Sunday, July 18, 2010

Blogathon 38: Hellblazer: The Gift (Part One)

[Discussed in this post: the first part of Hellblazer: The Gift, "Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go" (#207-212).]

While there are three issues after this storyarc, they're more epilogues to this final story. John and Nergal go to Hell to rescue Cheryl's soul and confront Rosacarnis if need be. Though, the two really have two different agendas. John insists Gemma and Angie stay there so that Cheryl will have someone to guide her back to her body from that end. John and Nergal enter Hell via Limbo and throughout, Nergal keeps pushing to be allowed to possess John for easiness sake. John only consents when, in Hell, they come across John's double, the thing he left in Hell that contains all of his negative qualities (though I believe he created some more inside himself, obviously...). John allows Negral to take over so he can actually live. During this, we find out how Negral came to lose his throne, how his daughter wound up on it, and how, now, she's taking possession of it officially and, as her husband (sort of), John can challenge her for the right to rule over that house. Negral and John are separated when, trying to help John find Cheryl's soul, Angie and Gemma set up a beacon and... the soul is in Negral. John doesn't acknowledge that he recognised that sign, but he reveals that later.

Ultimately, it comes down to Negral in an unstoppable body and John joining forces with Rosacarnis on the condition that Cheryl's soul will go free. But that's also because he figured out that he needs to be alive for their children to live. His consent is an ongoing necessity because of the way they were conceived and born. The First of the Fallen gets involved when John is willing to sacrifice himself to save his sister's soul since that would mean John dies doing a noble act and he wants John dying a wretch of filth and wickedness.

In the real world, Tony has escaped and looks to kill Gemma, but she delivers a good speech about his crazy faith and what he did to Cheryl. Tony snaps out of it and kills himself. This allows the First of the Fallen to really fuck with John. He gives Cheryl a choice: she can return to Earth or she can stay in Hell with Tony on the condition that, if she does, his torments will be divided between them instead of just on him. She chooses to stay.

I didn't expect this when I first read it. After all, I never got the impression that she really loved Tony, especially as things went on. It seemed more a sense of duty and habit that she stayed with him. It's a brutal ending to this story. Quests like this usually result with a loss of some kind, but not this. The worst thing is that she chooses to stay. John can't save her. That's something he can't deal with. He knows best and people refusing to do things his way is torture for him.

Carey also isn't entirely neat with everything. He doesn't spell out what happens with the house of Negral. The First of the Fallen kills John's sons, but leaves Maria alive when she says she wants to die. I like that he leaves that open a little bit. It's not all closed doors. He leaves a little bit for future writers.

Manco is great. Messy. I love his double of John. A mean looking John. Ha. His Hell is horrific in detail. It looks alien and Hellish. Not a big fan of his First of the Fallen, though. He looks like a nobleman version of Dracula...

Still two posts to go on this trade, though. In 30 minutes, I'll discuss the immediate follow-up as Frazer Irving joins Mike Carey for the eponymous story of the collection...

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