Log in

No account? Create an account

August 26th, 2012

Scouse sorcery.

Thanks to library (and inter-library) loans, I'm finally starting to see what all the fuss is about over the character John Constantine, the star of his own, apparently still on-going, "mature readers" comic book Hellblazer. I hadn't read any of his comics (or his debut in the Alan Moore-written The Saga of the Swamp Thing) when I saw the vapid Keanu Reeves (sorry; I repeated myself there) vehicle Constantine; my only exposure to him at that point was in Grant Morrison's parody character Willoughby Kipling in Doom Patrol.

I've since read, a few years ago, a couple of the trade paperbacks collecting the first issues of Hellblazer, written by Jamie Delano, and was unimpressed; I found the stories serviceable, but I'm still not a fan of Delano's work (I hated his stint on Animal Man, after Grant Morrison and Peter Milligan's runs), for all that his run (the first forty issues) is considered to have laid the defining groundwork for Constantine's character. It's taken me this long to get interested enough to revisit the Hellblazer trades again; happily enough, I was able to read some of Garth Ennis's arcs (the Fear and Loathing, Tainted Love, Damnation's Flame and Son of Man collections) before moving on to one written by Brian Azzarello (Freezes Over) and Mike Carey (Red Sepulchre; the 2005 hardcover original graphic novel All His Engines).

Thus far, I'm convinced that Ennis is the definitive writer of Constantine; Ennis convincingly portrays the conflicted, manipulative Scouse roughneck with a barely discernible soft center, and he has a real gift for blending horror, black comedy, poignancy and enraging repulsiveness into an astonishingly balanced cocktail. (Based on my reading of him thus far, I'd say that Ennis's real metier is war and horror comic books; although his anti-superhero franchise The Boys ain't chopped liver either.) Son of Man was a bleak, black, slightly queasy hoot; but the end of Fear and Loathing is arguably Ennis's most affecting take on the character, where, once the real-world and supernatural nasties have been momentarily dispensed with, Constantine himself is shown to be at least as off-putting a monster as anything from the infernal regions that he's stared down. (It also demonstrates what anyone who has ever loved and lost can tell you: break-ups are bad juju.)

Azzarello's take in Freezes Over is more of a neo-noir slant on Constantine; far be it from me to fault the premiere crime comic writer of our generation (100 Bullets; Cage) for writing a -- GASP! -- crime story arc for Constantine (also included in this collection is a tasty two-part story from Constantine's days as an unsuccessful punk rocker, drawn by the fantastic Guy Davis, who was the defining artist on the late, lamented Sandman Mystery Theatre), but it still didn't feel quite right to me, even given my relatively limited exposure to the character. I've requested the other trades written by Azzarello (Hard Time [which sounds to read like "Constantine Does Oz"], Good Intentions, High Water) through the inter-library loan network, but I suspect that, while I'll most likely enjoy them, I won't find them to be as crucial to the Constantine oeuvre as the Ennis- and Carey-penned ones.

I loved Mike Carey's Lucifer (a more consistently successful part of The Sandman universe than Neil Gaiman's main title); but, as much as I enjoyed Red Sepulchre and All His Engines, they didn't feel as ground-breaking as Ennis's work.

That said, I absolutely love the artwork of Marcelo Frusin (who also drew Freezes Over) on Red Sepulchre: it's stylized and reminiscent of the art of his fellow Argentine Eduardo Risso (100 Bullets), but it's even more grounded in gritty, sometimes gruesome, reality than Risso's is. I was interested to discover that there were a couple of sequences that seemed to be heavily inspired by the movies.

First, in Hellblazer Vol. 1, #177 (Dec. 2002), Constantine consults with fellow magic-user Map, whose apparition is shown below on page 19, panel 1 (p. 72 of the trade):

I found Map to look suspiciously like Big Brother, from the 1954 British television adaptation of 1984....

..or from Michael Radford's 1984 movie adaptation of same:

The very next page finds Constantine gaining an unwelcome revelation about his niece Gemma via a video tape (page 20; page 73 of the trade):

This scene is concluded in Hellblazer Vol. 1, #178 (Jan. 2003), on p. 5 (p. 79 of the trade):

I haven't been able to track down the relevant stills, but this sequence seems to me to owe more than a little something to the powerful, dialogue-free sequence of Michael Caine's character learning something deeply unpleasant about his niece via a Super-8 reel of film in the original 1971 movie Get Carter.


The supreme space lord who will now DEST
The Feckless Wonder

Latest Month

March 2015


Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow