Monday, August 11, 2014

Hellblazer by Jamie Delano issue #9

It occurred to me that anyone who will read Hellblazer for the first time, most naturally by starting it chronologically, might find most of John Constantine's characterizations as reflected by his choices and actions to be rather distasteful and hard to swallow. Our titular 'hero' is not a shining example of the term itself and there are trying times that make us question any sympathy we may have been feeling for him while we read the first eight issues of the series. I'm personally just as torn even though I have known John first in his later adventures and loved him there instantly. Everything has been messy and distorted since the second issue started and although we like John every now and then, he also proves to be difficult to root for, especially whenever we see him not only fail the people he cares about but also himself. Story of the man's life right there.

The cowardice and self-pity that John continues to show us can be wildly disheartening even to a loyal fan, but I believe that this is an integral part of his personality and characterization for the earlier issues; it's his flaws, doubts, fears and often questionable actions that help us not only to know him better as character but also to perhaps identify our shortcomings with his own. I certainly had which is why Hellblazer feels personal to me every time I read it. Just like John, we all experience a sense of foreboding in our lives when we simply lack the faith and courage to overcome the misfortunes before us. There is a point we get to where we hit rock bottom and become very convinced that we will never survive it. To demonstrate just how hopeless his situations are, this issue Shot to Hell takes us to Gotham City (a perfect place for much needed brooding and enlightenment) where John wanders around the filth-laden streets, drinks himself to near stupor as he fights with ghosts in a bar and was then thrown out of there, and is spooked by his own shadow (or conscience, if you like) taking unnatural physical forms as it chases him down. To make things truly cosmically yet depressingly comedic, it turns out that today is also John's birthday. Whoopee-doo.

What I love about this issue the most comes when John Constantine sits in a sofa in a dark, dank apartment while an ongoing demolition (complete with an illustration of  a large wrecking ball swinging around since the very first time John appears in the pages, something I took has symbolic meaning) can be seen in the corner. In a very Dickensian fashion, John gets another ghostly visit, but this time it was his former, younger self (or at least a version of his person who is confident and at the top of his game). I enjoyed how seemingly disgusted his alter ego was with the way he had been behaving since he messed up things in Newcastle. I love the contrast between these two personas as well, especially when I know that this self-assured version of John Constantine is just beneath the surface of pain and suffering that his present self is wallowing in. It has come out to bitch-slap him and get him back in shape. It just goes to show that there remains an empowered John Constantine in their somewhere, who does accept the ills and inconveniences of his career choice with a devil-may-care attitude and a ready middle-finger to the powers-may-be.

Finally, after that self-intervention, John travels back to the Resurrection Crusaders' lair to see Zed. It wasn't a rescue mission, however. John seems to know for a fact that the woman is beyond saving. Strangely enough, they started professing love to each other (which did come off random because it's only been a few days since they became entangled, and yet it was still heartbreakingly sincere, considering the circumstances) and then they had one last shag for old times' sake (which we later found out was exactly what John intended all along. He still has Negral's demon blood coursing through him and an intercourse with Zed would taint her, apparently). He leaves her after that, taking comfort in knowing that losing another woman like that will at least neutralize the war between demons and the religious fanatics for a while. John has learned to count small victories by now.

The last scene was humorous yet confusing. Swamp Thing appears by using John's box of smokes as a physical manifestation (which, of course, promptly pisses off John). Swamp Thing would have beaten him to bits but then John proposes his plan which he guaranteed would be something they'd both like. And then the issue ends mysteriously enough with a note that the story will continue in a Swamp Thing issue I'm not even sure I should pick up or not. It seemed like a supplement I could get away not reading so I'll proceed with the general review of the first volume of Hellblazer (issues #1-9) next.


RECOMMENDED: 8/10

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