Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hellblazer by Jamie Delano issue #20

"A traitor to a cause can still be loyal to love. Treachery has its price but love is its own reward." ~Dr. Philip Fulton

HOT DAMN! This has been a really thrilling issue to read. I'm so happy that Hellblazer is making the most of its formula again. When the Fear Machine storyline started, it struggled to find its footing and I had to go through those motions as well. There was just something off about the set-up sometimes that I can't help but disengage every now and then.

But here comes a whiplash of great suspense and action though so all is forgiven!

I want to talk about Dr. Philip Fulton first, a character I shockingly gave a shit about in his final moments for this issue. He was originally introduced as a villain, one of the scientists who had been keeping Mercury away so they can learn and utilize her psychic powers. He eventually develops genuine feelings for her though, and even aided her escape from the facility. Merc does not share his feelings which was understandable (I recall that her first contact with Fulton was when she had a premonition of his death so it's quite difficult to connect with a man you know will die brutally). Still, Fulton made the most of their moments together like they're in a play-date or something, even if he knew Merc was merely pretending to like him. As soon as she does run away from him, he does not even do anything to stop it. Unfortunately for him, he will be punished for his betrayal of...whatever fucking organization he works for.  Is it the Freemasons? They were the ones who were responsible for the horrific train incident from issue #17. They could also be Webster's employers. Who the bloody hell is Webster, you ask? The creepy shit who strangled Simon and stuffed him in the closet, that's who, and is apparently the muscle/hired killer of the Big Bad. But anyway, I'm not paying that much attention to the Big Bads for this storyline because I'm more interested in John and his, er, amusingly spur-in-the-moment Fellowship.

Speaking of which, John is now with Simon the journalist and Geoff the cop when they entered the premises of a certain Russian scientist named Sergei Antonov whom John had previously rescued from the bat-shit train of murderous rampage. How did he repay this, you ask? By bitch-slapping John with a lampshade, that how! Misunderstandings aside, John explained who they are why they came for him and then invited him to join their crusade. After all, each man has a clear purpose of the mission (Geoff's is personal, wanting to find the ones who drove his wife to kill herself; Simon's is a matter of integrity, wanting to uncover their identities and expose them to the public; and Sergei just wants peas--I'm sorry, he actually meant peace, forgive the thick Russian accent). I may be making fun of Sergei right now but he said something that I feel will have a thematic resonance later on:

"Fear is the whip that makes us slaves."

So, now led by John Constantine, the Fellowship (which I will now refer them as in the coming issues) will make sense of the chaos that the otherworldly threat that is the Fear Machine presents. I sure hope that none of them dies or at least die BECAUSE OF John, whether directly or indirectly. But then again, Constantine has a reputation of causing the deaths of people in contact with him so I won't have high hopes for a clean, happy ending when this storyline does conclude.

Let me just jump back to Fulton again. I mentioned that his death is imminent and such death comes in the form of Webster the hangman and eloquent speaker (seriously, for a brawn he is surely verbose and poetic in speech). I actually felt bad when Fulton was hanged over the bridge even if I already saw this incident in Merc's vision in the earlier issues. His feelings for Merc, and his choice to let her go, have effectively redeemed his character so that his death, no matter the pitiful reason that inspired it, was made poignant because it was painted to be a meaningful sacrifice.

The last four pages are the best parts of the issue because Webster has performed a devastating ritual (that includes butchering a little boy, goddammit, Hellblazer, why?!)  to summon this creature called Jallakuntilliokan that apparently is growing within the machine itself. Whoever it is, it's coming out and everyone (from Mercury to Marj and Zed somewhere in hippie paradise, and the Fellowship led by John) will witness the hell that it is about to unleash.

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

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