Shit Just Got Real: Hellblazer #267

Everybody loves a holiday weekend, but they have dread consequences in comics: delayed new comics. It’s bad enough that Tuesday feels like Monday, but to have Wednesday shorn of all its meaning is just cruel. Just as I started writing this, Janice related to me that for a moment she didn’t think there were going to be bagels at her job today, because Wednesday is bagel day there. Bagel day starts with bagels and ends with comics, right? So no comics means no bagels. But there were bagels! How could this be?!

How the world entire doesn’t drown in chaos and madness is beyond me.

You know who is good at chaos? John Constantine. He’s currently having a little issue with the madness, though. Hellblazer #267 is mostly setup for Milligan’s big Shade the Changing Man arc, so there wasn’t really any meat there to review, but it very solidly establishes that John is even more severely fucked than usual. It ends in a splash page that might as well be the first panel of the story proper, and, in the most ironic way possible, shit just got very real for Bastard John:

Yeah, that should go well.

I know this week is hard with comics being late and all, but look on the bright side: you’re not John. And hey, new comics on Thursday isn’t so bad; the week’s almost over at that rate. And think about those lucky folks in the UK, they get their new comics on Friday! Instant party and the whole weekend to kill the hangover. Hang in there, gang. We’ll all get through this together.

“I’ll Tell You the Ultimate Secret of Madness…”

Hellblazer was my first love as an adult comics reader, which essentially made Vertigo my first drug dealer when Constantine was shuffled over to the (then) new imprint. I attacked just about every other early Vertigo title with the kind of gusto only a 19-year-old can summon. My next favorite book, after Hellblazer, was Peter Milligan’s reboot of Shade the Changing Man. As you can imagine, Milligan currently writing Hellblazer is really a personal treat for me, and the most recent ‘No Future’ story was pretty brilliant, all things considered. The next arc, however, by this point in the paragraph, should be a no-brainer as to why I’m excited. So, to cut to the chase, I offer the following Hellblazer cover art posted on the Vertigo website today:

Run, rabbit, run.

I believe this is where you young whippersnapper fanboys say “SQUEE” these days. My favorite touch is John’s tie and, as Janice’s ever-sharp eyes caught, his boxers. If there’s anyone in comics who can be said to have the Madness in his trousers, it’s John Constantine. Can’t wait.

Review: Hellblazer: Pandemonium

Hellblazer: Pandemonium

Writer: Jamie Delano
Artist: Jock
Letterer: Clem Robins

Apparently, all DC had to do to ensure a runaway success was put Jamie Delano back on Hellblazer. Our regular shop sold out of Pandemonium by the time we got there last Wednesday night. While out and about yesterday, we wound up calling six different shops, which only netted us one copy, Meltdown’s last. We had them hold it just in case. The effort was well worth it, though. There’s not many combinations of writer, artist, and subject that will make us drop $25 on a thin-ish hardcover sight unseen.

[Editorial note: If you’re looking for a copy in LA, Cat at DJ’s Universal Comics in Studio City assured me that he was talking to his DC rep ASAP and expected to have some in by Thursday or Friday. You might start there. If you’re not in LA, I can always point you to Amazon. –Janice]

I cut my adult comic teeth on Hellblazer. While the first issue someone handed to me with the timeless order of “Read this” was written by Neil Gaiman, it was Jamie Delano that really drew me in to the character and his dysfunctional world. Hellblazer remains the only comic I hunted through back-issue bins for in the days before reliable trade publication, a fact I’m glad about now given the holes in the series’ republication.

While it takes place in the here and now, Hellblazer: Pandemonium feels like it fits perfectly into Delano’s run on the series. This is John as I remember him best: stumbling into trouble, shrugging his shoulders at it, and then meandering out again at his own pace. He certainly tries to do the most good on his way out, but does so with his usual charm- or lack thereof. Only John Constantine could lose himself to the wicked joy of sating his gambling addiction in a game of poker where the chips are human souls and not come out tainted on the other side.

There’s a lot in Pandemonium that reminds me of the James Bond reboot of Casino Royale. It’s not close enough to make me think that it was Delano’s inspiration, though the poker game mentioned above certainly draws some parallels. There’s something about this older John that meshes well with Daniel Craig’s rough-edged take on Bond. There’s an immediacy of character shared there that makes John’s few truly unselfish moments in the story endearing instead of jarring. Delano has made the old boy age well without losing his edge.

On the art, Jock’s hit this one out of the park. He takes the frenetic style of his covers for books like Scalped and translates it to the entire book. The work is reminiscent of Dave McKean’s amazing covers from Delano’s original run on the series without aping it. Some favorite moments, in no particular order: John stepping off the plane in Baghdad in full trenchcoat. One of the best uses of a bottle of gin both in practice and as a visual pun. And by far, Nergal’s amusing little “HAH!” towards the end, one simple little joke of an image that speaks volumes about the demon prince’s actual relationship with Constantine.

I used to worry that Hellblazer would lose relevance over time, that it might become just another dark artifact of comics in the 90’s. Thankfully, its fortunes have improved in the last few years- Denise Mina’s run being especially noteworthy (and now collected in Empathy Is the Enemyand the already out-of-print The Red Right Hand.) Hellblazer: Pandemonium makes me especially pleased, and I’m happy to have hunted up a copy for my bookshelf. You should too.

Short Notes for This Week

…so, yeah, Chad has been holding down the fort while I’ve been dealing with a cyst in my foot and the corresponding difficulty getting around, but now I’ve got some sort of cold on top of it and can’t breathe very well. In no particular order, then, some short notes on this week:

  • I read Hit-Monkey. It didn’t particularly offend me, but I’m rather wary of Daniel Way’s tendency to overcomplicate nice, clean premises. Art’s great, though.
  • The last Phonogram: The Singles Club is out now. Gillen and McKelvie say it’s the last Phonogram ever, and I’m sad to see it go. I’d like to do a proper review and eulogy for the bastard child of Charles de Lint and Lester Bangs, but that’ll have to wait until I can reliably breathe through my nose again.
  • There’s a preview in the back of Hit-Monkey for Louise Simonson’s X-Factor Forever, which is Simonson picking the title up where she left off in the 1990s. I know better than to buy X-books that are just pitched at the nostalgia demographic, but damned if I don’t like seeing Scott, Jean, and Baby Nathan Christopher all smiles again. The life of a 30something X-fan is fraught with such dilemmas.
  • On the upside, whatever else is going on in X-Factor Forever, it probably doesn’t involve gratuitous mind control plotlines. I also don’t expect much “BDSM imagery as metaphor for inherent spiritual corruption.” Ahem.
  • S.W.O.R.D. #4 has snouty!Beast and snouty!UNIT, as well as a scene that must’ve made letterer Dave Lanphear rue the day he signed on with Gillen’s disreputable outfit. So much love.
  • We were totally going to pick up Hellblazer: Pandemonium today. Really. A Delano/Jock Hellblazer book is up everyone in the Department’s alley… so, of course, our store was totally sold out when we got there. Congratulations, Jamie and Jock, I think you’ve got a hit on your hands.
  • BPRD: King of Fear #2 has a Kate Corrigan A-plot, and I love me some Kate Corrigan. I’m convinced her current relationship is doomed– assuming her boyfriend doesn’t get jumped into the BPRD the way people in Charlie Stross’s Bob Howard books get jumped into the Laundry– but such is the way of the Hellboy universe.
  • Mark Waid’s conducting an eloquent defense of Captain America (in light of today’s Tea Party controversy) over on Twitter.
  • I’ve got the last issue of Strange and the third Daytripper here, too. Not up to reading them tonight.

Again, sorry for my absence. I am still aiming for Understanding Comics on Friday if at all possible, now that I’m not hobbling around snarfing down Darvocet like a cut-rate Dr. House. (Not that that wasn’t entertaining on some levels.)