Friday, August 14, 2015

Hellblazer Volume 6: Bloodlines by Garth Ennis

In the previous collection, Dangerous Habits, Garth Ennis had to share credit with Jamie Delano since the latter contributed to a good forty-percent of the bulk for that volume. In this collection, however, Ennis becomes the official writer for the Hellblazer series. Bloodlines is comprised of the Christmas Special about the Lord of Dance, the Royal Blood arc (#52-55), and Guys and Dolls arc (#59-61). This was a good second foll0w-up to the critical success of Dangerous Habits although this is far from Ennis' best.

One thing consistent and formulaic about the stories in this volume is Ennis' tendency to create bad guys with no redeeming qualities about them whatsoever, making it easy for readers to root for John Constantine's victory over them. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, Ennis had given satisfactory endings for his villains in a way where they get punished horribly. However, it offers little to no varied range of morally conflicted characters unlike his predecessor's run whose stories have villains who are not entirely evil per se, but have done heinous things for ambiguous motivations, much like the titular hero himself.

Speaking of John: Garth Ennis had written Kit Ryan into his stories since Dangerous Habits and as John's newfound love interest, she has given him all the support and dedication that marked a healthy relationship between them where John even has a stable home life to get back to at the end of the day after solving gruesome cases. I think John's personal growth and development at this point in Ennis' hands are noteworthy and a refreshing change of page that is slowly turning him into the hero he is always meant to become since this series started. I'm totally enjoying this brand-new John Constantine. He has a promising, optimistic attitude and there is less guilt and self-destructive impulse about him this time around. And to think that it only took him almost dying to make amends and forgive himself for his transgressions in the past! As someone who adores this complex character, I'm so thrilled to see him at peace, with the help of Kit and John's own choice to grow up and change.

As for the stories themselves, I find them rudimentary yet still entertaining. I'm still getting a hang of Garth Ennis as a writer and so far I think he's off to a good start and needs to polish some aspects to his storytelling which I think will get improved upon in the next arcs he will produce. Royal Blood was an average story that didn't really appeal to me to much while Guys and Dolls definitely had a riveting premise but its brevity by the third act made the resolution anticlimactic. I would have much preferred if this volume included the standalone stories like This is the diary of Danny Drake (#56) and End of the Line (#62) which were better written and more satisfactory to read.  I just have to admit that I'm a masochist and that most of Delano's painful and gritty characterization of Constantine has worked for me that now I can't shake it off and sometimes I find myself struggling to really focus and discuss Ennis' contribution to this series which has been great, really, though I know I don't have much to say about it unlike with Delano's run. 

 I did enjoy Guys and Dolls overall which is the main attraction of this volume. That being said, there are some parts of this entire arc that weren't completely resolved mostly because they weren't completely explained either. I feel as if this was rushed. The two earlier installments were great pieces but this one had to bear the weight of the climax, falling action and resolution. The climactic part of this issue was simple in execution that it diluted its impact once we reach the supposedly falling action and the ambiguous resolution didn't really help. I just thought that it would have been better if we get another issue to wrap things up more neatly and with more power behind the punch. Ennis is not exactly a risk-taker when it comes to endings. I've noticed that he tends to go for the easier, more predictable route. The bad guys don't win and suffer the consequences, John lives to fight another day--it's a stark opposite to Delano's own approach for this series. Ennis' formulaic style of narrative is still okay for me at this point but if this keeps up in the next issue I may get annoyed. It's only acceptable now because I want to believe Ennis is still finding his stride as well as his definitive voice but Hellblazer is such an exceptional and flexible series and I just feel that he's not making most of its potentials. I think Garth Ennis' twelve issues so far have been a mixed bag but the pros really outweigh the cons so I'm still riveted enough to keep reading.


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