Saturday, July 17, 2010

Blogathon 06: Hellblazer: Bloodlines (Part 1)

[Discussed in this post: the first part of Hellblazer: Bloodlines, "The Pub Where I was Born" (#47), "Love Kills" (#48), "Lord of the Dance" (#49), and "Remarkable Lives" (#50).]

The follow-up to "Dangerous Habits" isn't that strong, I find. Ennis does the smart thing of giving a few smaller stories after the big six-issue story that nearly had John dead. That doesn't make the two-part story that follows "Dangerous Habits" a great story, though. "The Pub Where I was Born" and "Love Kills" has two central foci: the burgeoning relationship between Kit and John, and a plot surrounding a local pub that some businessman wants to buy and is willing to get it through shady means. The stuff with John and Kit is actually pretty good. Ennis write great dialogue and absolutely nails Kit as a strong, independent woman (god, that sounds just fucking awful in that cliched way) that can see through John's bullshit. And she drinks him under the table (literally). She's the woman he should be with, giving it all up for her... he won't, but that's something to be left until later.

The stuff with the bar is fine, I guess. It doesn't seem to warrant two issues. The basic idea is that a couple owned the bar, the husband died but still haunts it in that nice way where they're still together, and a businessman wants the property for a land deal, so he hires some thugs to burn it to the ground and, in the process, kills the woman. The two ghosts remain and take revenge on those responsible because of what they did to their bar and their love. In the end, John convinces them to stop and not let hate and revenge overtake them. Simpson does the art for the first issue, while Mike Hoffman does the second. Hoffman has a similar style to Simpson, but much more simplistic. I didn't really appreciate Simpson until I'd seen Hoffman's art. It's not that Hoffman is bad, it's just not nearly as polished.

"Lord of the Dance" marks Steve Dillon's first appearance on the book for this Christmas-centric story where John comes across a spirit that claims to be Lord of the Dance, a spirit that came to pagans celebrating a winter festival where they ate and sang songs and danced... until Christians came and put a right end to that. Since then, the Lord of the Dance has wandered the Earth, lost and sad. John shows him that his ways aren't gone by taking him to a pub to get drunk and sing songs and have a great time with friends. A solid issue that manages to approach Christmas from a good angle. How can you go wrong with Ennis and Dillon doing a comic about people drinking in a bar? Dillon's art isn't nearly as polished as it is now, but it's still clearly him. Even not looking his best, I love Dillon's art.

The fiftieth issue of the series, "Remarkable Lives" is a bit different as it introduces the King of Vampires as he makes an offer to John to join him, acting as an informant in exchange for power. John, of course, tells him to go fuck himself. He does so with style by pointing out how sad their existence is: sure, vampires are immortal and prey on humans, but they spend their lives in the dark, hiding, constantly focused on finding new humans to eat. They live one-dimensional lives, while John can enjoy a walk in the park on a sunny day. Throughout the issue, we're given one-page shots with narration of events in the lives of both John and the King of Vampires. It's an interesting technique that works to expand the issue somewhat (and reminds us that the First of the Fallen hasn't forgotten John as he gets his own page). It's a good little one-off issue that has John being a snarky bastard, something I always enjoy. It sets up the King of Vampires holding a grudge against John as well.

Simpson's art in this issue is some of his best work on the book, I find. He gets the mood and body language right. The King of Vampires has a bit of dandy in his movements, while John is both nervous and confident. He really nails the one-page shots, delivering strong, focused images. My favourite is the one featuring John, Brendan, and Kit just hanging out... because, come on...

In 30 minutes, we'll continue our journey through the Bloodlines collection with the four-part "Royal Blood"...

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