Saturday, July 17, 2010

Blogathon 10: Hellblazer: Fear and Loathing (Part Two)

[Discussed in this post: the second part of Hellblazer: Fear and Loathing, "Fear and Loathing" (#64-66) and "Dear John" (#67).]

Remember that promise of John's? That he wouldn't let his 'work' affect Kit? That doesn't exactly work out as planned here. "Fear and Loathing" is a strange arc in that it pulls in a few different directions. On the one hand, it has John planning for the future; on the other, it has everything grinding to a halt. I'm not entirely convinced that what Ennis goes for here works, but that's more a matter for the next post since that covers the aftermath of what happens here.

One part of the story (John planning for the future) follows up on a seed of doubt planted by John back in "Dangerous Habits" when he went to see the Snob, an angel here on Earth. He made a comment about the sort of people Gabriel has been hanging out with and how his Father wouldn't approve. In this arc, he ponders this idea, wondering if he's been fooled by the disguises that bastards wear. He has a crisis of faith as a result, wondering what the point of it all is. He's doing God's work, but doing so by dealing with ungodly people... And, more than that, if he'll be in trouble when he meets his Father again. In the process of his soulsearching, he meets Julie, a nice woman who talks and listens to his problems, assuring him that things aren't that bad. Eventually, they go to bed together and she's revealed to be Ellie and she's stolen his heart (literally). She gives the heart to John and he confronts Gabriel after he's been cast out of Heaven, cutting off Gabriel's wings and leaving him homeless and shattered. The heart is meant to be something to use against the First of the Fallen in the future should he make a move. This is subplot in the arc, but it's a pretty good one. It shows that John isn't sitting idly by, waiting for the First of the Fallen to make his move. It also has some nice independent of John action going on with him stepping in at the end to reveal the entire plan.

The main thrust of the arc stems from that subplot as the British Movement, a group of racists and nationalists, learn that something is going on with Gabriel, who they've been using/manipulating for their purposes. They know John is involved somehow, so they go after him. First, they send a couple of guys to Kit's place where they attack her and she takes them on well. She's not someone to be 'handled' or made the victim. She sends both of them packing, not quite whole, and makes a run for herself. At the same time, John and a black friend of Rick the Vic, Dez, are kidnapped by them, tortured, and Dez is killed, while John manages to get out with help from Dez's brother George and by hinting at what he's been doing to Gabriel. George kills the men responsible for his brother's death and John escapes to deal with Gabriel.

But, the damage has been done: his 'work' has impacted upon Kit. In "Dear John," we see the fallout as she lays into him and leaves him. They say awful things to one another and it ends badly, neither happy, both heartbroken. The rest of the issue focuses on John going on a self-loathing, hating the world bender as he uses his powers to fuck with kids, gets trashed, is saved by Chas, and then tells Chas off, finally winding up in a graveyard, lying on a tomb, drunk and soaked from the rain. Kit returns to Belfast.

It's hard to do "Dear John" justice since it's such an emotionally wrecking issue. Ennis nails it. I'd say it's my favourite issue of his run, because he handles it perfectly and sets up how John reacts to bad things for other writers to follow. John reacts to Kit's anger with anger of his own, making the situation worse, while she won't even discuss it. After all, he has a point: how is he supposed to keep her out of what's going on in his life when he doesn't even know the threat is there? They hit her before they went after him... what was he to do? Neither come out looking good. Steve Dillon is masterful in John and Kit's anger, their sadness, and John sense of pure self-pity later in the issue. While his work isn't nearly as polished as it is now, all of the basic skills are there. The final page where we get a series of panels of Kit's face as she's on a boat, leaving for Ireland, are masterful. He moves in with ease and gives us just enough.

I'll deal with more of the fallout of John and Kit's split in 30 minutes with Tainted Love...

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]