Monday, December 7, 2015

Micro-Reviews: HELLBLAZER, Part Three


HELLBLAZER #7 - Barely past the midway point in the trade.

Delano's AIDS talk in the opening is far more blunt than anything that would likely be published today.
The dialogue also makes it clear that even though John has a gay friend, they were never a couple. Guess that was something Delano felt the need to establish back then.
The hints that John’s bi don’t show up until years later, correct?  He seems hostile to even the concept of homosexuality here.

John’s other friend, Ritchie, who I think was in the show, debuts here.
He uses magic (and psychedelics) to travel inside the mystery world of…computers.
Becoming one with the bytes enables him to track the movements of the evil fundamentalist group --which turns out, includes Zed’s father.
Didn’t the series end on a cliffhanger, never revealing what exactly Zed’s father wanted with her?

 
HELLBLAZER #8 - If that isn’t the boilerplate early Vertigo cover, then nothing is.

John Costanza, DC’s favorite 80s letterer, debuts this issue. Series automatically looks more American.

Also, the great Alfredo Alcala is doing finishes now, mainstreaming the book even more.

The asylum setting this issue inspired the TV show’s pilot. Pilot also picked up on the Newcastle backstory.
The pilot’s setup was great; a mysterious event in Newcastle has driven John to the brink.
He’s in an asylum, possibly insane. Brought out of retirement for a major case.  

http://constantine.wikia.com/wiki/Non_Est_Asylum
Then the show proceeded to do formulaic demon-of-the-week plots -- with the occasional nod towards John’s callous pragmatism. 

So, it turns out the fundamentalist group really is working for God -- and Zed is destined to be their Mary, giving birth to a new Christ.
Constantine agrees to work with a demon to stop the child’s birth, because he’s unwilling to tip the scales in Heaven’s favor.
For some reason, this never made it to network television.


HELLBLAZER #9 - The story of Constantine’s 35th birthday.

The first major storyline of the series is resolved by Constantine making love to Zed -- infecting her body with demon blood, thus preventing an angel from impregnating her.

I’m reminded of Steven Grant questioning why so many atheist Vertigo writers still draw upon Christian mythology in their stories.  Delano is fulfilling the cliché before Vertigo even officially exists.

Delano’s actually set up the resolution quite well over the issues. The ending isn’t a cheat, but it is unexpected.

Zed, however, remains very poorly defined.  I daresay I liked her TV incarnation better than anything I’ve read so far.  If published today, the “problematic gender issues” would surely receive a few days of internet scorn.

“Oi! I gave that bird an injection o’ the ol’ demonseed. Problem solved! Time for me SWAMP THING crossover!”

I assume the National Health Service was in trouble in the late 80s. This is Delano’s third reference to its problems.


SWAMP THING #76 - Wasn’t expecting a Funky Flashman appearance this issue…

The SWAMP THING crossover is based on Swamp Thing stealing Constantine’s body in order to impregnate his girlfriend.  Abby questions if
Swamp Thing should get tested for AIDS, since Constantine is a known ladies’ man.

Why
Swamp Thing has chosen Constantine’s body is barely explained -- a “synchronicity storm.” Swamp Thing also seems blasé about the demon blood he’s about to infect Abby with.

DC publishing a Mature Readers SWAMP THING book while simultaneously selling him as a kids’ toy line--



-- that was a strange decision. Maybe this led to the later rule that Vertigo characters can’t appear in all-ages material?


SWAMP THING #77 - Guest writer, Jamie Delano.

I’m sure this issue had some significance to
SWAMP THING readers, but placing it in a HELLBLAZER trade was questionable.

Abby’s upset with Swamp Thing, gets drunk with the no-longer-possessed Constantine, spends a supposedly platonic night with him -- and all is well in the morning. In the meantime,
Swamp Thing is moody, and Delano has a few more American caricatures to play with.

Not a great closing story for the trade. It’s hard to complain considering the amount of material you’re getting, though.

I'm not clutching pearls here, just an observation -- the idea that even women who hate Constantine end up in bed with him has maybe just a smidgen of misogyny. I fully support jerks as protagonists, but rewarding them for the behavior comes across as obnoxious.

The final page advises you to pick up the Peter Milligan HELLBLAZER trades, “From the writer of RED LANTERNS”.

I just realized that HELLBLAZER is a play on “trailblazer.”  Congratulations, ‘80s cool kids, you fell for a pun.

3 comments:

Ja D said...

Long time Hellblazer reader here. Some thoughts.
1 The reason so many atheist writers focus on Christianity is to depict a negative portrayal.
2 John screws over Zed. This is john, he ruins everybody around him, misogyny doesn't have anything to do with it.
3 Woman hating john and having sex with him. Some women make bad choices, thats the thing with free choice.

Please do continue with these reviews.

wwk5d said...

Nah, writing even women who hate him and have sex with him isn't free choice, it's bad hero-worship and just plain dumb.

Anonymous said...

Peter "the writer of RED LANTERNS" Milligan has to be a rib, right? No one could've ever sincerely thought that tagline would sell more comics.