Friday, September 5, 2014

Hellblazer by Jamie Delano issue #24

"It's only people with secrets who are interesting"

Where to begin...where to fucking begin on this one?

There are so many things I feel the need to compliment here: the overall appeal and pacing of the writing; Delano's command of language that I haven't seen him handle with such finesse since Go For It issue #3; John Constantine's unexpectedly admirable characterization; and the perfect pitch and tone that established the oncoming story arc. All of these elements have aligned quite excellently for The Family Man. As a reader who grew up reading detective fiction and enjoyed watching formulaic crime shows in my teens, I know a promising serial-killer story when I see one, and Hellblazer is about to serve me some. I can't contain my excitement, especially after I had to withstand the Fear Machine which was ten issues too much for a story arc that had a shaky premise from the get-go, and only gave us a fairly acceptable resolution towards the end. 

I will retain that I will never stop having high hopes for this comic book series, though, because it's such a compelling look at the paranormal while still making some satirical commentary about the society, politics and subculture phenomenons back in the era it was written in. It's always a great added bonus when the reading material can summon up the courage and honesty to explore such themes grounded on the real-world events happening around us. Hellblazer is truly one of those, and even though the eighties and the UK are not my generation or country, I certainly appreciate that Delano wishes to paint portraits of how it was like during those times, and how much influence and impact that era has on Hellblazer in general.


"Safety is a relative concept. It needs risk to define it."

For The Family Man, this feels more personal than it should, most probably because serial killings are intimate in some level, especially when crimes against humanity like this can threaten what we know about the safety of social constructs versus the savage inclinations of the human nature. It would be just awesome for Hellblazer to tackle this and with a character like John Constantine who lives and makes decisions left and right with shades of gray. Basically, a serial killer is on the loose and he massacres happy families. That's how the issue begins, showing us a family having a normal day and then shit got real fast. After that, we shift the narrative focus on out titular hero. John's friend from the previous issue, the shop keeper/procurer of rare and priceless things/fictional-character-trying-to-be-a-real-person named Jerry O'Flynn (whose name I forgot to mention in my review of said issue, sorry) gets taken and so John decides to squat in his mansion for a while. 

I love how Delano builds up the tension and suspense of this issue with John having a perfectly normal afternoon himself, inspecting his friend's collection of antiques and whatnot, and then stumbling upon his safe box and uncovering a hefty amount of cash and some cocaine (because, reasons). And hey, of course John decides to keep the cash (and flush the coke when he thought the coppers were at the door). It turns out it was a customer who has some sort of strange arrangement/barter with O'Flynn regarding an envelope. John asserts that he couldn't resist so while the customer was at the loo, John checks out the contents of the envelope which contained some ordinary information like names and an address. As soon as that customer leaves (but not after he gives John a thermos containing his payment for O'Flynn's services), John starts to sift through O'Flynn's other personal items and ends up reading a ledger of his accounts, and even a diary.

It's worth mentioning that John has great respect for O'Flynn because, judging from their interactions from the previous issue, there is a certain fondness they share for each other. So he feels the need to probe his friend's life just to amuse himself--and ends up discovering a repugnant secret. As it turns out, his friend has been supplying information to this customer who turns out to be a serial killer. I felt John's horror and sickening feelings as the truth creeps its way in. But that's not even the most disgusting part of the ongoing transaction between O'Flynn (whose addicted to the trade of exchanging and selling goods) and the serial killer who is the Family Man (and whom John had even shared a pleasant chat with earlier HOLY FUCK!). 

It's the fact that O'Flynn started to require this Family Man to pay him with...souvenirs from his killings. On cue, John tries to open the thermos that was given to him earlier and as soon as he did, blood spilled in his hands which was symbolic, really, seeing as how he might be indirectly responsible now BECAUSE HE GAVE SAID SERIAL KILLER THE ENVELOPE CONTAINING THE INFORMATION OF HIS NEXT TARGET FAMILY.

Ashamed and furious, John Constantine quickly wipes the blood using the cash money he was about to steal earlier, takes a gulp of wine--and BURNS EVERYTHING DOWN in the mansion. This was a symbolic gesture too. It's him making a statement along the lines of "I am not going to take money from someone who has done these terrible things even if he was my friend." Thank fucking god he looked inside the envelope earlier! So now John Constantine, armed with a renewed sense of justice, goes to try whatever it takes to stop from yet another family from being murdered senselessly.

Everything about this issue warrants a perfect rating. I have only given one so far in my readings of Hellblazer. And I'm glad to bequeath it this second time around.

[Also, and I don't mean to take the seriousness out of this issue, BUT HOW INSANELY HOT DOES CONSTANTINE LOOK WITH THAT YELLOW ORANGE POLO SHIRT? Anyone? Oh, just me then? Okay.]


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