Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hellblazer by Jamie Delano issue #28

The Family Man story arc started in issue #24 but took a backseat to give us two issues written by Grant Morrison and one issue by Neil Gaiman (which were acceptable distractions). Now Delano is back to continue with this arc for the next three issues and IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT. My expectations were already set for The Family Man because issue #24 really took me by surprise of how well-paced and structured it was from the get-go. I'm also a sucker for serial-killer storylines and I've always thought that Hellblazer would be a perfect fit to tell such a tale of woe and gore. 

For the Family Man, Delano has merely taken the well-known formula of the genre and only enhanced the ingredients that made such stories appeal to the masses in the first place. Now after twenty-plus issues into Hellblazer, I also realized that the series truly shines and finds its edge when John Constantine is the center of the story (in fact, the reason why the Fear Machine story arc was uneven was because its titular hero was merely a set piece, a secondary element that had barely anything to do with a rather convoluted plot). I think that it's a good thing that Delano has turned the focus on John again because Constantine is so incredibly dimensional and he captivates the imagination as long as he's in the hands of a capable writer who understands him, and Delano has proven with the Family Man story arc that he does know John Constantine well, and what kind of material works best for the character.

The tonality and atmosphere set by this issue, Thicker than Blood, is a psychological drama-thriller where John and the serial killer Samuel Morris a.k.a the Family Man take turns being the hunter and the hunted. I would just like to state once and for all that I think this is why this story arc was so daring and engrossing; scenes and monologues are equally divided between these two characters as they get more and more involved in each other. Morris is relentless in his pursuit, convinced that John will be his downfall if he didn't find a way to exterminate him. Meanwhile, John has ignored his discovery of the Family Man's identity for three months, but has now come to terms that he has been allowing an evil man to commit heinous acts, which only makes him more responsible than he could ever imagine. 

While all of this is happening, we also get to know Samuel Morris better and the motivation behind his killing sprees that had spanned for decades. He is very interesting to read about even if I literally fear for John's life whenever he's in the pages, scheming away to take down our titular hero in the shadows.

There is a lot to enjoy about this issue. The pacing was just astounding because it kept me on the edge of my seat as I watch and cringe while Morris set his traps to get to John Constantine. For his part, John was still trying to get a sense of what he's up against and carefully sets his own traps, playing it smart as always. However, I also think John is underestimating what his foe is capable of and he could be in a great disadvantage unless he changes his game plan. In fact, Morris is at least three steps ahead and has killed someone significant in John's life. Ignorant of this development, John was forced to contemplate whether or not he has to kill the killer, which was something that admittedly shocked me because John has done some pretty murky things in the past--but then again he battles the supernatural and the human casualties in between are not by his own hand. Sure, John had been indirectly responsible of his friends' deaths but he had never tried to kill someone and it clearly shows in this issue how torn and apprehensive he is if it does get to that point.

I'm pleased that we get that kind of moral exploration for this story arc. After all, Delano never forgets to always write his stories about ghouls and monsters using a realistic backdrop, such as the society and politics of the era Hellblazer was written in, and a morally ambiguous character like John Constantine who is driven by actions that are not always heroic. Nevertheless, by the end of the day, he is a decent man who just takes a while to do the right things. I'm satisfied with the direction this story arc is going so far and there is hardly a dull moment while I was reading.

The suspense just keeps building up, and I can't wait for the climax!


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