Saturday, March 06, 2010

Art Discussion Month 2010: Hellblazer #143 by Marcelo Frusin

[Continuing Art Discussion Month 2010. 31 days, 31 artists, a whole lot of discussion. The explanation behind my choice of comics and the archive can be found here.]

Hellblazer #143 ("Telling Tales"). Written by Warren Ellis. Drawn by Marcelo Frusin. Coloured by James Sinclair.

"Telling Tales" is a fun, dark comedy. John Constantine meets up with a journalist/documentary filmmaker who wants to know the secret history of London. So, John tells a bunch of stories like the British royal family descending from snake people and JFK arranging his own death after seeing his wife get it on with an alien. Real absurdist bullshit with a heavy focus on sci-fi/fantasy concepts like aliens. Most of the magical stuff is alluded to, but not focused on. We find out at the end of the story that everything he told the guy was a load of bullshit to freak him after John continually alludes to this information being dangerous and arranging a fake gunshot/bunch of pig's blood to come out from under the bathroom door when he goes in there, while he escapes out the window.

Marcelo Frusin is best known for his work with Brian Azzarello on Hellblazer and Loveless, and it's very well done art here. Frusin does dark, moody, somewhat creepy art well. His John Constantine looks like a bit of a sick fuck. He looks evil and like he's enjoying freaking this guy out. Heavy shadows, John leaning back in his chair, smoking his cigarettes, drinking his beer, sleeves rolled up, tie loosened... it's relaxed and you can see the ending coming from a mile away thanks to Frusin's art and Ellis's script. There are various places where John pauses and you can see that he's trying not to laugh at this idiot who's believing all of the bullshit he's slinging. The JFK revelation is marked by a big pause where the journo basically says "Wait, you expect me to believe this?" and then stares at John until he finally says "Okay," and John has this dark smirk on his face.

Throughout the story, Frusin draws the stories John tells like the Queen and the Queen's Mum transforming into giant snake women and fighting over a small boy whose soul they each wish to eat. Or aliens assassinating Kennedy. It's a little ridiculous, but Frusin draws it with conviction.

However, where he really shines is in the bar scenes. His style is a little over-the-top with the shadows and glowing eyes/teeth. Very noirish and stylised, but it works, particularly in communicating the dark comedy of the story. I think that's why he was so good on Azzarello's run since Azzarello's run tended toward that black comedy sort of storytelling. While John looks creepy in the shadows, smirking at the journo, the journo has a nice mix of terror and impatience since he wants to know more constantly.

Frusin's line work tends toward blocky, bold lines. He doesn't use a lot of cross-hatching or other lines. He mainly does outlines with a few detail lines inside, but allows the shadows to carry the load. In many ways, his people look inhuman. John Constantine looks almost demonic at times. If James Sinclair has coloured his eyes red, you'd think him a demon. Sinclair continues, in this issue, to change up the colouring, favouring a strong yellow tone for the bar to match the smoke whereas the stories get a blue tone. It's a good contrast and the yellows capture the look of pubs well, I think.

Tomorrow, I begin in on the four Apparat Singles Club books with Angel Stomp Future drawn by Juan Jose Ryp.