Saturday, July 17, 2010

Blogathon 18: Hellblazer: Setting Sun

[Discussed in this post: Hellblazer: Setting Sun "Locked" (#140), "The Crib" (#141), "Setting Sun" (#142), "One Last Love Song" (#142), and "Telling Tales" (#143).]

I've included all of the Art Discussion Month 2010 links in the above list for your reading pleasure. This collection is a pretty decent one. I like Ellis's focus on the horror aspect of the character rather than the magic side. He uses magic, but there isn't stuff like demons and devils, there's just the awful shit people do to one another. That's the point of "Locked," "The Crib," and "Setting Sun." All three are stories where you could explain it all away by magic: it's a possessed room, it's the crib of the miscarried anti-christ, or it's just a ghost. But, no, they're all about how it's just people. People doing these awful, horrific things to one another. Serial killers aren't monsters, they're people. All of the atrocities in history were committed by people. More often than not, people like you or me. That's a big part of what Ellis was going for here; even if there is magic involved, the magic is just a tool. Blaming the magic would be like blaming the knife of the man who cuts people up into little pieces.

I don't think that Ellis hates the other Hellblazer stuff at all, it just doesn't interest him as a writer. He doesn't believe in it, if you will. Ennis wrote a great story involving the First of the Fallen -- the fucking Devil! Ellis couldn't do that without it being a giant joke, because the Devil ain't scary. He said as much in the intro to Strange Kiss. And I like that approach -- if only because it stands out from the rest of the Hellblazer stories I've read. Ellis and Azzarello stand alone somewhat in that regard: they like the grounded stories where magic is there, but not at the centre of things. It's more about John's wits and outsmarting other people. Him being a creepy bastard that knows more than you think.

One of my favourite John Constantine stories is "One Last Love Song." Whenever people want to call Ellis a cynical bastard with no heart, part of me wants to give them this story. Oh, there's cynicism, but, at its core, it's just about missing old girlfriends. Missing the way you felt with them. Missing old loves. John's had a lot of girlfriends. He has that personality and you can tell that he misses them all. He would have liked it to work with one of them, but it didn't. And he can really only admit it when he's drunk and on his way home, in the wee hours of the morning -- you know the time, the time where you regret things and admit the truths about yourself that you deny in the daylight.

"Telling Tales" is a fun story. It's nothing but a laugh. John Constantine putting on some idiot and watching as he eats up whatever bullshit lies he tells. It's hard to take the story too seriously even before you get the punchline. I do love the beginning where some guy is looking for John Constantine to help him because he may have shat out his heart and John tells him to fuck off.

I really like Ellis's take on John. There's a real tenderness to him, but also a lot of cynicism and lack of patience with idiots. I sometimes wonder what would have come next if Ellis hadn't left the book. I assume he had bigger plans, probably ones that came out of Haunted somehow (because the bigger plans always come out of the first story). Maybe Josh Wright's revenge. Or maybe something else entirely.

"Hey, Chad?" I hear a voice ask. "Why did Ellis leave Hellblazer anyway?"

We'll get to that in 30 minutes with a story called "Shoot"...

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