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John Waterman

Mike Carey's run on Hellblazer

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I just breezed through Mike Carey's entire Hellblazer run upon getting the last three issues of "Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go" and "The Gift." It stood up pretty well upon re-read, although its weaknesses were also more pronounced.

 

I think it's safe to say that, stand-alone issues aside, the run's quality begins to drop off after issue #200. Dragging in characters from previous authors' work is always a risky gimmick, and in the last two major arcs, it didn't come off very well.

 

Carey wrote Map, Clarice, Albert, Map and Watford very well, and I was glad to see them again, because Ellis' aborted run left me wanting to know more about them.

 

But the minor characters that were killed off during "Reasons to be Cheerful" were almost completely arbitrary. Hell, Constantine didn't even know that most of them were getting dead. I particularly hated to see the deaths of Mange and Helen. Mange was hilarious, and Helen's death completely cheapens the end of "Rake at the Gates of Hell," one of my favorite HB storylines.

 

The return of Ellie and the Demon Constantine were also mishandled. There was a lot of potential in both these characters for the hell storyarc, and their appearances both flopped for me.

 

I did like to see the First of the Fallen again. Props to Carey for writing him better than both Jenkins and Ennis. While he was an overpowered dolt in Ennis' run and too much of a goof in Jenkins', Carey struck the perfect balance of humor and true menace.

 

But even the First's improvement is a double-edged sword. Because of his presence, the resolution to "Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go" is very unsatisfactory. I'm not talking about Cheryl's death and damnation. That was cool. But after a dozen issues of buildup, Constantine's troubles with Rosacarnis, his demon offspring and Nergal are resolved in three pages when the First simply zaps them all.

 

Okay. That's a lot of complaining, but I really did like this run quite a bit. I liked that from the very first issue, the reader got the sense that something much larger was going on behind the scenes. I liked seeing John back in England as opposed to mixing it up with hick pornographers and fey billionaires who are not the least bit menacing even if you read the stories drunk with all the lights off.

 

I liked they way the storylines flowed into each other. I really liked Manco's artwork. And I loved every single one of the stand-alone issues, especially "Cross Purpose" and "The Gift." I know a lot of people didn't much care for "Event Horizon," but I didn't see any problems with it. I would agree that it should have been placed elsewhere in the overall arc, though.

 

Carey's development of Gemma was also deftly handled. She's getting to be as big a bastard as her uncle. I love it.

 

Oh, a few more niggles: I didn't really care for Angie post-"Staring at the Wall" she wasn't much of a character before that, and she was totally useless afterwards. Also, Frusin's art started to really suck towards the end of his tenure. And the overall breakneck pace of the story didn't allow for many of the slower, more character-driven moments that I really liked in Ennis' run.

 

For the most part, Carey's run was exciting and well-written. The post-#200 issues were weaker, but still very entertaining. I'm glad to see that the entire run will be traded, but its reliance on the Hellblazer mythos means it will be a bit difficult for new readers to jump in.

 

Solid 8/10 for the whole run. Looking foward to getting both RSVPs in December.

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I agree with almost everything you say, although I thought he got Watford's voice a bit wrong - Ellis seemed to write him a more of a full-on Cockney type, whereas Carey's was a little more eloquent. I did prefer Carey's, though - the banter between him and John was excellent, and I wish Mike had used him more often.

 

I'd give it 9/10 in total, largely let down by inconsistent art.

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Judging by the suprising strength of #214, I now think that any autopsy on my part(And there will be as the prosecution) is a little premature.

 

Massive hopes on #215 though.

Impossible hopes?

Possibly, but I am excited.

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I'm with John W. on almost everything he says, right down to the final score. A few minor differences of opinion (I still don't think that the death of Helen has any impact at all on Rake At The Gates Of Hell, for example. In fact, I thought that she and Mange were the only two victims of 'Reasons To Be Cheerful - except for Cheryl, obviously - to have any real impact or significance at all). Otherwise, pretty much spot-on, particularly about the lack of character afforded to Angie, the underwhelming and too-convenient-by-half resolution to 'Down In The Ground', and the general drop-off in quality post-#200 (with the exceptions of the superlative #206 and #213-214). I was disappointed by the over-reliance on older continuity, but the flip-side of that is that Mike's done a generally fantastic job of reconciling an awful lot of pretty disparate takes on the character and title into a single, mostly-coherent whole, for which some kudos is deserved. He may not have introduced many new characters into the mythos (although I'll be curious to see how, or if, Maria Constantine will be used by future writers), but his development of Gemma into a genuinely worthy foil for her uncle (and an interesting and sympathetic character in her own right), and his mostly-effective deployment of Warren Ellis' supporting cast, have been commendable.

 

Anyway, here's hoping #215 will live up to the high expectations which have been placed on it, and that Denise Mina's subsequent run maintains the high standard which have been set over the last few years.

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"I still don't think that the death of Helen has any impact at all on Rake At The Gates Of Hell, for example. In fact, I thought that she and Mange were the only two victims of 'Reasons To Be Cheerful - except for Cheryl, obviously - to have any real impact or significance at all). "

How does Mange's death carry any impact or significance?! :lol:

Sure, he's a Forum favourite, but story-wise, he made one appearance, and didn't impact John's life at all in that one appearance.

Helen would've bee the one impactful death IF John even knew she was dead.

 

Carey's run gets a book-end 10/10....too bad everything in the middle didn't come close to holding up to "High on Life" and Carey's last 3 issues.

Overall, I'd give Carey's run a 7/10. It ranks pretty close to even with Jenkins' run for me. Carey's run was overall more exciting than Jenkins' run, but Jenkins' best stories are some of the most impactful in the series, where I don't feel the same about any of Carey's stories except the death of Cheryl. I liked Jenkins' take of J.C. better than Carey's, but only because Carey very rarely let us into John's head.

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How does Mange's death carry any impact or significance?! :lol:

Sure, he's a Forum favourite, but story-wise, he made one appearance, and didn't impact John's life at all in that one appearance.

Helen would've bee the one impactful death IF John even knew she was dead.

 

That's precisely why Mange's death had an impact - unlike most of the others, he was a fondly-remembered character from a well-known and popular story. Ergo, his death has emotional impact for the reader.

 

John does know Helen's dead, incidentally. He met her in the second issue of 'Down In The Ground Where The Dead Men Go', along with all the other ghosts.

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"John does know Helen's dead, incidentally. He met her in the second issue of 'Down In The Ground Where The Dead Men Go', along with all the other ghosts."

OHHH!!!!

Too bad Carey didn't have a chance to follow that one up, directly. It could've made a great little character-piece. This is the time when a "Hellblazer" anthology series like Batman:LOTDK would come in really bloody handy.

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I'm...really not a big fan of the Jenkins run. Apart from the "Critical Mass" and "Difficult Beginnings" stories, which are actually very good, I thought Jenkins' take of Constantine was full of lots of good ideas, but just not very fun to read. After the above-mentioned stories, I had to almost force myself through the rest of his run.

 

Carey's run had its issues, but I found it a million times more cohesive and enjoyable than Jenkins.

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It was quite a good scene as it stood in #208, actually. She was one of the ghosts who actually spoke to him directly, and they had an interesting (if brief) little confrontation, during which he tried to apologize, and she was having none of it. Worth digging out to re-read, if you wanted closure on that particular plot strand.

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I pretty much agree with J.Waterman, although with one issue left I'll state what I liked about the Carey era.

 

Pros

Mike has Constantine's voice and characterization down. A welcome return from Brian's take on the character.

 

He kept me interested througout his run on where he was going with the storyline, which I can't really say about Jenkins.

 

All His Engines is a great self contained OGN and I'd like to see more.

 

Chas was used well.

 

I liked how he basically tied up the entire run so far, pretty much leaving a fresh slate for future writers.

 

It was fun to read.

 

Cons

I was disappointed with the payoff in the "Staring at the Wall' storyline. It had such a great buildup for about a year and then it it boiled down to Constantine's spirit fighting a big horned monster with an imaginary axe and then it being defeated by everyone thinking about dogs.

 

The over-use of "Magick" to cover plot holes and to get things moving.

 

I felt the re-using of Ellie, Sir Francis Bacon, and some of Jenkin's cast was un-necessary. Although I was disappointed with the Demon Constanine appearence at least Mike seemingly closed off that loose end.

 

There was some re-treading on past ground, especially in "Out of Season"--a serial killer targets Constantine by threatning those he loves and it ends with John shooting him.

 

Overall though I would say it was a successful run.

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I enjoyed reading Carey's run the first time over but half of his issues do not have rereadability for me. I still consider his run fairly good though.

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Yeah I think I'll need to come back to it in a years time and see how it ages. And I meant Adam's pointless summoning Sir Francis Dashwood, not Sir Francis Bacon. Although that might have been cooler.

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Guest spiderlegs

I think the run became more compelling toward the end. IMO, the beginning of the run seemed a little "clumsy" (for lack of a better word) as a new writer to the series took hold of and grasped the character. In fact, after Azarello's "hit & miss" run, I was concerned Carey's might be the same, though I enjoyed the earlier stuff when I reread it, perhaps due to having been familiarized with his style over the run.

 

So, overall, it's the best run since Ennis' and I think Carey's was just as strong (even with one more issue to come). So, IMO, Carey and Ennis are tied for my favorite runs (and understand I am only through 13 issues by Delano because his run is hardest for me to get; so while I dig Delano's run, it still gets an incomplete from me until I have read the whole run).

 

I think All His Engines ranks up with V for Vendetta, Kingdom Come, The Watchmen, The Dark Night Returns, SIN CITY: The Hard Goodbye (though my version of the trade is simply called "SIN CITY" with no reference to the newer "THGb" title from the film), Transmet: Lust for Life, Stormwatch: A Finer World, and ALIENS: Labrynth on the short list of my favorite trades.

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"I think All His Engines ranks up with V for Vendetta, Kingdom Come, The Watchmen, The Dark Night Returns, SIN CITY: The Hard Goodbye (though my version of the trade is simply called "SIN CITY" with no reference to the newer "THGb" title from the film), Transmet: Lust for Life, Stormwatch: A Finer World, and ALIENS: Labrynth on the short list of my favorite trades."

 

"V For Vendetta" and "Dark Knight Returns" were better than "All His Engines".

"All His Engines" ranks with "Watchmen".

I liked it better than "Kingdom Come", "Sin City", and "Transmet".

Never read "Stormwatch", and have a hard time figuring how Aliens is even on this list!

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"All His Engines" ranks with "Watchmen".

 

I love the smell of absurd hyperbole in the morning. Smells like...victory.

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I'd say they were in the same league but that Watchmen was amongst those who were fighting for qualification for the Champion's League and All His Engines was fighting against relegation into the Championship.

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"I love the smell of absurd hyperbole in the morning. Smells like...victory."

 

You may say that now, but wait until the next Wizard Top 50 Comic Stories Ever event.

3.Dark Knight Returns

2.Watchmen

1.Hellblazer:All His Engines-We never thought anything would knock Watchmen off the top stop, but comic readers are all saying, "Alan Moore, who? We want Carey!" Yes, this story truly is as good as anything by Joyce, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Tolstoy, or Hemingway. It's your #1 comic story of all time!

 

:lol: :lol: :lol:

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I am afraid that Mike Carey has done a 'Paul Jenkins' on me.

 

I enjoyed the comic, with Ennis, Ellis and even some of azzerello, but Carey turned me off. I may give it a go again when Mina takes over.

 

Strangely, I have gotten two new readers into constintine during Careys run, by suggesting ennis GN's and they naturally starrted picking up the title, so it may be just my taste, but I will be glad to see someone new along, who will hopefully do something about the dismall ever decreasing figures.

 

It does appear I am not the only one.

 

I wonder about Mina though, like why not Mark Millar or Brian Michael Bendis or a writer who is well known, and can produce the goods.

 

I cant judge a book by its cover, so will let Mina have a fair shot, and hellblzer has been cutting edge at times, allowing many a UK creator a shot in the US market, so will wait and see, but somehow feel there is a lackof vision.

 

 

 

J

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I disagree on your take on Mina. I think hiring her shows vision in a way hiring an "old hand" wouldn't. She's more than proven her mettle as a writer, and her books show that she can write the kind of people we meet in HB very very convincingly. I think it's a courageous and good move, and am dead excited to see what she cooks up.

 

But hey, different strokes and all that.

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Getting a name such as Bendis or Millar to write it would produce the goods in terms of attracting readers I'm sure but I'm very excited by the choice of new writer having read the Garnethill trilogy I think she can deliver the goods in terms of quality of writing.

 

Also you never know her more mainstream success in novels might have some crossover potential and introduce fans of her work who are non-comic readers to the world of Hellblazer.

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Hiring an authour with a track record is good, I agree, and as I said, she needs to have a fair shot.

 

But Bendis has done something amazing with daredevil, a comic no one would have reckoned could escape the shadow of Millers work on the title, and to be honest may be its equal. Hiring the likes of him for Hellblazer, that would be couragous, as its gonna cost, and thats also a form of courage on behalf of the editors.

 

I think increasing numbers is not the main thing, but I do feel that hellblazer deserves a quality of writing and artwork that it has lacked. I also think that sometimes, but not always, when a story is great, it may increase sales.

 

If Mina doesnt do anything amazing, there is no loss, the titles at 14,000 so what.

I Hope she can delever though.

 

Ennis' first US comic was hellblazer, so there is a track record of finding new work, but I think right now the comic needs more than a new writer.

 

James

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