Sunday, July 18, 2010

Blogathon 41: Hellblazer: Empathy is the Enemy

[Discussed in this post: Hellblazer: Empathy is the Enemy (#216-222).]

I don't hate Denise Mina's run, I just don't think it's that good. There's a good idea at its core with empathy and a third place after death that isn't Heaven or Hell. But, the execution just leaves me cold. She immediately has John break his vow of no magic while still having him cling to it. It's obvious that she wants to work with what Carey left, but had pitched something assuming regular Hellblazer status quo... or, at least, John using magic. Vertigo wanted a known-outside-of-comics name on the book and, like many first-time comics writers, the execution is what drags it down. The idea are there, but the dialogue is clumsy, the pacing is weak, and I don't really find the characters all that compelling. What happens at the end of the first issue of the run doesn't mesh entirely with what happens in the second. I still can't figure out what happens when you go from the end of the first to the beginning of the second. It simply doesn't make sense.

At the end of the first issue, John reverses the empathy energy that's infected Cole, sending it back to the source of the spell the man cast and also does something to Evans, the man that sent Cole to John... except there doesn't seem to be any results from what happens there because the next issue begins with John having the curse of empathy. Um, what? That doesn't make sense!

The rest of this story hums along a little better, but it's still clumsy. John just sort of goes along with everything and is fooled easily. It doesn't seem right; he's lost all his edge, something the curse of empathy wouldn't do.

I do like the end of this story where starting the empathy engine to help people avoid the Third Place actually makes them more likely to embrace it since it means an eternity of nothingness after feeling too much. At the same time, it reminds me of the reversal in other stories, like the dog/beast one from Carey's run. It's just all very typical. Some good idea, lacklustre, mediocre execution.

Leonardo Manco does the art and it looks good. He alternates between panels with intricate, thin line work and the thicker, messier line work he began using more and more towards the end of the Carey run. I'm not sure what to make of it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

The sad thing about Mina's run is that, out of the two trades, this is the better one. Mediocrity is the peak.

In 30 minutes, we'll see the worst use of a fill-in issue of the entire blogathon...

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