Thursday, May 5, 2016

Hellblazer by Paul Jenkins issues #91-92

Newly minted Hellblazer writer for the nineties run Paul Jenkins has yet to impress me, but after smirking through his amusing two-parter about a rainbow snake in Australia, I managed to get two really nice issues from him this time. Once again, I'm combining these issues in one official and succinct review, mostly because IT'S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS HOW I WANT TO WRITE MY REVIEWS, and so with that in mind, let's talk about issues #91-92, both were of course illustrated by Sean Phillips, the constant artist for this series (with the exception of some Garth Ennis issues, I think).

So what was so nice about these issues? Granted, "nice" isn't something one immediately associates a title like Hellblazer with, but stay with me on this one. It'll make sense. Issue #91 featured John Constantine finally back in his homeland, only there was some remnants of the Aboriginal rainbow snake socio-political commentary to be had, comparing and contrasting it to whatever Neo-Nazi, post-colonial, post-civil war or something movement happening in the UK. Again, that's all backdrop and scenery. What this issue was really about was John encountering old mates of his back when he used to be in a punk band named Mucous Membrane. The couple, Rich and Michelle, were more than happy to catch up with John, and they brought along their adorable little bugger of a son named Syder. John was at first feeling awkward about the kid because the last time he was this close to one was when he damned a little girl to hell back in Jamie Delano's defining character moment story arc in Newcastle. But let's not rehash the eighties drama. John and Syder got along quite well, and the sweet child kept using his old man's nickname for John which is "Con-Job". It's all cutesy and fun to see John actually trying to be involved with people he cares about, and not just pass through them, bringing havoc and tragedy. 

NOW I'M NOT SAYING IT WON'T HAPPEN EVENTUALLY. I mean, come on, Constantine has a grimy track record of fucking shit up just because he was there in the wrong place during wrong time; albeit he does so unintentionally. But for now, at least I got to enjoy John and his friends reminiscing about their punk-band days (right before shit hits the fan later).

One of the things John and Rich got to reminisce was their friend Deanie who had a penchant for riding his bike for hours. One memorable acid trip that their group took together, Deanie goes off somewhere in his bike, hoping he could fly, and never to return. Fifteen years later, John found the poor bugger's corpse under a tree with his bike whilst his soul is trapped during a hellscape of civil war where people actually thought his apparition was a witch. For old time's sake, John rescued his soul, not really having the balls to break it to him that he has passed over already. But ultimately it didn't matter to either for them, especially for Deanie who wanted to fly while he is riding his bike--and now he could. It was a pretty poignant moment, and I appreciated the sentiment behind John's final gesture for a lost friend who has, in his own way, found closure.

Issue #92 marks the start of a major story arc for Paul Jenkins entitled Critical Mass, and so far I'm hooked. It picked up with John still hanging out with Rich and his family, while somewhere in Hell a demon named Buer is emo-ing about missing the First of the Fallen whom John has humiliated about three times now. Buer is a clingy piece of shit who seems to have unrequited feelings for First (while he loathes Lucifer Morningstar for abandoning Hell) and he tried to kill the pain of that loss by torturing children, both in their physical and spiritual states. After a while, he just couldn't take it anymore and went to see some witch and offered her a newborn baby so she could help him find the exact location of the First of the Fallen. He was in Greece, playing sailor who is afraid of pain, apparently? He's become mortal now (all thanks to Johnnie). Buer was livid and swore to avenge his lord liege/secret crush by personally delivering to him John Constantine.

Now remember when I said that sooner or later, John is going to fuck shit up, and his loved ones who are bystanders may end up a part of the savage mortality count? Yeah, it happened again like clockwork. This time, Buer targets the boy Syder to get to Constantine. He put himself inside the boy's body, demonic-possession style. And now John has to exorcise Buer out of the kid, no doubt, which would be a grueling process I am not at all looking forward to reading. But this is Hellblazer; and the worst part of it all is that in order to get a compelling story I can emotionally invest on, it's when John Constantine is sacrificing people or losing some bits of his humanity along the way. But that's just the way it goes. That's the familiar tune this series knows best to manipulate and keep playing. Oh, boy, here we go.


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