Recap for Review Group Week 262! Hellblazer #276 by Peter Milligan and Simon Bisley as selected by GHERU.
The Review Group is a collection of posters who get together and review a new comic each week. Our threads can be found in The Outhouse's News Stand forum and is open for anyone and everyone to participate.
GHERU just doesn't have any luck. First he picks Dynamite's Robocop disaster, then he picks this issue of Hellblazer. Oops.
Review by Victorian Squid
Let's get the ball rolling this week--
Sting the Magic Hobo #276
Swamp Thing's old bi-polar sidekick has gotten hitched, and to avoid marital compromise someone will die!
For a character who has lived for centuries in life's moral gray areas, this thin parable was pretty black and white. But the story itself failed to sell me on the villain's horrible fate, despite heavy-handedly trying to pin the market collapse on him, making him out to be a cartoon misogynist, and even giving him a little devil beard just to make sure I got the message he's the bad one here.
Simon Bisley's artwork usually shines when he's given a little space and some fantastic scenes to draw, and there's a little to be done toward the end but to me he's largely wasted here drawing Sting the Magic Hobo snogging with his teen Disney wife or other dingy and slightly nauseating scenes in cramped rooms and offices.
Review by Frank Einstein
This was an odd one. The new marriage relationship bits, the House Hunters International interlude and a financial crisis wrist slap by way of homicide made this one wacky issue of a magic funny book. It certainly wasn't what I was expecting and kind of left me unsure about what Hellblazer is. Last time we reviewed the series it was a straight forward horror book, now it seems to want to be absurdist.
Bisley's art in this felt a bit inconsistent, but on the whole it was fun to look at and made the story better than it was.
Review by BlueStreak
I will live blog my review this week.
Page 1: It appears as if Constantine has married Jubilee. Watch out, John! She's a vampire.
Page 2: I didn't think you were still allowed to smoke. Good thing they're flying Cheap Jet.
Page 3: Druids automatically bump the final score up one.
Page 4: That douche beard knocks the score down by two.
Page 5: There are a lot of incomplete sentences on this page.
Page 6: That page just looks crappy.
Page 7: No John, you don't have a million quid to spare. You already spent it on your whore bride.
Page 8: I really don't like the way Bisley draws faces.
Page 9: More ugly faces. At least one on this page is supposed to be deliberate.
Page 11-12: So, Constantine is setting this dude up for something...
Page 15: I picked up a girl using that line once. The douche beard guy just didn't say it right.
Page 17: What the fuck?! I thought Constantine was supposed to be the good guy.
Page 19: Constantine is a prick.
Page 20-22: A big fucking prick.
So apparently DC condones a book that features protagonists killing a person in cold blood for the audacity of purchasing something legally. And the art was mediocre too.
Review by Punchy
Story - In my review of the last issue of Hellblazer for this very site's front page, I discussed the idea of long-established comics characters getting married, and how for some, the progression works, Reed Richards and Sue Storm getting married made sense, for example. But I felt that for others, such as Superman and Spider-Man, marriage wasn't the right choice, and robbed the character's of some of their fundamental natures. Which camp would John Constantine fall into? Would his marriage to Epiphany Greaves change him for the better? Or for the worse? It's not a case of 'In Sickness and In Health', it's an either/or.
Now, one issue isn't really enough to judge, but on the basis of this issue, the marriage has managed the difficult feat of changing the character of Constantine, but not neutering him, not robbing him of his Constantininess. He's still very much the same character, and he still does very bad things.
One of the things I've liked best about Peter Milligan's run on Hellblazer is how he's sort of returned to the character's politically charged 80s roots, and put Hellblazer into various situations which relate to modern society (albeit with magic thrown in). This month, the book tackles the Financial Crisis, in it's own small way, tying in ancient Druids with an unscrupulous banker trying to get Constantine out of his flat so he can gentrify the area. The London John Constantine originally lived in is now gone, and it's interesting to see how Constantine tries to maintain his grotty roots. The way he treats the Financier may be overly harsh, but that's just who Constantine is. In current UK society, a spot of 'Banker Bashing' is all the rage, and it was cathartic to see John dispatch one of the people who's reckless, feckless thinking led us all up shit creek. It's brilliant what this book can get away with really. (I also loved the idea that having your house be haunted would actually drive the price up these days, a nice bit of social commentary).
Overall, this was only a fairly average done-in-one issue of Hellblazer, not a patch on some of the other stories Milligan has been writing, but it does a good job of telling a complete story in one issue, and also of giving us a first glimpse of the new world of married John Constantine... it's pretty much the same as the old world.
Art - Simon Bisley has been doing issues here and there throughout Milligan's run (as well as covers), and I think his grimy style is perfect for the book. It may be exaggerated at points, like when John and Epiphany are in the world's smallest bath, but when he unleashes the grotesquerie of what happens to Marcus Molloy, there's nobody better.
Best Line - 'Okay, at twelve, I met the Devil. At Fifteen I fucked my first Succubus' And this is our hero!
Review by GHERU
just once, I'd like a book I pick to be .. you know ... good, and I thought this was a guanteed win.
and I was wrong
As an aside, I love Hellblazer, I fucking love this series, my personal comic book gola used to be to have every issue of Hellblazer in the single issue format - and I achieved that goal a little over a year ago. Yes, I have read all 267 issues of this book, and #276 has shot up to the top 3 of the worst issues of the whole series and definitely the worst of Milligan's otherwise superb run.
This issue read as if it was going to be a starting point for morons by morons. Nothing about the writing showed any kind of inspiration at all, and the plot was juvenile at best and malicious at worst. Basically John killed a man for no reason. He never tried to reason with him, he never tried to solve the problem, all he did was prove to himself and his wife that he really is a bad a person as he claims to be, and although I do not have perfect memory of the whole series, I cannot think of any thing else he has done that is an inexcusable as his actions in this issue.
Yes, John is an ass but usually he is not an evil ass.
At least we had Simon Bisley as the artist, so there was a bright side
Story - 2
Art - 9
Overall - 5.5
Review by Jude Terror
I've never read Hellblazer before. I think it's an issue of Twigglet's Second Theory of Comic Book Continuity Alienation, where I find it intimidating to jump onto issue #200something of a long running indy book. In any case, I gave it a shot, and I was not impressed. John Constantine comes off as a kind of obnoxious narcissist. The dialog tries way to hard to be cool. I'm not sure if Constantine is supposed to be a sympathetic character, maybe he isn't, but he certainly isn't written like one. The businessman (who should be commended for being successful in the corporate world while sporting Jerry Only's devil lock hairdo), wasn't sympathetic either, but his actions also weren't all that offensive to me, so the result was a story that I had absolutely no emotional investment in. If every character in the story died, I would be happier, as I don't like any of them. Again, maybe that's the point of the character, I don't really know. Either way, not for me. In addition to that, it was difficult to follow, which doesn't speak well for the artist. Overall, the book wasn't horrible. Just uninteresting.
Review by God Man
I liked this. Constantine's ruthlessness, the art from Simon Bisley, it was an enjoyable one and done. . I don't know what's the deal with her wife,as she didn't add much to the story. But eh it wasn't a big deal.
Review by SilverPhoenix
What happens when you have a book that you enjoyed for what it was, but cannot score It higher due to technical issues? You just deal.
Sometimes, being the Issue after a major celebratory one is more of a burden than being the Issue itself. Due to months and months of reader hype, and creators that are all too human and needing time to recharge their batteries, you have a situation just asking for someone to be let down after. Still, it doesn't mean that the issue in question has a "get out of jail free" card to be bad, as said Issue can help to keep interested readers on board by establishing future storylines to look forward to, something that Invincible Iron Man and Fables have done well after their big celebratory landmarks. Will HellBlazer #276 join them? The honest answer is not as pretty as I would like it to be.
On the surface, the writing of Hellblazer #276 does nothing terribly wrong. The Dialogue is solid, and the story does what it's engineered to do, and that's to give new reader's a sense of what John Constantine is really like. However, when one goes a little bit beyond the superficial surface, you're left with a story that leaves you flat because of the whole action/reprisal mechanic that'll ultimately serve to drive away readers, due to its unevenness.
Without giving too much away, John Constantine is faced with Eviction, due to a greedy Algorithmist (who serves as this stories antagonist), with the main character's response being to death curse said antagonist. Now when you take that reaction by itself, it definitely seems over the top, but when you add the fact that the Death Curse was a Druid Reprisal to the Roman Empire destroying their culture the unevenness of the sequence of events is increased three fold. What this does for the non-initiated is to make John Constantine an unsympathetic asshole, which many people will not want to follow. Now this isn't to say that he has to be a nice person to be palatable, but when you present him in this light, you've gone beyond having a person using dark power for good intentions, and gone into the "abusive dick" territory. An unfortunate turn of events that not even a series of entertaining character moment with Epiphany could save.
When judging this book for its merits, I have to say that the art definitely outstrips the story itself. Simon Bisley does an excellent job setting the mood with the character drawings, and the backgrounds that surround them. A lot can be said about these characters just from looking at them interacting with each other without the dialogue to support them. However, this reviewer still feels that the art has issues, with the biggest issues surrounding the flashback sequences, which feel rushed compared to how good the rest of the art is. If only a little more care was shown to the art, then this would've came off a lot better, but it's an overall standup effort, and I hope to see more of his work in the future.
The bottom line is this, if books were scored on the first page, this would've gotten a 9 (it's the reason why I didn't Byrne Steal this, like I was originally going to), and if they were scored at face value, it still would've gotten an 8. However, when you take a critical eye to this book, and as the question "Who was this aimed for?" ,is where this book falters. Hellblazer isn't something that most people will read on a lark normally, and the people that did for #275, may find that they want to get off with this issue, which it's unfortunate, because I can see the effort the Creative Team put into this issue (which is why I plan on giving #277 a shot), but the effort just didn't equal to a favorable result. Hopefully March's Issue will be better.
Final Judgment: 6
That gives Hellblazer #276 a group score of 5.28. How exactly is Hellblazer Vertigo's longest running ongoing?
For what A. Heathen at the Straight to Hell Hellblazer forum calls "internal forum bantering", check out our Hellblazer thread and post your own review in The News Stand forum.
Written or Contributed by: John Martin