Friday, September 19, 2014

Hellblazer by Jamie Delano issue #39

"Everything would be all right if you'd just let us love you."
Oh my FUCKING BLOODY GODS. This...WOW. I just---shit. So. Right. Okay.

I don't want to stutter my way into this review because that would be the highest form of injustice for this exquisitely narrated, visually breathtaking and unexpectedly climactic story that was issue #39, The Hanged Man. Some needless personal disclosure first (while I try to gather my bearings because discussing this issue won't be painless): I love tarot cards and I've been studying how to read fortunes in them for quite some time now. I also believe that reading your life in these cards is not so much about predicting a fixed future as much as it is more about knowing the possibilities that could occur in our lives right now, depending on the choices we make that could influence the outcome. That's basically the power and magic of tarot cards. They're supposed to reveal certain key moments and issues we are undergoing that could affect everything UNLESS we assert our autonomy and do something to change or improve our odds. With that said, reading The Hanged Man was an adventure for me because I suppose, just like John Constantine, I have a fascination for mysticism (I always consider it a big deal to know someone's zodiac sign during first meetings), which is also why I decided to read Hellblazer in the first place, and why I share so much affinity with John which by now truly goes beyond us merely sharing the Taurus zodiac sign, and this issue further sealed that.

Another thing: In issue #36, The Undiscovered Country, Marj herself had been doing some tarot card reading concerning perhaps of John himself and there are some...interesting interpretations that she formed. You can read them by clicking the link and scrolling down to the last part of that review.


For this wonderful issue, these are three major cards that Zed revealed which played huge roles in the state of John Constantine's life right now: the first card is WHO HE IS (The Hanged Man); the second is WHAT'S BETWEEN (The Tower); and the third is WHO HE WANTS TO BE (The Magician). As someone who understands each meaning of the cards and can contextualize them in reflection of John and his circumstances, they did not shock me. I was intrigued, however, of how Delano will turn these cards into literary ingredients for a satisfying story--and it did not disappoint. The important thing to remember is that Delano has to build up many aspects in John's character evolution for each issue, no matter how seemingly insignificant an issue was as long as we got some new dimension to John. If he failed to do that, then this issue wouldn't have worked or resonated. Fortunately for us, he was able to design each previous issue with great care and a long-term game plan; and that's why The Hanged Man was brilliant because it was the accumulation of all the things that happened in John's life so far and how and why these three cards below symbolize that journey.




Before we get to that, let's talk about the condition that had plagued John so heavily throughout the story since the very first time we met him and up until this point: GUILT. Guilt over the little girl in Newcastle whose soul he unwittingly sacrificed to a demon; guilt over the friends who served as accomplices to such a despicable act, as their lives were all claimed one by one; guilt over losing his lover Zed when he chose to taint her in order to save a great number of lives in exchange; guilt over his helplessness and abrasiveness; guilt over his inaction which allowed a malicious murderer to massacre more families; guilt over committing murder himself; guilt over punishing his father because of the pain of the man's rejection; guilt over the dead-boy's heart he stole and believed to be the reason for the Bogeyman's death. Recalling all of these important events we have read throughout the thirty-eight issues so far truly painted a broader picture of why John Constantine is suffering. This overpowering and constant presence of guilt in his life has affected his overall countenance and destroyed his relationships. And now here we are in this issue and who he is represented by The Hanged Man, a card that speaks of a state of temporary pause in life where sacrifices had been made and this is a mourning stage. Time is suspended and John is losing the power over his own choices. 
A notable dialogue happens at the beginning of the issue while he was having a rather intimate conversation with Marj, he reveals one aspect of his childhood pertaining to the Golden Boy whom he had been seeing every once in a while whenever a darkness overcomes his present:
"I was never sure. I used to see him sometimes when I was a kid. Usually when I was feeling hard-done-by. Sort of imaginary friend, I suppose, only he'd never be my friend--no matter how much I wanted him to be...All I wanted was to be close to him. Somehow I knew that if only I could soak up a little of his strength, his clean-ness, it would make my father love me....He looked at me and smiled. I loved him. But I hated him as well. The contrast was too great. I felt like shit--I wanted to smear his perfection. And he looked right into me and knew it. His smie became a cold, reflective sneer. He moved his arm and banished me--forever."
Marj then asserts that everything would be okay if John would just allow people to love him. It was a noble suggestion and there was even a lump in my throat when I read that. But John has a complex personal history and there is so much more to his problems and struggle that not even love can completely abolish. There's some deeper forces that he had to fight first. So we will come back to the importance of the symbol of the Golden Boy later on. Meanwhile, John leaves Marj and goes to Zed who read his cards for him. The second card, the blockage that's preventing him to getting where he wants to be, is The Tower. It symbolizes change in disruptive form, one that will turn his life upside-down. A radical upheaval is happening to John and he has to able to take it in a stride if he hopes to survive it. It's a revolutionary event that he must accept if he does hope to become what the third card embodies. Ah, The Magician. What a beautiful card. It is a card that denotes control over one's own destiny; a card of self-love; it symbolizes a ripe opportunity to pursue vital goals and overcome adversity alongside it. Drawing this card would make someone feel invincible, revitalized and unbreakable. It's no surpise that John covets it. And the first step of achieving it is to pass through the challenge The Tower poses. Zed encourages him to heed the cards' promise:
"Look inward, John. There's a place in you where two half-truths intersect to make a whole. Reconcile the opposites of horror and love--and thus encompass chaos with magic"
John goes out to seek the literal representation of a tower: an abandoned church on the hillside. What he discovers there is something so heartbreaking that I teared up. I don't want to give too much spoilers because I just want anyone who reads my Hellblazer reviews to experience the story for themselves and hence be encouraged to pick up the issue and read it. The Hanged Man is the most heartfelt and climactic of the series yet. The story resonated inside my own crevices and it also helped me understand myself better as someone who related a lot to John's issues. We're not always powerless even during the darkest moments that seem to persistently hover in our lives. We change all the time and the best part of our humanity is that we can always choose who we become.

On that personal note, I will end my review here and leave you with this haunting passage from John:
All these years I never knew. I built a dark fortress to defend and hide my guilty life and crouched inside alone--a shadow separated from the light that cast it. That terror, that sickly dread. It wasn't death I trembled waiting for--but this inevitable bolt of revelation to split me open and bring me tumbling down.
RECOMMENDED: 10/10

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