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I hate Brian Azzarello Hellblazer...

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Since we got some really good discussion out of the "I hate Garth Ennis Hellblazer" thread, I figure I might as well start one for Brian Azzarello.

 

I don't know who Brian Azzarello thought was writing, but it wasn't John Constantine. And I don't know what he was writing, but they weren't stories. Stories have a plotline, which consists of a beginning, a middle, and an end. And while his stories generally had beginnings, the middles tended to be muddled, to say the least, and the ends were more stopping points, rahter than conclusions to storylines.

 

Which is not to say I hate everything he wrote. I do appreciate his work with Mucous Membrane, giving us a positively iconic shot of the band, the glints of good stories and character interest were far too few and far between to make reading the issues worth my time.

 

I think my other irritation is that he used such horrible shit for background. Prison, White Supremacy, bullshit S&M clubs, STUPID towns build on porn; Azz seemed to think that dropping the main character in the middle of horrible shit equated a horror story. How much pleasure did I get from readint the racist screed in Highwater? Hell, if I wanted to read that, I'd go pick up a KKK brochure. Azzarello seemed to be filling in, making his stories longer than they needed to be, because very little happened in Highwater.

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And let's talk about the lack of humanity in his J.C. - though he did have one "long lost love", J.C. was more of a bastard than ever, and like i said before - compare the J.C. from #27 with the one you can see in "Highwater and "Ashes And Dust", and you'll see two different people.

 

I dug the whole prison thing in "Hard Time", and i could see John being a cold-hearted bastard in such a place. I tolerated Good Intentions because of the kickass first episode, punk days flashbacks and the nifty artwork, "...And buried" wasn't too bad, and it was nice seeing Dillon back after such a long pause... "Freezes Over" is a nice little "100 bullets" out-take, a good story that had very little to do with Hellblazer, but it WAS worth reading. "Lapdogs and Englishmen" were great, leaving aside the unresolved mystery-man/book subplot, but "Highwater" was getting really tiresome, and though "A Fresh Coat Of Red Paint" (which always reminds me of that Tom Waits song) was amusing, Chasing Demons was crap, and "Ashes And Dust In The City of Angels" just sort of fizzed out and died. In 20-something issues going on 30, Azz managed to drop the ball. it is all quite readable, but not very representative of the title.

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I loved Hard Time, its in my top 5 of Hellblazer stories, i just loved the humour and the brutality of it all, it reminded me of the U.S TV series Oz in many ways and i love how Brian Azzarello manages to tap into these criminal lifestyles in both this story and in his 100 Bullets comics and he just seem to nail people with those lifestyles perfectly without resorting to stereotypes.

 

After that story though, i felt Azzarello almost took John Constantine back to his old Swamp Thing days and turned him back into the mysterious nomadic stranger figure who travelled around America and got involved in various dangerous situations albeit Azzarello's depiction of the character is a lot nastier than how Alan Moore wrote him in the 80s, that was how i perceived Azzarello's take on the character.

 

I didn't particularly take to Good Intentions apart from the Mucous Membrane parts of the story, i felt like we'd seen this type of story before, the redneck smalltown with some dark secrets, it just seemed a bit effortless and didn't really go anywhere, and i thought the humour seemed a bit forced by throwing John into a practical joke situation involving internet bestiality porn, that to me didn't seemed to play any real significance to anything at all.

 

Freezes Over and Highwater are alright i guess but again, it seems like John takes a backseat to the action in those stories and doesn't really seem to be the central part of them either, he pulls a few strings from the background but doesn't seem to be as pro-active as he is in other stories by other writers, he just seems to be the guy who stirs it up a bit and lets everyone else fuck it up for themselves and then walks away with a smile on his face.

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Guest spiderlegs

His was my least favorite run, but I will say that Highwater made me uncomfortable in a most compelling way, and it did because it was effective storytelling. I hated almost everything I read in that arc, but I also read it two more times. It was compelling writing, indeed.

 

Conversely, I was horribly let down by Good Intentions. It was just a porn story, complete with JC sucking off a dog.

 

And I might be the only one, but I sort of enjoyed Ashes & Dust. I don't mind seedy locales (Hell, I spend enough time in them...), and except for the ending (Azarello DOES write the sorriest endings) and the forced romantic flirting between the two detectives, I liked the rest of the story.

 

Hard Time was..."interesting." I can't say that I liked it (though I totally dig Corben's art style), but I didn't hate it. It was wierd and didn't play out like a HB story at all. But I enjoyed the experience, even though I didn't quite dig the story. Does that make sense?

 

As far as the major writers go--and I know I'll catch hell for including him here--I put Azarello down with Jenkins as my least favorites, and I only don't like the few Jenkins stories I've read (which amount to 3, I believe). So, really, Jenkins gets an "I" while Azarello rates a "C" in my book.

 

I have every one of Az's single issues, though, oddly enough. I have all of Ennis' and Ellis', too. No Campbell's, few of Delano's, about 6 of Jenkins, and all of Carey's. Of the 205 issue run, I'd say I have 140 of them. And since I've digressed to this point, I'll stop now.

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Brian Azzarello's stories mostly confused me. They started out interesting, became strange and warped, then concluded with something even stranger. And not strange in the good way. I still don't have a clue what happened in "Ashes & Dust", even though it caught my attention and looked really cool. And then it got into a story about some bratty rich guy and a priest and it lost me. I'm not even sure what happened at the end.

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Freezes Over is one of my fave Hellblazer stories ever.

 

Lapdogs is a very decent "continuity" arc.

 

Other ones are good, but really fail to deliver the punchline.

 

He really did not understand Constantine, although he may have understood Hellblazer stories.

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I don't know who the hell Brian Azzarello thinks he is! :lol:

 

I don't hate Azzarello's run. I strongly dislike "Ashes & Dust", and "Highwater" became a very poor story towards the end. Plus, "Good Intentions" was highly lacking as the plot developed and moved off into nonsensical thinking land.

Azzarello is my least favourite H.B. run (unless you count Campbell's run, which just bothered me), and I'm not a huge fan of most of the man's writing (he's had a few good series), but he's far from horrible.

I enjoyed "Hard Times" (J.C. seemed to be in-character, but the story was not a J.C. story), "Freezes Over", "Lapdogs and Englishmen", and almost all of his stand-alone stories.

Mostly, Azzarello just didn't care to figure out how to write J.C., so he just ad-libbed (a problem Azzarello suffers from with most strongly developed pre-existing characters); and that Azzarello has no idea how to write shock endings for his stories.

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Azzarello and Bendis both have problems with pairing strong pay-offs with strong set-ups.

 

I enjoyed Azzarello/Corben's arc set in prison and I liked the less overt demonology of Az's run, but in general it doesn't deliver as well as the much more magickal Carey run. Carey seems to deliver the best mix of all versions.

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The funny thing is you really can't stop talking about Azzarello's run. It was mostly either hated or loved as I remember. I'll have to get into this later...

 

...I'm in the middle of re-reading his run as we speak.

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I can't stop talking about Delano or Ennis' run, actually.

Azzarello's run just tends to be brought up on the Forums. Usually, with me, the less said about his run the better. I rarely ever talk about any writers' run on H.B. besides D & E, outside this Forum.

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Hard Time was okay, but suffered from a lack of a proper, unifying plot so that aside from Constantine's climb up the prison hierarchy, there wasn't much holding it together. And the knowledge that John would be out by the end of the arc rather spoiled the tension. Weirdly, I think I would have preferred it if the prison arc had lasted maybe a year and a half, comprising several mini-arcs. And I didn't like the implication that John triggered a prison riot and caused the deaths of dozens of prison guards just because he needed a fag.

 

The first issue of Good Intentions had amazing Frusin art (as all Azz issues did), but suffered from a very thin story stretched over too many pages, and denoument that had John leaving a half-naked kidnapping and attempted rape victim to walk by herself through a cold wood to find her boyfriend's body. An early sign of how [over-used word]y Azz's John really was.

The rest of Good Intentions consisted of the usual Azz pattern of coming up with a perfectly good basic idea (John tries to help out the people of the town but only fucks them up in the process) but stretching it too thin and relying on shock value to carry the story. Sadly, the only shocking thing about this story is that the editors didn't laugh the idea of an S&M sex farm out of the offices. The ending, as with most Azz storylines, is weak and relies on Constantine doing something which could horribly, horribly backfire without even the most rudimentary precautions (how could he know that the boar would not go straight for him?).

 

Then you get "...And Buried?", which is one page of actual Hellblazer plot progression to twenty-one pages of dull sub-Outer Limits story.

 

Freezes Over is actually a really good little arc, with plenty of tension and some cracking cliffhangers. Again, John relies on a plan which could fuck up completely and only succeeds through luck, but the preceding storyline is intriguing enough for me not to really care.

 

Lapdogs and Englishmen is one issue of classic Hellblazer padded out to two issues with the "oracle book" b-plot that went nowhere. If Azz had tied up the "oracle book" storyline later on, or had excised it completely in favour of making it a single standalone issue, then he'd have one of the best Hellblazer stories ever on his hands. As it stands, it's still great but deeply flawed.

 

Highwater applied the "good setup/too thin/shock value" formula again, with predictably mediocre results. Some really good scenes - the ironic punishment of Gage, John explaining why the Jews really are god's chosen people and the fairly convincing look at the mentality of neo-Nazis - let down by a desperately poor story which wastes the opportunity for John to manipulate the Nazis into destroying themselves by having a golem kill everyone. Tch.

 

A Fresh Coat of Red Paint and Chasing Demons are tripe. Azz would have been better off taking the John/Turro meeting from "Coat" and the Manor/priest conversation from "Demons" and welding them together to create a single acceptable story. Instead he pads them out with crap sub-plots (John plays bingo! John talks shit in a bar!) and turns them into two issues of wated energy. Nice art though.

 

Finally, you have Ashes and Dust, which is a shoddy mess, combining crap slash fiction with crap genuine fiction. Again, there are some really good scenes and ideas, but they rest in an extremely poor story.

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And I didn't like the implication that John triggered a prison riot and caused the deaths of dozens of prison guards just because he needed a fag.

 

I might be mistaken, but I don't recall seeing any of the guards actuallly killed from the riot. The way Boxer(?) went down was horrible though.

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Check the arc again. When the Turro enters the prison during the riot, you see the bodies of some of the prison guards hanging from the railings in the prison block.

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i like azz's run, it's what got me into hellblazer in the first place. then again i don't really have a problem with any of the main hellblazer writers, they're all good in different ways to me

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Hard Time was okay, but suffered from a lack of a proper, unifying plot so that aside from Constantine's climb up the prison hierarchy,

 

I just waw this as a model of how John would eventually rule Hell, as he said earlier in the series.

The first issue of Good Intentions had amazing Frusin art (as all Azz issues did), but suffered from a very thin story stretched over too many pages, and denoument that had John leaving a half-naked kidnapping and attempted rape victim to walk by herself through a cold wood to find her boyfriend's body. An early sign of how [over-used word]y Azz's John really was.

 

Agreed.

 

- let down by a desperately poor story which wastes the opportunity for John to manipulate the Nazis into destroying themselves by having a golem kill everyone. Tch.

 

Yeah, but the Golem is a Hebrew story....I thought the irony was very Constantine.

 

  Instead he pads them out with crap sub-plots (John plays bingo!

 

I thought that was brilliant. John Constantine, the mysterious stranger who leaves a trail of dead friends everywhere he goes, makes his money rigging old ladies bingo games!

Finally, you have Ashes and Dust, which is a shoddy mess, combining crap slash fiction with crap genuine fiction. Again, there are some really good scenes and ideas, but they rest in an extremely poor story.

 

Agreed. I thought this could have been a good idea...in fact, I liked the first couple of issues, but there was no pay off. And I think I read in an advertisement that "this arc will change everything" when it should have read, "this arc will have people on the STH message board talking about it for, like, 8 pages"! :p

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I wouldn't say I particularly liked Azz's run on the book. I enjoyed taking the piss out of some of the rampant homophobes on the DC HB board around the time of "Ashes..." but most of his stuff seems to have a fairly intriguing concept hampered by the fact that the man can't even finish his breakfast.

 

I'd take Azz's bastard John over Delano's drippy-hippy bollocks, Ennis' beery-blokey tosh or Jenkins' rampant mid-life crisis any day though.

 

What I will say is that through most of his run John was, shall we say, under-written or rather poorly fleshed out.

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Hard Time: Love it. I think it's great.

Good Intentions: Awful, some of the worst stuff I've ever read.

And Buried: Fairly boring.

Freezes Over: Way too long. This would make a great story in, say, a fiction anthology or something. But for HB, no.

Lapdogs: Best of Azz.

Highwater: I liked the setup, not the climax. Typical Azz.

Red Paint: Fun. I liked it for the one-issue comedy bit it was.

Chasing Demons: The Manor bits are all right, the John bits are way too trite.

Ashes and Dust: Starts off brilliantly, comes crashing down with an awful noise. If the ending was anything to look at, it would have been one of my favorite HB stories. I think this arc has some of the best art the book has seen.

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Glad to see I'm not the only one who enjoyed "Red Paint"! For the longest time, I was the only one to admit that I liked the issue.

 

wolf-How is "Freezes Over" way too long at 4-issues, especially with the way "Good Intentions" just rambled on right before it? Or, are you saying you think the plot could have been edited down to, say, 2 issues?

 

Jay-Two things about your comments on "Highwater":

One, Azzarello nicked the whole idea for his culmination from an issue of "Detective Comics" by Peter Milligan.

Two, Azzarello spent a lot of the story humanizing the neo-Nazis, making them something other than one-dimensional, stock characters as Nazis usually are portrayed. Then, to finish his story-arc, he says to hell with it all, and just wipes them all out with a magical monster! I think that just screamed, "I don't know how to finish this story! ARGH!"

 

RE:"Ashes & Dust"....OK, I'm pretty sure the final two issues of this story-arc were delayed. Now, go back and read the editor preview for the last two issues from the "Vertigo:On the Ledge" column. I'm pretty sure Azzarello had a completely different ending for this story, and for some reason, was forced to rewrite it; as the preview comments in "On the Ledge" tell a completely different ending than what we saw!

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I don't think I'd have got into Hellblazer if I'd started with Brian Azzarello's run.

 

I've just finished reading them in TPB form and I found them ok, but unmemorable, and there's just something that dosn't seem right about them. Good Intentions was bloody awful, just a really sleazy set up, Hard Time was ok, but all anyone says about it it "Reminded me of Oz" and I don't think Hellblazer should seem like a pale copy of anything else, it should be unique. Freezes Over was pretty entertaining but nothing special. I also agree it shoul have been a 2 parter, max.

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RE:"Ashes & Dust"....OK, I'm pretty sure the final two issues of this story-arc were delayed. Now, go back and read the editor preview for the last two issues from the "Vertigo:On the Ledge" column. I'm pretty sure Azzarello had a completely different ending for this story, and for some reason, was forced to rewrite it; as the preview comments in "On the Ledge" tell a completely different ending than what we saw!

 

What were the preview comments?

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wolf-How is "Freezes Over" way too long at 4-issues, especially with the way "Good Intentions" just rambled on right before it? Or, are you saying you think the plot could have been edited down to, say, 2 issues?

 

To begin, I don't think it really feels like an HB story, hence the anthology bit. With none of it having to do with any of the overarching plot, and neither advancing the characterization of John nor that of a supporting cast member, I felt it should have been a one issue deal. The trouble is, I don't know that it would be quite as effective cut down that much.

 

RE:"Ashes & Dust"....OK, I'm pretty sure the final two issues of this story-arc were delayed. Now, go back and read the editor preview for the last two issues from the "Vertigo:On the Ledge" column. I'm pretty sure Azzarello had a completely different ending for this story, and for some reason, was forced to rewrite it; as the preview comments in "On the Ledge" tell a completely different ending than what we saw!

 

Can someone write it down? I don't have access to my HB issues right now...

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- let down by a desperately poor story which wastes the opportunity for John to manipulate the Nazis into destroying themselves by having a golem kill everyone. Tch.

 

Yeah, but the Golem is a Hebrew story....I thought the irony was very Constantine.

 

But the lame massacre wasn't particularly Constantine at all. Far better to play both sides off against each other, as it looked like he was going to.

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