Monday, August 18, 2014

Hellblazer by Jamie Delano Annual #1

This was a rather creative annual issue with fifty-three pages worth of exposition and action that focus on the mysticism and old magic that have surrounded John Constantine's lineage, particularly in his ancestral roots. It turns out that he's a direct descendant of a king named Kon-Sten-Tyn, a replacement of the fallen and broken king Arthur Pendragon, and was actually the true Once and Future King after all (or so Kon-Sten-Tyn claims, which can be easily accepted, considering the lengths he had gone through to ensure the stretch of his immortality). We got a delightful ensemble of characters for this issue entitled The Bloody Saint including the surprising yet welcomed appearance of Eve (who was still a crone here, it was only in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman that she got beautified).

Speaking of The Sandman: I did mention before that it was in Preludes and Nocturnes where I first met John. But a few volumes later, I got acquainted with one his predecessors, Johanna Constantine in Fables and Reflections, and she had the gift for the paranormal and the occult as well, so it wasn't really that difficult for me to believe that Constantine comes from a long line of mystics and conjurers. He himself takes pride in his patronage of the dark arts after all. I don't want to discuss every page for this annual because that would be unfair for anyone who wants to experience the story for him/herself but I will say that it's a pretty solid one. It's less about John himself after the Newcastle ordeal (we get to see brief scenes of him wandering about in Ravenscar Correctional Facility, losing his damn mind due to guilty conscience), considering this was truly more about his ancestor Kon-Sten-Teyn who has re-defined assholery and self-entitlement like a motherfucker, tormenting the old wizard Merlin who used to be his mentor and friend, and well, does a series of unforgivable, selfish acts that makes John look harmless with his own set of narcissistic impulses and decisions. I am in no way denying that what we have come to know and understand about John so far is false. He can be a jerk by choice. He can be unintentionally harmful to the people around him, especially if you're his loved one. But I'm just saying that this annual issue does a good job providing us with a backstory from centuries ago which explained that perhaps such destructive habits are cultivated by all Constantines before John, and that it most probably runs in the blood because Kon-Sten-Teyn, the father of that douchery, has indirectly cursed his family tree, spreading the sickness of his corrupted soul to generations upon generations after him.

Like I said, I won't expound too much. The paragraph above is really all I can say, lest I spoil your enjoyment of reading this for yourself. But it's a very comparable scenario, the actions of the ancestor with that of his current descendant; yet I believe that John is not the piece of shit we are starting to think he is, or he believes he is; not when you contrast him with Kon-Sten-Teyn who was just so...hateful. It ties back to that dream-sequence narrative we get in issue #13 where we do see a vulnerable and tender side to John. He is not completely driven by his lust for power or blinded by his disregard for other people in the name of self-importance. There is still a goodness to him that is unmistakable when we do see him in his weakest and humane of moments. John does care but is unable to show the extent of his concern in appropriate and universally acceptable ways because he is Kon-Sten-Teyn's hair--and that comes with the steep price of the frequent assholery and condescending cynicism.

But it's obvious that the Hellblazer series has painted him as an anti-hero of questionable morals and actions, so it shouldn't surprise us when we find ourselves liking him the least as we read on. Personally, I think John Constantine is a worthy titular character because he forces us to look at the darkness in our own reflections. He is able to make us very uncomfortable only because he exposes the bad things that we are all capable of, and the kind of repercussions and ramifications that entail; ones which we can hardly face ourselves when we are dealt with cards that are not always in our favor. But there is also a saving grace when he finds a way to overcome them. It allows us to hope that, if met with the same fate, we'd be capable of rising from the desolate pits and come out just as strong.

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

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