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Hellblazer #211

Marks out of 10 for Hellblazer #211  

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  1. 1. Marks out of 10 for Hellblazer #211

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Hellblazer #211

 

fhb211.jpg

 

 

(W) Mike Carey

(A) Leonardo Manco

(Cover) Tim Bradstreet

 

Part 5 of the 6-part "Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go." As Nergal's master plan becomes frighteningly clear, John learns the macabre fate of Cheryl's soul. But surrounded by Rosacarnis and his own demon offspring, it may be too late for Constantine to save his sister - or himself.

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well, that was rather excellent. so, does this mean Constantine is an abusive dad? :biggrin:

 

Spoilers:

 

 

 

some nice twists, some of which you could see coming miles and miles away but others I didn't see that much. nice FotF cameo as well, though I swear Carey infuses him with Lucifer style aristocratic arrogance. and was that Demon Constantine walking in in the background? I certainly hope so....

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well, that was rather excellent. so, does this mean Constantine is an abusive dad?

 

Hehe, although I can imagine his kids stuffing a dead cat into a tiny doll trenchcoat and trying to make mini silk-cuts to stuff in it's mouth get their revenge on him...

 

-b

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Hellblazer #211

 

fhb211.jpg

 

 

(W) Mike Carey

(A) Leonardo Manco

(Cover) Tim Bradstreet

 

Part 5 of the 6-part "Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go." As Nergal's master plan becomes frighteningly clear, John learns the macabre fate of Cheryl's soul. But surrounded by Rosacarnis and his own demon offspring, it may be too late for Constantine to save his sister - or himself.

That is the single best cover of a comic book, in my opinion, there has ever been.

 

It is poetic.

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umm....How about an 8?

 

FINALLY! John does SOMETHING!

I hate those stupid demon kids, so seeing John knock them down a few pegs was the clincher, eh?

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An eight sounds good to me....It still felt a bit like things were moving a bit slower than they could have been, but it was good to see some classic Constantine moments, especially his full page enterance scene (I thought his fags were wet though). Manco's art was aces except for the fact that folks tend to lose their faces in the wide shots. Oh, and has that bloke with the star cloke introducing everyone ever been seen before? He seemed a bit familiar like he may have been in another Carey or Gaiman book. Still I hope the next issue concludes things in a satisfactory manner.

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(I thought his fags were wet though).

 

Clearly, Hell has more of a dry heat, causing the John's smokes to dry out. The scene where he lit the match and made is enterance was fantastic, classic Constantine. I have high expectations for the finally of this story. also the cigarette to the forehead was a great move, another fantastic scene...

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was that Demon Constantine walking in in the background? I certainly hope so....

 

That was a longshot of John walking into the ceremony - alongside the same footmen, erm demons.

 

I liked this very much and it continues a nice snowballing of momentum towards the end. FOTF is exactly as snooty as he's always been as far as I can see, and more like the perfect foil for John that he should be without appearing very often.

 

The Nergal-plan reveal was ace, I seem to remember we noted Stercorax's significant role, but not quite what folks had in mind, is it?

 

Oh and Stercorax and That (Hitchcockian) Knife have a lot in common if you ask me ... Constantinian blood ?! on a knife ?!

 

Manco's art was mostly nice, but the page with Maria and Rosa was disappointing.

Except the Knife-kissing. Lovely.

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I liked this one a lot. Manco's artwork reminded me a lot of the John Ridgeway era in terms of John's facial expressions. The splash page featuring his entrance was classic. All in all, this is shaping up to be on hellish finale.

 

And Andy, I think the guy you were talking about was in The Books of Magic #2 at that party Zatanna attended.

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I think the guy you were talking about was in The Books of Magic #2 at that party Zatanna attended.

 

Was that Tannarak? Does he divide his time between running a bar for mystic types in San Francisco and introducing duties in Hell? Perhaps, I don't know.

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Mmmmm besides two classic John-the-bastard scenes, i still found the whole thing relatively redundant.

Things that were damned evident in the last ish, were still uneconomically drawn out in this.

 

Still irksome about the over literal demons, but thats not going to change.

 

Fantastic cover though!

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Yeah - that scene where John hides from the demon guards before sneaking into the crowd was straight out of Lord of the Rings, and not really in a good way.

 

Still, on the whole this was a considerably better issue than the last couple have been. John even got to do something pro-active, for the first time since...crikey, now that I think about it, barring the one-shot #201, this was the first time we've seen John even attempt to take charge of a situation since Staring At The Wall, going on two years ago.

 

I still rather wish Mike hadn't chosen to take the title in this direction, mind. This was a far better-executed story than the last few issues have been, but the overall arc is still a long way from the sort of thing to which the title and character are really best-suited, and a good few pages had the same slightly unfinished feel to the art which marred too many of Manco's earlier issues. I suspect that the lead-time bought by Camuncoli's fill-in issue has run out again, which doesn't bode too well for next month's finale.

 

I'm all for a writer taking risks and stretching the boundaries of what can be done with a title/character - hell, I've even defended some of Azzarello's wilder excesses around these parts - but this just doesn't feel like Hellblazer to me. Having a character draw attention in-story to the fact that the whole thing is essentially a melodramatic soap opera plot (albeit one set against a disappointingly-familiar demonic background), while funny in itself, doesn't make the accusation any less true, either.

 

I gave this one a '7', because it was better than the last few stories have been, but I can't help but wonder if that's a little generous. I'll see how I feel when the arc finishes next month.

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Most of Carey's run hasn't seemed like H.B. to me. There have been some issues where Mike really gets John, dead on; but most of the time, it read like Carey wanted to write a Fantasy action/adventure series (like Lucifer), and John just doesn't fit that mold very well.

I really don't like the thought of all-too-human John running around Hell like the bloody Ghost Rider or something!

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On one hand, I think the critique that Carey's Hellblazer lacks some of the realistic flavor and character-based storytelling of Ellis or Ennis is completely valid. At the same time, I find what Carey is doing deliriously fun.

 

Carey--maybe stinging from Lucifer's low sales?--seems to be writing the series as accessible and action-driven as possible. Other people have commented on the board previously that the result is a very super-heroic John Constantine. To me it seems the guiding influence on Carey's run is none other than Buffy--cliffhangers, belly-shirt girl-power, wisecracking arch-villains all included. What makes this ironic to me is that early Hellblazer had to have in turn been a huge influence on Buffy--not one but two different versions of JC were written into the show, Giles and Spike, and if you added the different Buffy episodes based on Hellblazer plots together, you might get an entire season.

 

So something about the Carey run is a bit derivative, a bit too mainstream. Even at its high points (for me, the shorter arcs like Black Flowers, Third Worlds, and The Off Season), the readers are not being pushed or challenged very much. And people can say that this isn't really what Hellblazer is supposed to be, and it's not really what Vertigo is supposed to be doing, and these don't seem like unreasonable points to make. And it's true, for instance, when I compare the recent Carey arcs to the stories collected in Rare Cuts, the recent stuff seems bland.

 

BUT...

 

Carey is executing what he's doing marvelously. His ear for dialogue is just brilliant, and it's improved over the course of his run. Admittedly, lines from the beginning like Angie's "I'm a piece of work, ask anyone" introduction were grating, but we're not seeing these anymore. Instead, all the characters seem to have highly developed, individualized voices.

 

But my favorite thing about the series right now is that it's asking some interesting questions about what separates humans from demons. Nergal's narration put this front and center last issue, but we see it too in Chas's actions after Nergal's possession and Maria's misgivings about the family business. So the series is doing some interesting intellectual work right now, asking what it means to be human in a way similar to the way Lucifer is currently asking what it means to be free.

 

(BTW: Am I alone in thinking Maria is going to turn on Rosacarnis? An army of Constantine tykes has the obvious drawback that part and parcel of the gene pool you're dealing with is the tendency to betray everyone and everything. The real cliffhanger ending to next issue would be John getting "custody" of one or more of the kids.)

 

One last thing: Not only because the whole First of the Fallen/Lucifer thing has been so confusing for so long, but because I think the story could be jaw-droppingly funny, I'd love to see Mike Carey write some type of post-script to Lucifer and his run on Hellblazer that would have Lucifer and John and the First, all interacting. The sniping between the two arch-fiends, especially the contrast between Lucifer's refined hauteur and the First's rancor, would be awesome fun to read. And I can totally see Lucifer and John dealing with each other with a healthy, detached respect for the other's talents.

 

(As far as any continuity inconsistencies between the First and Lucifer go, I defer to the scene in Sandman where Lucifer explains various demons are always declaring themselves the rulers of hell, and he pays them no mind because that sort of intramural politics is beneath him.)

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It's the been the most ambitious Hellblazer arc, and it may well have been a mistake to produce something over such a long period - what with comics fans being suckled upon monthly intake of story.

 

Mike Carey has taken existing plot background and woven it into one big story, which I may remind you has not yet finished and which will not lead to an end since the series is ongoing. And as I said from the start, there have been moments of significant story development for the larger Hellblazer series.

It is clear that John has grown old - matured if you will - even during the parts when he's lost his memory (am I the only person who sees that he has still not recovered from that episode ?).

 

Previously only Garth Ennis had bothered with this level of addition to Jamie Delano's establishing shots. Paul Jenkins tried to do it with the mundane side of John's life, but it's hard to do when your main character is such a loner. Ellis and Azzarello both took the fanboy cool John as the centrepiece for their stories - often writing stories that required no John at all.

 

Take a look at John's life since Carey took over (and remember the patented Ade Brown argument that this has all happened in a much shorter time than the 40 months of the Hellblazer release schedule *I'll find that post and add it here later).

 

Returns home to his folks who think he's dead.

Finds Gemma gone to be the new Constantine in that London.

Goes down to London to save her - she doesn't want saving.

His magical friends tell him that Fredericks & Josh Wright have rubbed up against them, but it seems from Fredericks' dreams there is someone else behind all this.

Apparently, someone wants to warn him of an impending Earth-shattering disaster and his part in that. Turns out that someone is behind that, and that someone is behind them too.

So he goes off to prepare saving the world. The same way he's always done, but when he was younger he was leading people around by their noses, now it's him who is never quite on the right footing.

For all that bragging that the Beast WNN does, someone has clearly set him up to target John. He has no previous record with the Constantines after all.

As we find out at the end of that arc, Gill is set after John & co to set up the whole Constanteenies scenario. And you know, when everyone can say they are disappointed with the scope of John's offsprings' victims but get upset by the death of Mange, it wasn't that far of the mark. The attack on John has been spiralling inward from issue 175, and was bound to end up near his closest family.

And then Hell, where most of his enemies have ended up.

Nergal has been Constantine's nemesis from day 0 - not that arrogant twat First of the Fallen. And if you ask me he's set this whole kettle of fish a-boiling right from the start. Either with Rosacarnis or FOTF or without them.

So we get to Hell. Which appears like the Hell of Lucifer.

As opposed to that of Neil Gaiman.

 

Recently Nergal seemed to have the upper hand, but John's just revealed he knew what was going on. He's got every reason to work with Nergal or Rosa or neither and none of us readers know which he's doing.

Now for the climax.

 

There have been a few sub-arcs that could have benefitted from the "Black Flowers" treatment (ie being curtailed by an issue) and I'd rather have had more of the single issue stories like Third Worlds, Gruinard and (of course) A Game of Cat and Mouse. But the over-all story of the last three years is more realistic as character development (ironically since the subject matter has been more fantastic than much of Hellblazer's history).

 

Gemma's grown up.

Nergal's been as much of an opponent as he was in the Delano stories.

And we still don't know where they are going to end up.

 

Besides stripmining the past history of Hellblazer, Mike brought us Ghant and the Nergalette.

And Angie of course.

Three damn fine additions if you ask me.

 

Plus the possibility of Maria and (either of) her brothers being future cast members. Which does remind me of the Buffy scenario - something that Vertigo's business minds must have looked favourably on, since it's successful in the demographic they seem to be appealing at these days with their main titles.

 

Furthermore, they've got a nice series of tradepaperback collections from Mike that set the scene for Denise Mina's story and beyond, and retell some of the older stories without having to repackage the entire run. To the person who compared it with the Rare Cuts tpb, well those are higher quality single issues, so perhaps it is fairer to compare each story with "Cat and Mouse" or #200 rather than a whole arc.

 

It's fairly clear Mr Carey's planned a long arc because there is stuff from his earlier issues that's becoming relevant now. I'm sure that some people will want every loose end tied up before the story ends, but not me. I'm quite happy with loose ends lying around, because that's what real life is like.

 

One thing I'll say, since the last few issues have been steeped in Hellblazer continuity and Carey-Hellblazer continuity, I have had less of an urge to do the annotations. I might do a mega-annotation all in one for the current sixparter.

But I am looking forward to:

 

Part 1 of the 2-part "R.S.V.P." John Constantine's back in London to see some old friends, only to realize all his friends are dead (or worse). After a less-than-memorable encounter with one of his last living mates, Constantine realizes he has an addiction to the black arts, and sets out to kick his habit. But what does a mysterious "magic convention" have to do with his decision?

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I gave this one a 10. I'm hugely enjoying this arc, and I really LIKE the self-ironic metatext commentaries.

"I'm sure my invitation was lost in the post, right" is very very close to being one of THE Constatine moments.

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Couple of class Conjob moments score this one a 6 with me.

 

"Too bloody right it will"

 

Aces!

 

Story doesn't have me onboard though, little Johnny Baggins traipsing through Mordor feels all kinds of wrong. Oh and John using football metaphors ? I thought the dialogue itself was cracking but didn't sound like something you'd expect out of Constantine.

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Story doesn't have me onboard though, little Johnny Baggins traipsing through Mordor feels all kinds of wrong.  Oh and John using football metaphors ?  I thought the dialogue itself was cracking but didn't sound like something you'd expect out of Constantine.

 

Then again, Campbell wrote him as a Star Trek: TNG fan so it's hardly the worst case of dodgy character work the series has seen.

 

I thought this was a blinding little issue, even though it's really just more set-up for the last part of the story. Nice to see John getting his shit together and I'm dying to find out what happens next. That "strike match and appear" scene was class. And the thought of the First watching soap operas makes me chuckle.

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Some classic lines in this issue and some jawdropping artwork by Leonardo Manco...

 

Loved the "cos i'm looking to make some mischief squire" line to The First Of The Fallen and what an image to compliment the "and i'm sure my invitation got lost in the post right?" line was yet another moment that immediately raised an ear-to-ear smile and is the part in the comic i can't stop looking at.

 

I think that scene ranks alongside the page in "The Crib" issue where Constantine lights up his cigarette and says "all right squire?" to Dave, already told Bradstreet that is probably my all-time favourite image he has ever drawn of John Constantine.

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I had a little trouble with some of the art in this issue - too many panels felt a little unfinished, and the disappearing faces in the longer shots were a little off-putting. That full-page shot of John in the doorway was gorgeous, but I was a little put off by the fact that he appeared to have a bizarrely shrunken left hand. Perhaps it was just the angle, but it looked a little "off" to me...

 

Still, apart from those niggles (which are pretty minor, really), I'm still really impressed by Manco's development over the time he's been on the title. I liked his work from the start, but his grasp of the character has grown stronger and stronger with every issue. I get the feeling that he'll benefit from the extra lead-time which the upcoming 'fill-in' artists will buy him (I look forward to seeing what Frazer Irving will do with #213, and I'm very curious to see who the guest artist will be for Denise Mina's first issue), but that's not a criticism at all - his art is absolutely gorgeous, and I can see why he might need a bit of extra time to really do his best work. Besides, I like the occasional guest artist on a title - it's good to get a change from time to time, and if it means we can have a regular artist as good as Manco, that's even better.

 

The "looking to cause some mischief" panel this month was particularly sweet - and Manco's Constantine looks like the absolute spit of Tim Bradstreet's version of the character in it, which brought a smile to my face.

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I had a little trouble with some of the art in this issue - too many panels felt a little unfinished, and the disappearing faces in the longer shots were a little off-putting. That full-page shot of John in the doorway was gorgeous, but I was a little put off by the fact that he appeared to have a bizarrely shrunken left hand. Perhaps it was just the angle, but it looked a little "off" to me...

 

I think maybe he picked the wrong size of shirt, the sleeve covers almost half his hand :biggrin:

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