Friday, August 21, 2015

Hellblazer by Garth Ennis issue #76

I think Ennis means well whenever he writes break issues like this one. I would never consider them as meaningless fillers squeezed between major story arcs because I think these standalones really showcase the emotional depth and insight that he is very capable of in his writing. I maintain that he should write more stories like this as a guest writer as oppose to heard writer because, quite frankly, Dangerous Habits was the only excellent contribution he had for Hellblazer. That's not a harsh assessment at all. I just think Ennis tends to either write John Constantine stories as either slightly superfluous or too extreme. He can also be gratingly predictable his resolutions.

Like I said in another review, my overall reaction to Ennis as a Hellblazer writer is that of mild amusement; I'm not thoroughly excited when I read his issues nor am I completely bored. I'm in a safe place where there are no risks or disappointments (that was until issue #75 which was absolute bollocks). Not everything I have to say about Ennis is negative, of course. I truly must credit him for creating the character of Kit Ryan. She's the only female character in the series so far whom I felt was justly characterized. She was well-developed and sympathetic, and she wasn't simply there to suit a chauvinistic purpose for the plot (which is Delano's problem with the female characters he had written in his run; a few of them were really flat *coughs-Marj-coughs*).

This standalone issue is a follow-up to that bonus story from #75 which was a flashback scene concerning John's friendship with the then-couple Brendan and Kit. For this issue, John is visited by the ghost of Brendan who passed away in Dangerous Habits arc previously. Much like Constantine's 40th birthday issue, this was a simple tale about recounting the past and listing hopes for the future. It was honest enough to consider a strong and decent narrative even if the pacing was slow and uneventful in some places. This has become a pattern for Ennis' standalone. They serve as a checkpoint to measure the current status of John's psyche after going through a stressful ordeal. It's also a period of relaxation for readers that allows them to explore the other facets of John's complex layers. In that sense, stories like this are necessary.

There's not much to say, though because at this point in the series with Ennis, I'm growing weary of his repetitive stylistic and storytelling choices. Some days I wish Delano was still writing the series although I much appreciate the lightness of Ennis' approach. The only problem is the depth becomes only skin-deep for his stories. Delano might be a goddamn motherfucker who hurts me emotionally and mentally with his gritty and highly tense stories, but he always has a meaningful and resonant message at the core of it all. With Ennis, there's always something missing. It's almost like he's prepared a perfectly acceptable main course, but forgets a key ingredient that makes all the difference in my appreciation for his stories. He leaves me feeling incomplete after finishing a story of his, particularly in his major arc. For standalones like this one, I can understand. I don't know what to say anymore because I feel like I keep repeating my criticisms and compliments about him as a writer so I'm just going to stop here and say no more of it.


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