Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hellblazer by Garth Ennis issue #50 and closing thoughts for the first wave of comics diet 2014

"There's been a lot said about John Constantine, all right, and everyone who's known him has their own pet theory. Really, though, he's just a man. Perhaps one day, if we let him, he can be a hero."
Here we are at the end of the road. After two months, I finally completed reading and reviewing the first fifty issues of Vertigo comics' Hellblazer series. It has been an unexpectedly crazy and ridiculously poignant reading adventure of a lifetime rife with so many of the darkest stories I have ever read in any medium as well as the most enlightening and memorable. I never thought it's once again possible for me to fall irrevocably in love with yet another fictional character (for there have been so many in the past up to the present who had maintained such a vice grip on my heart) but I believe that accepting John Constantine into my life had been the right choice. Granted there were times that he tested my faith in him, I still didn't give up on him as I always found a way to go an extra mile to remain steadfast to the man I knew he was always meant to become.

This issue marks the fiftieth appearance and story for Constantine and was written by new series writer Garth Ennis who took the mantle from Jamie Delano (a writer whose style had given me immense headaches and heartaches through the course of his run but was nonetheless the definitive voice that I will always love my Hellblazer in). It's a simple story that traced the origins of what we came to know, love and sometimes loathe about our titular character while comparing and contrasting it with an evil character named the King of Vampires.

The story also picks up after that Christmas special where John and Kit Ryan, a long-time friend and ex-girlfriend of the late Brendan Finn, finally became an official couple. We find them in bed together after what I assume is a three-day lovemaking session (their relationship was truly years in the making so I can't say I was surprised about their honeymoon state right now, especially when you consider that I think Kit is truly the first woman John formed a strong and deep connection with). I can tell that they do love each other and that's mostly because John can drop the pretense and most notably his carefully constructed guard around Kit. She knew him so well; free of prejudice and justification which is refreshing for both John and for me as a reader who had witnessed time and time again how many people walked out of his life and how many John himself had walked out of. It's great to see him get stuck in a place and with a person who does understand him better than he ever could. For that, I want Kit around. She's vibrant, opinionated and loyal. I'm happy for the two of them. Their honeymoon-ing was cut short (though, three days is a bit excessive, no, for shagging and cuddling) when John receives a message written with dead birds on his bathroom sink and mirror. He went out to meet this untimely intrusion face-to-face and definitely did not for a million years expect the King of Vampires to ask for an audience with him.

The King of Vampires based on the pages about his own origins is as despicable, vile and narcissistic as a reader would expect. He relishes on his legendary powers and all-around douchebag awesomeness. He takes so much pride in the fact that he has been around since the beginning of man, has preyed on so many people during civil wars and world wars. He delights in massacres, orgies and any kind of self-indulgent and perverse behaviors. This is one frat boy whose party streak will last for ages to come, seeing as he's completely fucking immortal and is not ashamed to flaunt around his bragging rights especially with someone of John Constantine's humble kind. However, he does consider John an interesting asset and so wishes to recruit him to work on his behalf to smoke out his enemies and whatnot. John, of course, is not impressed. He's terrified of the King of Vampires, sure, but he does not respect the asshole or tries to hide his repugnance. Even when the King of Vampires offered him immortality, John still doesn't want to have anything to do with him. John may be selfish but power is not something he ever craved in excess. Of course, the vampire douche king was offended and challenged John to justify his puny human existence and why John seems to act like he's better off being a mere mortal.

John, poetically enough says:

To top it off, John also invites the King to watch the sunrise with him later because, you know, as immortal as they are, vampires will never EVER be able to go to a beach and enjoy a great sun-tan (unless you're a Stephenie Meyer vampire then you can just sparkle and shit). Ha, only John Constantine can take a wank at the Devil's pride and now piss on the King of Vampire's ego AND GET AWAY WITH IT ALIVE. Did I ever tell you guys that I'm in love with this bloke so goddamn much? Oh, I already did. LIKE EVERY ISSUE I'VE READ AND REVIEWED? Well, I'm still going to tell you: I AM IN LOVE WITH JOHN CONSTANTINE LIKE IT'S NOBODY'S BUSINESS!

This was a really splendid issue to end the first wave of my comics diet for this year. But it won't be the last time I'm updating this blog because by the 24th of October, I'll start reviewing NBC's Constantine TV show starring Matt Ryan. I'm very, very excited for that! To officially close my successful run, here are some of my notable insights pertaining to John's characterization throughout my reviews for the fifty issues:
"John is still quite inaccessible. You get the sense that this man had his fair share of burdens that every once in a while would sap all his energies that he may not have sufficient time or the will to enjoy his life for all the compensations it can offer despite his line of work. Even then, there is still something captivating about his dreary vibes. You can tell that he's a man of action and decision, and you are compelled to believe he will find a way to get us out of trouble and clean up the mess." ~Issue #1  
"I'm not sure I like him but I still do understand him. His motivation is not exactly admirable at all times and it's probably because readers can feel the distaste on his part; that there is a begrudging sort of duty in the way he does things. Needless to say, the bottom line is that Constantine doesn't hesitate to make hard decisions and that is what makes him a compelling hero to read. He may have doubts. He may have reservations. But Constantine is always able to look at the big picture and decide for the greater good's sake, knowing inaction will only screw him quick so he better get ahead then." ~Issue #2
"One would believe that our supposed hero is a callous, self-absorbed asshole who doesn't care about humanity in general but that's an erroneous interpretation of the character. Constantine requires deeper reflection than that. Personally, I believe what he has is manufactured apathy. I think he's been in the game long enough to understand that getting too emotionally involved with both the victims and villains of this macabre charade will only make him lose sight of the important things. Seemingly laidback and snarky, John wants everyone to believe he doesn't care enough when in reality he is putting himself in danger because he knows he is called upon for a mission, as reluctant and begrudging he may be in fulfilling such a burdensome role. There is a devotion in which he surrenders himself upon that role. I don't think he ever complained about it. I don't think he ever wanted to seriously quit. It's a suffocating lifestyle which is why it's always great to see John take breaks here and there just to take the edge off." ~Issue #6  
"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." ~Issue #9  
"Cowardly, blinded by grief and overpowered by fear, John is at his worst when we met him for the first time in Hellblazer, and we have yet to see him at his best. It's really not a mystery that we don't approve of John's actions in the context of his spiritual brokenness, most especially when it cost so many lives, particularly of the people he is intimately associated with. Strangely enough, I think Hellblazer truly becomes groundbreaking when we are offered with morally ambiguous and grim stories such as this one. It becomes quite uncomfortable yet ultimately satisfying when we read a protagonist that keeps challenging our compassion and open-mindedness the way John has." ~Issue #11  
"So, for this issue, John just found himself smacked in a nightmare train while ghouls and murderers feasted on one another all around him. I believe that's considered a Wednesday in this man's life, Jesus bloody Christ! With the kind of chaotic cacophony that the man has to deal with in a regular basis, can we really blame him for losing his mind every now and then, chain-smoking like a chimney, or learning to be crass and harsh when it comes to his decision-making and expression of views regarding humanity and the world in general? I dare anyone to walk a mile in John Constantine's shoes and make it out intact. Seriously. I DARE ANY OF YOU to see and feel the things he had and come out unscathed in spite of it. I think that my admiration and respect for John grows every issue even if, at the same time, it distresses me and makes me very uncomfortable to see him make a wrong turn or forsake a loved one. It's certainly getting hard for us readers to get on a ride horse and judge him harshly for his actions when we have no goddamn clue what it's like to experience the horrors he has to face every day and still find something generous and resilient in his spirit to bear it all. John Constantine may not be likable. He may not be heroic or noble. But he is nevertheless a man with admirable qualities, scarce and often hidden as they may be (because John also has a tendency to downplay these things, most probably because he is uncomfortable of the positive attention he might garner, seeing as he seems to like cultivating a loathsome persona as part of his self-preservation tactics). The bottom line is that I LOVE JOHN CONSTANTINE. He may be damaged goods but it makes him curiously functional. One has to be equals parts of brave and crazy to do the things he does and face the things in the darkest of darkness that neither you and I can ever handle." ~Issue #17  
"For his form of bereavement, John makes amends with his father whom he shared a very tumultuous relationship with growing up. He hasn't seen the old man in years and it's quite sad that it was only through his demise that they were reunited. Once again indirectly responsible of the death of a loved one, I thought John would maintain his cowardly ways and just walk away from this. After all, that's the John we met when the series started--and we loathed him for it. But the beauty of being a human being is that we evolve constantly, and John has grown and changed in the course of the many frightening experiences he faced where the true measure of his character has been tested and eventually refined." ~Issue #31  
"I mentioned before that I project a lot of myself in John because I believe we have overlapping personality quirks--as well as the same kind of insecurities. I also claimed that John tends to build a wall to protect himself from invasion which also makes him severely lonely because he can't seem to figure out anymore how to let anyone in, no matter how much they want to love him and be his friend." ~Issue #34  
"The condition that had plagued John so heavily throughout the story since the very first time we met him and up until this point is 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." ~Issue #39  
"I've described John once as a man of action even if his decisions usually have detrimental results to the lives of his friends. Though I was impressed of his resourcefulness and ability to adapt into any given situation, I also resented him because he was selfish in such a way that he's using people around him without even owning up to the deception. The weirdest thing about this narcissistic display is that he always feels remorse and guilt afterwards which makes me as a reader wonder why he would commit such a vile act in the first place if he's going to start feeling bad about it anyway. And that's the thin line that separates John Constantine from the real assholes who see humanity as expendable--and why we relate to his struggles in a way that keeps Hellblazer interesting and emotionally moving at times. At his core, John is a decent and compassionate man who has learned to guard his heart by employing a carefully-crafted cynical approach in all the things in his life--including he people he claims to love. He does selfish things and regrets them later which is what every flawed human being does on a daily basis, and in the expanse of the series he has learned and evolved from such mistakes, and I was happy to join him along that journey. That shrewdness and self-reliance that defined John Constantine from the start became all the more admirable now because, by this point, he also carried with him all the changes that have made him a better person from the kind of man he used to be when we read him in the first issue." ~Issue #44
Cheers, everyone! We'll get back with John Constantine again by the last week of October for my reviews of the NBC show.


No comments:

Post a Comment