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Hellblazer #282

  

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  1. 1. Your marks out of 10 for Hellblazer #282, please...

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Hellblazer #282

 

HLB_Cv282.jpg

 

Written by PETER MILLIGAN

Art and cover by SIMON BISLEY

 

Don’t miss this startling stand-alone tale! In a British prison, a shape-shifting product of the Babylonian backstreets called Julian is about to have some fun at the prisoners’ expense. Now, the prison has become a kind of living Hell – even more than before – which should make John Constantine feel right at home when he poses as an inmate and tries to dish out his own rough justice to demonic prisoner number 666.

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Good creepy done-in-one story of the kind we haven't seen much of in recent years. Bisley's art wasn't awful, for a change. On the minus side, Julian's antics seemed a bit generic - he just didn't seem the same twisted little creep we've met previously.

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On the minus side, Julian's antics seemed a bit generic - he just didn't seem the same twisted little creep we've met previously.

Yeah, not to disappoint Lou but Julian could easily have been replaced by any old nasty type and the story would read the same.

 

Azzarello kind of wrung the prison setting dry for John so this felt like it was just...there...really.

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This one I'm marking down because of personal taste.

I just didn't much enjoy the story and it was quite generic, but I suppose it was a decent story in its own right. Just not to my interests.

Not much to say about it otherwise. Some of the writing was a bit sloppy.

John's married to the "hot girl"....Ugh.

Still, it's all about subjectivity, so I have to give it a 5.

 

Oh, and I hope the answer to the last question on the letter's page is Cheap Trick!

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Very poor stuff. Good build-up but absolutely nothing of note after that. What was Julian doing? We know he was changing people on a molecular level, but... in what way? And to what end? How has John been affected, physically or spiritually by this? Why is there a complete lack of agency on his part?

 

And that ending was just pathetic. Oh no! John's defences are down! Oh, wait, whatever it is that's happening isn't actually killing him, nor doing anything noticeably troublesome to him emotionally. And then Epiphany cooks up a pill - off-panel no less - that solves the problem completely? And then it just ends? Pff.

 

It's the sort of thing he could half get away with if there were some kind of emotional story being told about John or Julian here, or a satirical point or... just anything. But no, it's as flat as roadkill, and just as rotten.

 

I'd love to know what's going on with Milligan at the minute, because I can't understand how someone with so much experience could turn out something that completely lacks anything resembling a dramatic structure. This isn't even a case of first-draft-itis. This is like he dictated it off the top of his head down the phone, ad-libbed everything after John being attacked in solitary and then never went back to it again. It's draft 0.5, not draft one. And it's extraordinary that it managed to make it to Bisley's drawing board without anyone raising an eyebrow.

 

For those who think this is a good done-in-one story, I'd draw their attention Andy Diggle's 'The Smoke'; Mike Carey's 'A Game of Cat and Mouse' or 'The Wild Card'; Jamie Delano's 'Going for it'; Garth Ennis's 'And the Crowd Goes Wild' or, yes, Neil Gaiman's 'Hold Me'.

 

Each one of those has drama, whether that's physical action (Carey's stories, 'The Smoke', 'Going for it') or emotional friction ('Hold Me', 'And the Crowd Goes Wild'). Each one has John actively participate in the events of the story, and - where relevant - presents him with a credible threat and a plausible, well-thought-out way for John to defeat it. And as an added bonus they're rich with political content ('Hold Me', 'Going for it'), intriguing ideas and twists ('The Smoke', 'Wild Card') and/or a tremendous sense of place and time ('A Game of Cat and Mouse', 'And the Crowd Goes Wild').

 

'Inside' has none of this. No human drama, no plausible threat, no satisfying conclusion, no sense that the prison is Belmarsh rather than any old clichéd shithole anywhere in the world, nothing to say or do or mean at all, just a flimsy, sad nothing of a 'story'.

 

This is shit, basically, and Milligan should be embarrassed to have his name on it. Not acceptable at all. 1/10.

 

 

EDIT: Just went back to check that Shelly Bond's name is still credited as editor. It is. Very surprising.

 

EDIT 2: A bit too harsh? Or not a bit too harsh enough?

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A lot of amazing writers have gone downhill as their career progressed.

When was the last time Gaiman wrote anything as brilliant as he was writing in the 1980s-early 1990s? And, Gaiman is only working part-time in comics, so he has more time to develop ideas, while Milligan is still working full-time.

I'm not sure how to explain it either. He was my favourite write just a handful of years ago, but I don't believe I've enjoyed any of his work in the past seven years.

Now, it's not that everything Milligan has written, even at his heights, was a work of genius. He had some work-for-hire stuff at Marvel in the 1990s which was trash (Elektra for one), but at the same time, you could excuse it as Milligan taking work to make money so he could concentrate on the work he wanted to do. I somehow doubt that he has zero interest in the character of John Constantine, plus this is the only monthly title Milligan is writing at this time.

I'll give you that it seems to be more than "writer's block" also, as his writing ability does seem to have evaporated.

Secret Seven, as much as it pains me to say this, could have been written by Howard Mackie in how poorly developed, lacking in characterization, and basically unreadable it was.

 

I wonder if it's true that comic companies are paying writers a slim amount simply to use their name on the credits and in reality are having computers churning out scripts now.

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WTF did I just read? Very shitty effort by Milligan. No direction, random plot points that went nowhere, very dissapointed by this turd of a story.. I can't believe this was Hellblazer or Milligan.. Ugh

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EDIT 2: A bit too harsh? Or not a bit too harsh enough?

"This is shit" was too harsh, but I'm with you on every other point. (Well expressed, by the way.)

 

282 was my last issue of Hellblazer until a new writer comes on board.

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3/10 of which 2.5 is for the art, which was not Bisley on top form.

 

A story completely undermined by Azzarello's prison story and the "Constantine undercover in "captivity" was deemed unnecessary by Rankin's graphic novel.

So ask yourself. Why?

 

I would wish to note that Julian's scorned revenge was no better than Gemma's whatever it is that has happened with Gemma.

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After all that, it's nice to see a review that doesn't think this issue's the worst thing since sliced Mina -

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=user_review&id=3823

 

On reflection, maybe my positive response was coloured by relief that it wasn't as bad as the previous Bisley issues. Still, it's far from the worst of recent years (and I'll still take Milligan over Carey or Diggle).

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First, Frank Miller, then Grant Morrison (in my eyes, anyway) now Peter Milligan...

 

I demand Paul Cornell to write a one-off and China Mieville to be the next series writer as compensation for the most pitiful run I've had the misfortune of reading since Devin Grayson's run on Nightwing. Shit,I'll welcome another Denise Mina run than this!

 

As for art,I rather have Ardian Syaf for guest art than Bisley.

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After all that, it's nice to see a review that doesn't think this issue's the worst thing since sliced Mina -

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=user_review&id=3823

 

On reflection, maybe my positive response was coloured by relief that it wasn't as bad as the previous Bisley issues. Still, it's far from the worst of recent years (and I'll still take Milligan over Carey or Diggle).

 

I'm not sure who I'd take. Can I ask for Delano back?

 

I've seen quite a few positive reviews of Milligan's HB around the 'net. Some people seem to be really enjoying the series. In fact, outside of on this Forum, I have rarely come across a bad review of current HB. It makes me wonder what others are seeing, until I come back here, and realize that they're all deluded. he he he

Probably it's because you have hardcore John Constantine fans here who keep reading the book even though they no longer enjoy it, while other casual HB fans just leave the title when they stop enjoying it, so overall the people reading the book are people who enjoy the book.

I know I probably should have stopped reading the book when Azzarello was around, but I couldn't make myself give us on what might be coming up in the life of JC, and regretfully, I've continued to wait and wait.

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Maybe the long-term readers on this forum have higher expectations. Folks who came along in the last ten years would probably have a different notion of what Hellblazer is.

 

I don't think Peter Milligan's Hellblazer is awful: just so mediocre as to be not worth reading.

 

Spare a thought for poor old Ade, who's unable to drop the book no matter how bad it gets. :smile:

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This idea of Jason's is not true.

 

I dropped it under Azzarello because of Highwater and only filled the gaps later from the bargain bins and I am quite close to doing so again.

The reasons I didn't drop the book under Mina was that it was a short run and there was enough to enjoy (as mentioned frequently her basic story idea and her writing of Constantine, plus Manco's art) and unlike Azzarello and Milligan there was nothing to convert annoyance to anger.

 

With the former it was the drip-drip of the sex subplot and the final straw was the episode of the white supremacist being so badly written that it reads like it is an unchallenged pamphlet (editorial error of advert placement as much as writer, perhaps). I did not start reading again til Azzarello left.

 

With Milligan, it has been the focus on his soap opera cast and his handling of the female characters.

Ironically, this latest issue has only Epiphany and still manages annoyance.

Oh and possibly my least favourite portrayal of Constantine in living memory (although my memory refreshed would no doubt bring to mind a couple more).

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Maybe the long-term readers on this forum have higher expectations. Folks who came along in the last ten years would probably have a different notion of what Hellblazer is

 

I know that the interpretation of art is subjective and all that, but not in this case, surely? Okay, 'High Frequency Man' sure. My complaint with that story was that Constantine brutally murdering someone for trying to evict him was totally out of character, but I can see why someone who doesn't know or care about that might enjoy the story.

 

But this? I mean, it's just dramatically crippled, surely? The villain isn't actually much of a threat at all - he goes gross stuff, but it doesn't seem to have much of an effect on John. John himself, despite being the protagonist, completely lacks agency; he's buffeted around by outside forces instead of actually doing anything. And Julian's plans are so unclear (and his methods so vaguely sketched) that it robs him, the story and the resolution of any kind of impact. The leaps in time take away any sense of horror about what John's having to endure** and because nobody explains exactly what he's ultimately doing (is he eating the prisoners' souls, bit by bit? Infecting them with his tainted essence? Turning them into his thralls? What?) it's all a bit toothless.

 

And that resolution! Remember when The Simpsons ended an episode with a voiceover saying, 'And then the kids were saved by, oh, let's say... Moe'? Well that worked because it was a comedy. Having pretty much the same thing happen here, but with Epiphany (and a tiny sliver of set-up), is just the height of laziness. Was it that hard to have John come up with a plan of his own?

 

 

*Including Milligan's own, oddly enough.

** Imagine a page of six or so panels, each with an appalling, demeaning, awful thing happening to John: MONDAY. TUESDAY. WEDNESDAY. etc. Better, surely?

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James, I was referring to Pete's entire run, not just to issue 282. And stop calling me Shirley.

 

You left out the single asterisk ("*Including Milligan's own, oddly enough"). Where was it supposed to go?

 

 

Oh and possibly my least favourite portrayal of Constantine in living memory (although my memory refreshed would no doubt bring to mind a couple more).

 

I still prefer it to the grinning pseudo-villain in the Azzarello/Frusin run. And the version in Search For Swamp Thing.

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John himself, despite being the protagonist, completely lacks agency; he's buffeted around by outside forces instead of actually doing anything.

You could say the same of many classic stories, back to some of the best of Delano's run. Vagueness - the unknown and unkonwable - can be very effective in a supernatural story.

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James, I was referring to Pete's entire run, not just to issue 282. And stop calling me Shirley.

 

You left out the single asterisk ("*Including Milligan's own, oddly enough"). Where was it supposed to go?

 

 

Oh and possibly my least favourite portrayal of Constantine in living memory (although my memory refreshed would no doubt bring to mind a couple more).

 

I still prefer it to the grinning pseudo-villain in the Azzarello/Frusin run. And the version in Search For Swamp Thing.

 

I tend to think of Azzarello's Constantine as the one in his Hard Time and Freezes Over. I am kind like that.

I realise I have given Milligan longer to fail to satisfy me. But he did a fine turn around for a couple of issues.

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John himself, despite being the protagonist, completely lacks agency; he's buffeted around by outside forces instead of actually doing anything.

You could say the same of many classic stories, back to some of the best of Delano's run. Vagueness - the unknown and unkonwable - can be very effective in a supernatural story.

 

When we have an extablished character there has to be some denouement for out of character moments, such as his stuttering rescue by Epiphany here.

Carey'd have had Angie working alongside him.

Ennis would have had Kit call him a useless auld eejit.

 

James is 99% right on this issue.

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Yup. That was poop.

 

It had three things I love: Terry coercing John into a scheme, Julian, and prison drama, and somehow still managed to suck.

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You left out the single asterisk ("*Including Milligan's own, oddly enough"). Where was it supposed to go?

 

Oh, there was a bit about John acting out of character in High-Frequency Man 'compared with every issue previously published, but I snipped it because the sentence was running on for far too long.

 

John himself, despite being the protagonist, completely lacks agency; he's buffeted around by outside forces instead of actually doing anything.

You could say the same of many classic stories, back to some of the best of Delano's run. Vagueness - the unknown and unkonwable - can be very effective in a supernatural story.

 

Not sure that's entirely true. Delano's Constantine at least actively investigated and confronted the antagonists in his story, and while he didn't always win it wasn't through lack of trying. Where he was ineffectual there was either a wider point to be made ('When Johnny Comes Marching Home', the one about the Vietnam vet, springs to mind) to give the story some weight, or John's ineffectualness was part of the narrative (the climax of 'The Fear Machine', in which SPOILER: he is used by Zed and Marj, who are truly in control of the situation).

 

'Inside' lacks any kind of political, philosophical, sociological or satirical heft, and John being a vector for others to deal with the threat appears to be the result of a lack of serious thought about the writing of the story rather than a particular point being made.

 

I realise that - especially in my first couple of posts in this thread - I look genuinely angry about all this. I'm not, honest! Actually, I feel more bemused than anything - like when I watched the first season of Torchwood; genuine bafflement at how something so incompetent could possibly make it through the development process and be put out into the public domain. As dull as The Search for Swamp Thing is, at least it has something vaguely approaching a recognisable dramatic structure.

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Not sure that's entirely true. Delano's Constantine at least actively investigated and confronted the antagonists in his story, and while he didn't always win it wasn't through lack of trying.

I was thinking particularly of 'Sundays are Different'. 'On the Beach' also springs to mind. Or the John Smith one, or the Morrison two-parter. All of which are personal faves.

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Not sure that's entirely true. Delano's Constantine at least actively investigated and confronted the antagonists in his story, and while he didn't always win it wasn't through lack of trying.

I was thinking particularly of 'Sundays are Different'. 'On the Beach' also springs to mind. Or the John Smith one, or the Morrison two-parter. All of which are personal faves.

 

'Sundays are Different', 'On the Beach' and the Morrison story have the get-out clause that I mentioned of actually being about something* - and the Morrison/Smith stories are rich in atmosphere and strangeness, which helps. If 'Inside' were half as sickly, grimy and evocative as 'Counting to Ten' then I wouldn't have that much of a problem. But it's so lifeles...

 

(Also, in the Morrison one John stops nuclear armageddon from happening in Britain, which I'd say is a bit of an achievement.)

 

 

 

 

*The breakdown of communication, nuclear paranoia and a proposed thanatotic urge sitting coiled in Britain's collective psyche, respectively.

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Yeah, I find Delano's stories to be Existentialism. John is buffered about by forces that are outside of himself and that he's helpless to stop.

I always enjoyed the fact that in Delano's stories, John can kick a demon's ass thoroughly, but the real threats, the ones that leave John broken, are the ones that come from humanity.

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