Saturday, July 17, 2010

Blogathon 03: Hellblazer #31, 35 & 84

[Discussed in this post: Hellblazer #31 ("Mourning of the Magician"), 35 ("Dead-Boy's Heart"), and 84 ("In Another Part of Hell").]

Up next is a trio of Jamie Delano-penned issues, all drawn by Sean Phillips. The second two (along with issue 11 and the three issues in the next post) come from Rare Cuts, a trade collecting some (then) uncollected issues of the series around the time that Constantine came out in theatres. I'm also discussing #31 because I just happen to have that issue. All three are solid little stories that show off both Delano and Phillips's skills.

"Mourning of the Magician" focuses on the aftermath of the death of John's father. John's relationship with his father is a somewhat complicated one where John's mother died giving birth to him. We learn later that she died because John's father pushed her to terminate the pregnancy. As a result, John's father was left raising him and his older sister, Cheryl, and resented the fuck out of John. That John was always a bit of an evil fuck didn't help. John's dad died because of John and someone who wanted to strike at him. Here, Gemma, John's niece, is being haunted by the ghost of her newly deceased grandfather. Her parents can't see him and she doesn't know what to do. John eventually intervenes and we learn that, when he was 14, he put a spell on his father, tying him to a dead cat. As it decayed, his health got worse, so bad that John regretted his decision and put the cat in a jar of formaldehyde to keep it from decaying any further, and buried it. John's dad's health stopped deteriorating, but also didn't get any better. His ghost has been lingering because it's still tied to the cat, so John digs it up and dumps it out, allowing his father's spirit to pass on... to Hell, we later learn.

It's a good little ghost story with some emotional elements tied in. Gemma's relationship with her uncle is an interesting one as she looks up to and admires him despite his desire that she doesn't. John skips the funeral for the most part, preferring to watch his father get cremated. He obviously doesn't like the 'emotional' stuff. We also learn more about the effects of magic and how it can lead to unintended consequences. Sean Phillips was early in his career at this point and the art is a little rough. The colouring is very moody and willing to just use one blanket colour for entire panels if it seems appropriate. An interesting looking comic.

"Dead-Boy's Heart" focuses on John when he was eight and living with his aunt and uncle because his father was arrested for stealing women's panties apparently. It's a rather good story about a young boy who feels lost in the world and gets by through his imagination. He annoys his sister, is bullied, is misunderstood by adults, and has an encounter with the boogeyman, a local name for a man who lives in a shack at the abandoned quarry. When some older boys dare him to go down and steal some porn mags from the shack, John is nearly caught and comes across the remains of a young boy. He takes the reddish-rock-like heart for himself. There's an interesting scene where we see that he's built this little prison for bugs and kills them with the dead-boy's heart. It's disturbing and you can see some of the sociopathic tendencies of the character in that way little boys have. In the end, John feels guilty about taking the heart, thinking the dead-boy may need it, so he returns to the quarry and throws it back, but it lands on the shack... and the boogeyman doesn't come out. He realises that it must have went straight through and killed him. He's horrified and runs away, realising that he's become a monster in his own way. Very good art by Phillips here. Much clearer and he handles the eight-year old John very well. There's a real precociousness in the way he draws him. He looks like a little shit who gets up to a lot of trouble.

"In Another Part of Hell" came out after Garth Ennis left the book and Delano returned for a one-off issue. In it, John's best friend and sidekick, Chas, has just become a grandfather and John hangs out at Chas's place until Chas returns with his wife, daughter, and granddaughter. While waiting, he remembers living there with Chas and Chas's mother for a time period. Chas's mother, Queenie, was a fat, ugly bitch who ruled over Chas, bossing him around, and acting a tyrant. She never left her bed, using a monkey in a dress and wig to be her eyes and ears all around. It's just some funny, awful stuff. John realises that to get at Queenie, he needs to kill the monkey and does so by hinting that he's in love with it so it will let its guard down. Not a groundbreaking issue, but a nice little one-off. There's also some good Renee (Chas's wife) yelling at John stuff (as she hates him). Phillips returning was a good call since he did a good chunk of Delano's run and he was coming on board the book full-time again.

In 30 minutes, I'll do the two issues Grant Morrison wrote and a random Ennis-penned issue...

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