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Demon Chas08

Revisitations 5: The Brian Azzarello Affair (2000-2002)

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Now we enter the two years that hurt the monthly more than help (thought somewhat vindicated with his short story in #250); plus introduced us to Giuseppe Camuncoli for the first (of three times guest artwise). Also included Delano and Bond's Bad Blood mini and our boy's turn in BKV's Tefe led Swamp Thing series.

 

Same rules apply from the last five and all that. On to the doggy blowjobs and obvious yet crappy Batman analogues!

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Actually, from what I understand, Azzarello really did help Hellblazer, as after Ellis left, Vertigo was left with no writer on the title, and Azzarello came aboard at the last minute. I don't know what Vertigo would have done if the Azzarello run didn't happen. I think the sales were pretty good too. I'm not sure of the statistics, but it seems like the book was selling better than during the Carey years, and I know sales had increased since Jenkins (tragically).

 

Having said that, it was the point where I lost interest in Hellblazer, and the love never returned.

I remember picking up the first issue of Hard Time, and thinking "this was something different", and by the end of the Hard Time arc, I was thinking "this really isn't what I want to read in HB". Next month, we saw rednecks making bestiality porn....

 

Bad Blood was pretty enjoyable.

 

I didn't care about the Tefe Swamp Thing series. I read most of it, because it was during the period when I would put any Vertigo title on my pull list (and Vertigo titles were about all that were on my pull list at that time too), but I was never interested in that title.

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Azarrello's metaplot was confusing (or pointless, according to taste), but the attempt to do something different and showing Constantine acting like a total bastard wasn't too be sniffed at. Whatever can be said against this run, there's a few decent stories mixed in with the doggy porno and daft conspiracy, and Frusin's best art on Hellblazer, which makes up for a lot.

 

Bad Blood was, read with a critical eye, a story strung on a set of even dafter assumptions than Azzarrello's. Doesn't mean it isn't great fun, but if you're not having Doglick or Batman, why are you having a tale that assumes the sanctification of a dead Royal?

 

The BKV Swamp Thing was an interesting failure. Treating Tefe as the lead and her dad as an irrelevance was one of the few things that hadn't been done to deathtried since the early '80s, so it was worth a shot. Pity the end result just managed to find a new setting for most of the historical faults of post-Moore Swamp Thing comics (worthy but dull ideology informing every plot, whinging angst junkies passing hemselves off as deep and insightful characters, internal monologues that read like excerpts from the diary of a teenaged girl who's read too much Sylvia Plath, bullshit conspiracies that make no sense, to name but a few...)

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It could be argued that Bad Blood speaks more to the core motif of the Hellblazer series, rather than southern US backwoods stereotypes, first of all.

 

Secondly, at the time Delano started the script for the mini, it seemed reasonable that things might progress in that sort of direction. It was, obviously, satire. This makes the backbone of really good science fiction. Taking a seeming important moment in history, and extrapolating into the future to the furthest extremes of where that may take us. Granted, it was wildly off the mark, which Delano even admitted shortly after the mini was published, and hence why it ranked as an "alternate future", rather than canon for the Hellblazer series.

 

Regardless, that still makes it a fair written story, as opposed to plots where the pay-off is dogs sucking off Constantine, or some sort of tryst between Constantine and his "Batman", that also involved something about John being dead and a totally incomprehensible story.

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Azzarello made me drop the book the first time. I later bought those issues from a bargain bin and read them and was glad I hadn't read them at the time. He was popular and did stabilise the ongoing downward sales for a short while.

 

I've said before that "Freezes Over" is one of my favourite Hellblazer stories, and a couple of the others are okay, but the final year was awful. Poorly plotted mostly, since the Batman/Joker arc closes with a potentially clever "POV" tale where everyone's report of Constantine's death is wrong. Besides being shock horror soft porn, it also fails because that is never made clear at the end - which was an ongoing problem with Azzarello's work. The editor was clearly so enamoured with the creative team that they were never reined in.

 

Main problem: Constantine may be a bastard, but he's not a cunt.

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I didn't comment in the Ellis one cause Ade summed up my feelings for the most part and he's only gone and done the same here, the bastard (not [over-used word]).

 

The story with the small rural town that supported itself through online porn, utter rubbish.

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I thought his opening arc in prison was great.

 

I loved Agent Turro.

 

But the best thing to ever come out of Azz's run was the thread started at the DC forums titled "Sweet Musk of His Balls WTF..." Pure hilarity in there. I also find myself saying SMoHBWTF all the time.

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I didn't comment in the Ellis one cause Ade summed up my feelings for the most part and he's only gone and done the same here, the bastard (not [over-used word]).

 

The story with the small rural town that supported itself through online porn, utter rubbish.

I still to this day don't understand how that's their only option...unless Bruce Wayne SW Manor were the Fermin Bros only contact

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I didn't comment in the Ellis one cause Ade summed up my feelings for the most part and he's only gone and done the same here, the bastard (not [over-used word]).

 

The story with the small rural town that supported itself through online porn, utter rubbish.

I still to this day don't understand how that's their only option...unless Bruce Wayne SW Manor were the Fermin Bros only contact

 

Because they had no money, and porn is cheap to make. It costs next to nothing to buy those high-capacity servers, lay fiber-optic wire to deliver it, set up the encrypted server.

 

Basically, Brian outed himself as someone who knew shit-all about the Internet, except that he liked porn.

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What else do you need to know about the internet?

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What else do you need to know about the internet?

 

Am I writing Hellblazer?

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Are you? Is this good news you're revealing for the first time? Hellblazer is being relaunched, and Qusoor is writing it!

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Well, he's got to do a better job than Milligan...

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Bomb defusing sloth would do a better job than Milligan!

(I like that commercial.)

 

You'll probably need to get started on ol' sloth-man Milligan (as he's been known by absolutely nobody) eventually, because there are only so many writers to revisit on Hellblazer.

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I liked his run up until Ashes & Dust. Highwater was a bit too ambitious and cliche, but it made some great quotes that were scary and poignant. And to follow it up with Ashes and Fuck really diminished it. Hard Time was a really strong beginning.

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Azzarello's run started out so promising, with John in prison. I was immediately intrigued. However, as the storyline progressed, it quickly fell apart. After that opening story arc, it soon became apparent that Azzarello simply didn't understand the character or the series, as John was reduced to a grinning bastard who brought bad luck from town to town, and never seemed to give a crap about anyone. In every way, that was not John. The final several story arcs were very weak, and by the time John shagged a dog, I decided I wasn't even reading Hellblazer anymore. The series had nowhere to go but up after he left. I was so glad when Mike Carey arrived.

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I liked his run up until Ashes & Dust. Highwater was a bit too ambitious and cliche, but it made some great quotes that were scary and poignant. And to follow it up with Ashes and Fuck really diminished it. Hard Time was a really strong beginning.

 

Plus the golum.

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Mm, finally read some Azzarello Hellblazer a few days ago - the 'Good Intentions' trade, so you can probably see where this is going. I mean, the big reveal was honestly South Park material, just played hideously, hideously straight.

 

Well, there were moments at least. But I didn't like it. Pretty awful, really. Readable enough to get through it in one sitting, but shallow enough that I really didn't feel like I'd just one-sitting'd an entire arc. And the plot was, overall, just dumb.

 

To be honest, my overriding feeling was disappointment with Azzarello himself. It's the first non-100 Bullets thing I've read of his, and I was already struggling to care enough to finish the fifth trade of that, so finding out that some of the lamest aspects of that series - the relentless macho wanking; the Frank Miller women; the utter obsession with trawling filthy gutters and cesspits*; the writing to conceal as opposed to reveal - weren't him writing 'in character' to service that series, but are just how his creative mind works. Seeing those traits applied to a fictional world I love was a bit shit. Hellblazer is supposed to make me cringe in horror, not embarrassment.

 

And maybe it's supposed to show how prison changed him, but John -pretty much- killed three people in the course of this story. I know he's supposed to cause death and pain everywhere he goes, but it's usually by omission or carelessness. These were all totally calculated. Probably so the final plot twist would hit harder, but it was such a godawful plot twist (the naked damsels in distress are in fact complicit with their sexual torture - GENIUS) that hurrr up yours Brian

 

*Ennis and Ellis both do this, for sure, but they at least realise it's funny. Azzarello seems to just think it's edgy. The Exxises do it with a snigger, Azzarello does it with an unconvincing badass sneer. The extra few pages after the story's -already fucking ended- of the guy's body getting pulled apart are a perfect example.

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I wouldn't entirely agree, because the two Azzarello stories which most people seem to agree are the best of his run - '...Freezes Over' and 'Lapdogs & Englishmen', both of which I'd happily put up there with the best of Hellblazer - are yet to come.

 

I like Azzarello's run a lot more than seems to be usual around here, but I'm hard-pressed to argue with most of the criticisms people have made of it. 'Good Intentions' is laughable and distasteful for the reasons everyone says it is, and while I think the 'Rashomon' structure of 'Ashes & Dust' works better than some give it credit for, the cackhanded Batman/Joker stuff is a pretty substantial millstone around the story's neck.

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