Saturday, August 22, 2015

Hellblazer Volume 7: Tainted Love by Garth Ennis

I think I want to read more of Garth Ennis' work because I think he's a pretty cool comics writer but unfortunately his Hellblazer stuff was not that impressive. For his second collected edition, Volume 6: Bloodlines, I would characterize my reading experience as comfortable and mildly entertaining. This volume, thankfully enough, is an improvement, but only slighter.

Volume 7: Tainted Love was more character-driven in scope and characterization, dealing with the break-up and aftermath of John and Kit's relationship while also exploring the wretched downwards spiral John had to go through in order to once again reinvent himself in the process. 

Composed of issues #62-71, Tainted Love was also a mixed bag like Bloodlines but decidedly far more riveting to read because I cared enough about John and Kit as a couple and as characters themselves. There is only one story arc here called Fear and Loathing which was pretty great because it had some tough issues like racial hate crimes which I felt were dealt with tastefully enough. We also got to see John making an ass of himself during his post break-up, hobo-ing it up and substituting alcohol with lighting fluid. The King of the Vampires makes a second appearance to taunt John, only to get utterly destroyed by his lack of hindsight concerning hubris. I also really enjoyed that Kit-centered issue because she's really awesome and I'm glad to get to know her a little better by being provided some overdue personal backstory.

My favorite issue was #71, of course. For that issue named The Finest Hour, we see John in an awful state of unkempt personal appearance and worsening alcohol dependence lose consciousness near a skeletal remains of a man whose final moments were shared through a dream sequence. The man turned out to be a flight pilot during the second World War whose youth and optimism did not prevent him from his untimely and unfair death when he unceremoniously crashed-landed in some plain. John woke up from seeing his memories and felt absolutely ashamed and humbled. There he was, miserable and beyond redemption, or so he thinks, while there are countless others like that late pilot who hasn't even lived a full life as he had. Sure, John's life is a stormy shitfest of regrets, blood and broken vows but at least he lives. And that's what John should do now, no matter the rock bottoms that he will collapse into again and again.

John cleans himself up, shaves at last and puts on his familiar trench coat. He buries the remains of the man and thanks him for reminding him of the constant cycle of victory and defeat that defines humanity, and that John Constantine's road, though a lonely path, is only something he has the strength and determination to walk through. It's poignant that the dead had gave the living a purpose. This issue was such a comforting story about self-reliance and acceptance of the past. It left me smiling sadly as I stared into the last two pages of the said pilot's alternate ending to his life. After John buries the remains, we see the pilot successfully flying his little plane back into the sunny horizon. It was a symbolic confirmation that John was able to help the poor guy carry over onto the next step after death, and into his brand of paradise where even the sky has no limits. And, maybe, John can do the same. 


That being said, at this point in the series with Ennis, I'm growing weary of his repetitive 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.

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. 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*). His development and characterization of Kit were something I can commend him with, that's for sure. Overall, Tainted Love had been enjoyable enough but not his strongest work.



RECOMMENDED: 7.5/10

No comments:

Post a Comment