Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hellblazer by Jamie Delano issue #1

My Hellblazer reading has been inconsistent throughout the years. I have never read the stories chronologically, nor did I ever bother to for two reasons: (1) It's pretty hard to find earlier issues to buy or borrow and (2) I much preferred reading hard copies (I only own the fifth trade paperback volume of the series) even if I had managed to download all the complete 300 issues in my hard drive for almost two years now. Thankfully enough, I'm now in the right place in my life where I can consistently read comics--even if it's done in my laptop and especially then, because it saves me the inconvenience of carrying around only one book at a time when I'm at work. I can just go through several folders in my desktop and read everything to my heart's content.

In beginning my journey from the very start of Hellblazer, I would like to take this opportunity to briefly describe how I started reading him. I first came across John Constantine in The Sandman volume 1 back in 2007. I found out he was originally a character from Swamp Thing so I read the issue he was present in. This was in 2010 already. I realized the character appealed to me very much so I was pleased that he has his own title run. I knew a schoolmate who has Hellblazer individual issues that are incomplete and he let me borrow the Newcastle storyline of issue 11. 

Unfortunately enough, we had a little dispute so I was no longer welcome to his other issues. I did get to buy Dangerous Habits, the fifth volume two years later, and read from there on but stopped in that volume since. Meanwhile, I had downloaded all 300 issues already but put off reading the rest because, well, there's Batman and Batman is always more important than everything else in the world. So, as you can see, I'm probably still fairly new to Hellblazer in the grand scheme of things, seeing as it's only this year for the next months of August to September that I finally decided to read the issues chronologically. However, just like with my Batman comics diet, I decided to create a blog where I will post my reviews for each individual issue just to make sure that I'll abide with my own self-imposed reading habits for Hellblazer. I'm pretty confident that I can deliver, seeing as I've always been a commitment-nerd when it comes to everything where I would vow to do something and always keep my word to accomplish it no matter what. Besides, I consider John Constantine to be a character I had a strong sense of relation to especially with the collected Dangerous Habits stories where I first came to love him and see myself in his flaws and struggles. 

I didn't mean to make the start of this review insanely long with that backstory but the truth is I really don't plan on discussing every bit of scene for this issue because I don't want to spoil you with the content too much. But I will say this: Hellblazer started as a slow burn, teeming with great potentials for the occult and paranormal. I'm personally an avid fan of the CW show Supernatural but I don't want to make it seem like I'm comparing Hellblazer to that show on the get-go because, though they have the same thematic resonance, the rhythm, delivery and characterizations differ in tonality and writing in many aspects. However, since I have read ahead in the comics (and I have watched all nine seasons of SPN), I will say that the one thing they have in common is that they get insanely better as their respective runs progress, most especially once the stories become more personal and multi-layered because it allows readers (and viewers) to emotionally invest on the heroes and the cases they solve mixed with the lives around them that are wasted or saved.

The first issue for Hellblazer entitled Hunger was a serviceable premise. Its formulaic flavor already establishes the kind of grime and macabre atmosphere that John Constantine will face from here on. Its narrative is set with John's first-person monologues which have done a great job introducing his personality and easy charm quickly and what his package of cynicism yet surprising heroism will entail for both the next stories and the readers who are now eager to learn and experience more of the strange world he threads. We are introduced to Chas Chandler, his long-time friend and cabbie, as well as Gary Lester (who had always made me feel comfortable) and Papa Midnite who will become one of the chief villains of the series' run. There was even a mention of the character Emma, John's girlfriend in Swamp Thing issue 37.

This is a good start. John hunts down a demon named Mnemoth whose victims are infected by a disease resembling that of insatiable hunger. In doing so, he had to travel to Africa to meet a shaman who knew how to entrap it. Basically, all the elements you might expect in a paranormal series are carefully knitted together in an exciting premise. The second issue will answer the questions readers may have and hopefully resolve the conflict. So far, John is still quite inaccessible. You get the sense that this man had his fair share of burdens that every once in a while would sap all his energies that he may not have sufficient time or the will to enjoy his life for all the compensations it can offer despite his line of work. Even then, there is still something captivating about his dreary vibes. You can tell that he's a man of action and decision, and you are compelled to believe he will find a way to get us out of trouble and clean up the mess.


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