The Hellblazer #18 – Richard Kadrey, Writer; Davide Fabbri, Penciller; Jose Marzan Jr., Inker; Carrie Strachan, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: John’s Had It With America
Ray: Blending the gritty with the surreal, this arc of Hellblazer, ending this week with Hellblazer #18, has been an odd fit. It’s not quite as slowly paced as the original Simon Oliver year-long run, but it lacks the wild, violent surrealism that Tim Seeley brought to the title (he returns for another arc next month). Instead, it more feels like a detective story that just happens to have supernatural elements in it, and that leads to this final issue feeling a bit like whiplash at times. After an opening page showing Constantine descending into the Bardo, a limbo-like realm, we cut to the two villains plotting over his unconscious body and covering up their crime, before then heading back to Constantine’s reality. There, he faces off against a four-armed God that is none too pleased to have him in his realm.
Something that’s always fun about Constantine is that he just doesn’t care who or what you are. He’ll insult you to your face and then have a smoke. So this segment, where he’s completely nonplussed about the multiple flaming swords in his face, is the issue’s best. Unfortunately, the rest of the issue didn’t live up to that, as he runs around San Francisco before finally confronting the villains at his new ally’s hospital room. The villains never got much development and their plot was lacking compared to past villains, so while Constantine gets a few good moments, this issue mainly seems to be leading up to the final scene. And that scene is essentially Constantine telling off San Francisco and heading back to London. It’s kind of a meta ending, but I imagine this arc will be better received by people who read lots of old Vertigo Hellblazer.
Corrina: John’s conversation with the four-armed god is hilarious and definitely the highlight of this issue and, well, this arc. Kadrey has a gift for the dialogue between them, as John is basically able to play the god to find out the answers he seeks.
Overall, the arc has been up and down, down being the unneeded murder of a female character, but this issue has enough good moments–like the darkly funny scene in the van as the witches force John to help them– to make the story worth reading.
In the end, however, our villains don’t make much of an impression, with the servant easily turning on his master, and the master’s plan for his “enlighted gun” seemed somewhat one-note. I wanted the mystery to add up to more than that, somehow.
So, it’s not the plotting that saves the story but the little moments that occurred over the course of Kadrey’s arc that contain its quality.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.