the end you are part of mission.

The film, for me (and some others I have spoken with), falters in the second act.  Primarily due to the political and covert minutiae that takes place and is discussed at a rapid pace.  Names that many Americans are not used too (Hey let’s be honest, Arabic names are not easy to parse out if you don’t speak Arabic and even as Maya points out some of these bad guys have two names) I didn’t know who people were referring to or who we were going after; till after my second viewing of the film (and then I was still confused).

The third act, the mission itself was executed (again bad form but that’s what it was) wonderfully.  You just have to watch it unfold.  Then check out IMDB for a couple of factual inaccuracies that make for interesting reading, but none of it really effected the film in any way.

The film is a good film, it didn’t blow me away (impossible to avoid it now) but I was moved more the second time around.

You know the end of the movie, it’s not really a secret.  There was a sense of pride, national pride when it occurred in the film, yet the film makes you see and realize the cost at which it came.  The death and the reality of those who had to become collateral damage.  Innocents will bear the scars of that mission for years (you’ll know to whom I speaking of when you watch the scene).  The film captures the necessary deeds of our brave soldiers and the sometimes cold responses that they need to have to deal with their actions.

And how about Jessica Chastain?  She’s up for an Oscar.  She does a fine job.  My good friend L. feels that she is getting the nod more for the role itself and not for the portrayal.  I would have to agree.  The evolution (or devolution) of her characters view of the need of torture, as she herself begins the interrogations or as she watches our new president dismantle the use of it is well done, she changes as her character does.  A fine performance.

It’s the end that truly makes this a film that deserves to watched (two times).  It makes you think.  It makes you think instead of cheer.  It makes you think instead of jumping up from your couch (or movie seat) and begin chanting “USA, USA”.

********************possible points that could be construed as Spoilers*************************

 

It’s the quiet smiles and handshakes and the lack of whooping and hollering that the soldiers have afterwards.  It’s all back to business, it’s not over; they have to sort out all the intel they have confiscated.  They didn’t celebrate the way we did in Times Square.  They had to deal with the fact they essentially murdered half a dozen people and almost got killed themselves to do it.

It is in the quietest moment, where Chastians character takes a step outside and realizes her mission, her life’s work, has not only come to fruition but is now … over, that this moment shines for me.

*********************end of that whole thing *********************

 

So where do we go?  Where were you at those two points in our nations history?  Where did you want to go from there?  Where do you want to go from here?

A great question posed, how do you answer?  That is the best part of this film.

A dear friend is now hosting his very own dinner parties. I’m re-posting so more and more people get to see a wonderful culinary mind bloom. Good luck Cameron.

NYDP - A Self-guided Culinary Education!

That’s number 1 for those who don’t speak-o the Spanish-o.

After a few days of mulling over delicious recipes and food items I have a final menu for my first dinner party. So without further adieu here it is.

Appetizer:

Taking a cue from my new friend and queso lover Lily (see Cheese Tasting at Brooklyn Larder), I will be doing a cheese plate with a few sliced meats and Medjool dates. The cheeses will be my  three favorites from The Brooklyn Larder, The English Spenwood, the Adelegger from Bavaria, and the Italian Blu del Moncenisio. The meats will be the Fenocchiona and the Brasala, but not the Calabrese (it was far too spicy for this appetizer platter).

I will be pairing these cheeses with a nice light white wine, which has yet to be determined. I am looking forward to that wine tasting trip!

Entrée:

Now here is…

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The sessions stars John Hawkes and Helen Hunt (who is up for best supporting actress in the ’12 Oscar race), and is quite a touching film about acceptance.  Acceptance from others, acceptance from God and most important of all acceptance of oneself.

John Hawkes stars as real life poet Mark O’Brien who lived most of his life in an Iron Lung due to early onset of Polio.  After being hired to write a journal piece on sex and the disabled, Mark is intrigued enough to  set off on his own journey of sexual awakening by hiring a sex therapist/surrogate, Cheryl  Cohen-Greene (played by Hunt).  Mark is accompanied  on his sojourn by his priest, confident and true friend Father Brendan, played by William H. Macy.

This film is so wonderful in it’s simplicity.  The script delicately covers all bases without ever becoming heavy handed or preachy.  In many other films I would have wanted a more narrow focus on either the religious implications or the therapist – patient relationship or the therapist and her own life and how it was being effected.  Yet the script and direction allow all of these issues to be covered so as not to leave any stone unturned but also let the weight of the story, that of man who wants to be loved (by others and himself), and that story be carried by the depth of the actors / actresses performances.

William H. Macy’s priest is the kind of priest that I think I would even get along with.  He understands the plight of the man he calls friend.  His character shows a hesitation as he gives his “permission/blessing” for Mark to seek out his sexual experiences, but calls upon the God of love and understanding that we always hear about, saying “In my heart, I think he’ll give you a pass on this one”.  He knows that the God he believes made Mark and allowed tragedy to befall him understands the desire and want of love that Mark seeks.  Father Brendan also is given to moments of silent pondering and humorous jealousy as he hears of Marks sexual adventures that he himself is denied.  None of this is in words, simply in Macy’s face.

While we are on the topic of emoting via the face and nothing else, I must turn to Hawkes wonderful portrayal of Mark O’Brien.  The entire movie Hawkes is lying prone on either a gurney or a bed.  His head is almost always turned slightly to the right; and that is it.  He give Mark the shallow wheezing voice of one whose chest is always fighting the weight of gravity and rasp of a man who needs an iron lung to live.  But it is in Hawkes sincerity that we love Mark and his journey.  We rally behind him with his humor and the levity in which Hawkes delivers it.  In his performance we see how pain is transformed into beauty and love of life with every thought and sensation he discovers.

And the sensations he discovers under the deft, silky touch of Helen Hunt.  Some may find her nomination undeserved, as they might see the Oscar nod given primarily due to her nakedness  and say that being nude isn’t brave.  And while nudity in and of itself isn’t a “brave” role and in and of itself is not Oscar worthy.  However it is in the bravery and confidence that Helen holds herself and her character that deserves the nod (if not the win).  Hunt has been naked before (1992’s Waterdance) but her performance here is strikingly poised and honest (I’m not comparing the roles, I’ve not seen Waterdance).  Hunt’s character in the Sessions is not about sexy (however she is quite sexy).  It is about how a woman can make a man take pride in his body when his body is not his own to command?  Cheryl shows a 38 year old man who cannot raise his own hand how to touch a women, how to caress, and what it is like to be caressed.  Helen portrays a women who has sex with men not to get them off but to be confident in them selves that they carry that over into their next relationship; “The difference between a surrogate and prostitute is that a prostitute wants your return business, I don’t”.  Helen plays this honestly and openly with no shame but also with a humanity that brought tears to my eyes.

The film overall may not be a sweeping epic of desire and love but in it’s scope to show one man’s heartache and desire to be touched by the world around him; it is a wonderful success.

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.