Monday, November 25, 2019

The Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer #1

I just want to see Constantine enter a Magic the Gathering tournament.

Holding this comic book in my hand, it would feel like being on the ground floor of an exciting and comic book changing series if not for the fact that it was written by Simon Spurrier. I'm just kidding (I'm not)! I'm sure he can do a great job (he won't). That Suicide Squad story that he wrote where the narrator was a nobody who figured he would die but then he saved the day. Unless he died. Fuck it, who can remember everything they've ever read! I'm certainly glad that I can't or else I'd have to deal with the whole of Ann Nocenti's Katana comics until the day I die (which hopefully will be soon). On the flip side, I've ready every single thing Kurt Vonnegut has ever written and I'm sure I barely remember ten percent of it. And who has time to reread it just so I can get a few pages into each chapter and say, out loud to the cat, "Oh yeah! I remember this part! This is where the humans who evolved to be more like seals still laugh at farts!"

Aw, don't take this personally, Si! I totally have faith in you! Notice I didn't put in a parenthetical reference there disagreeing with myself! That's a good sign that I'm now being earnest, right?! I've given up on being cynical because where does that get you? Partying all the time with a bunch of people who desperately want to be friends with such a cool guy as myself, really. But who has time for all that! I'm a vulnerable weeper now! I'm going to let this story touch me in ways I haven't been touched since my father first took me to see The Rescuers when I was six years old. That was not a molestation joke, you fucking perverts. My father sucked in a lot of ways but he wasn't a Goddamned fiddler of kids! That Rescuers revelation was me being sincere again! That movie made me cry my fucking eyes out and not just when I watched it for the first time. Every time I thought about Penny being so lonely, I couldn't help losing my shit. And then my mom got me a Rescuers lunch box because, I don't know, maybe she loves torturing small children with their intense feelings that they've yet to bury so deep within them that they lose the ability to wonder at the world and the last thing left to give them joy is shuffling ever faster toward the grave and thinking about the cold comfort of that destination.

What my existential dread and inability to see a vulnerable story through to the end without some kind of cynical disruption is that the original Hellblazer was a tour de force of adult story telling and this one probably won't be. But reality aside, I feel like it could possibly be and I'm starting at Issue #1 and I have to say (despite Spurrier writing it (sorry! Sorry! Won't happen again!)) I'm actually kind of excited! Oh for one wish granted that I could transport myself to the side of a Grecian Urn and retain this feeling! But I am a real life person and, so, I must accept the bitter disappointment that nothing in life is ever as good as we think it's going to be. Except for Sour Patch Kids.

But before I start! Here's a thing I hope Simon Spurrier decided not to inherit from so many past writers of Constantine: magic has a cost. Sure, make being a magician dangerous because other magicians and demons from Hell and avenging angels and cursed items used in rituals are all fucking dangerous. But enough of this bullshit "Let's think this through because magic has such a high cost I'd rather not do the magic until we are forced into a corner!" That whole "Magic has a cost!" thing is just the DC magic-user equivalent of a Green Lantern ring running low on battery power. It's a limiter to make the writer's job of telling a tense story easier. "A Green Lantern has the most powerful weapon in the universe! They can do anything with it! But, oh no, the ring has only got five percent juice left! I'm on the edge of my seat!" Just let Green Lanterns (and Constantine!) be bad-ass motherfuckers with their bad-ass motherfucking weapons! Stop writing easy and start writing well, writers!

The issue begins with Constantine lighting up a fag. That's a good sign, right?! He's allowed to smoke in Black Label comic books! Sure, he was allowed to smoke in all the other comic books he was in as well. But not in the television show! Although they always showed him exhaling smoke or in a haze of smoke whenever anybody came up on him, while he maybe mimed putting out a cigarette. Some executive may have not wanted him to smoke in the show but the writers and producers and directors and actors and grips and cameramen and lighting operators and Crafts services were all, "Let's make sure the audience knows this motherfucker smoooOOoooOOookes!"

Bah! Always a debt do! PTUI!

Years of DC magic-users casting backwards spells and magicking up solutions to problems without a hint of "always a debt do" and then, suddenly, nobody can cast a fucking cantrip without paying out of pocket somehow. I get the "always a debt due" when you're dealing with demons or devils or some other kind of help from a summoned or black magic creature. But why the fuck must all magic cost something insane?! Just let Constantine do magic but occasionally he's got to deal with more powerful creatures or magicians who want something in return. Don't make him need to pay for every little thing he does.

Something has eaten the sun so Constantine writes the word "Fuck" all over a decapitated pig's head. Can a head be described as decapitated? Isn't that the adjective for the body? Or does it only refer to both parts after separation? Anyway, you probably knew what I meant! I mean about the pig's head being separated from its body and not about how Constantine writing "Fuck" all over it will help return the sun.

Wouldn't be Hellblazer without the C-word. Although is it appropriate? I'm reading this prior to the watershed.

That's Chas's brief cameo in this new series. You might wonder how I know it's brief. Well, I read the next page where Chas dies distracting the evil monsters so that the super heroes can get the sun back. It's the quickest way for Simon to let the audience know that Constantine will do anything to save the world, even betray his friends. Plus he makes sure to say, "I've done worse for less," just to drive the point home. It's one of those revelations that would have greater impact over a long run of multiple different story arcs. But modern comic books don't understand that kind of accrued history anymore. Things have to happen quickly and in comic book shorthand, before the comic is cancelled. Plus, who wants to wait five years for sixty issues worth of history and characterization?! Spurrier knows Constantine has years of characterization and history already built up! Why not shove all of that into the first few pages of this new series and move on from there?!

Constantine takes a bit of Chas's taxi cab shrapnel in the side and now he's probably dying. Sure, he could probably save himself by casting a spell that sends five babies to Hell. But first he has to find five babies! Instead, he just runs into young Tim Hunter from the past. John is all, "Oh, hey! Tim! Remember The Books of Magic? Remember Fairie? Remember how we all hated your stupid prat face? Anyway, this is your future and the bad guy ending the world is grown up you. Jerk." Tim Hunter is all, "That's me?! I wonder if I've been laid yet! Man, just think how much my older self's dick stinks!"

Tim Hunter goes off to, I don't know, sue J.K. Rowling or something, leaving Constantine to die. But before Constantine dies, he's visited by old man Constantine. If things seem a bit crazy, it's because Constantine kept mentioning something about the world going mad or everything leading to madness or something that I didn't mention. But now I'm mentioning it so that all of this weirdness makes sense.

Old Man Constantine wants John's soul in exchange for saving him. That's a pretty good deal, really! I'd totally go for it! Give up your soul to yourself way in the future? It's like putting it away for safe keeping! How the hell do you pass up that deal?!

That was my point! Take the deal, mate!

Constantine thinks Old Man Constantine is probably a Constantine from another universe and that there'll be some kind of catch. But he's dying and he doesn't have much time to decide so he takes the deal. That'll probably be important later!

Old Man Constantine heals John, tells him to be the best John he can be, and then transports Constantine to some mental ward somewhere. Another universe without the sun being eaten? Maybe that was just the prologue to describe how Constantine leaped from the main DC Universe to the Black Label DC Universe. And now we can forget all of that Tim Hunter ending the world stuff that was so 1990s DC Vertigo weirdness. Now it's time for Constantine Unplugged! That just means he can say cunt again.

Constantine manages to talk his way out of Ravenscar psychiatric hospital and discovers he's in modern London where Brexit is happening. Or not happening. Or not not happening? I guess we'll find out the next chapter of Brexit after the special elections. Go Labour!

Constantine having a bit of a philosophical thought about his own entanglement in a comic book ret-con.

I feel bad for comic book fans who need a moment like the panels above to justify comic book continuity. Who dreams of having some kind of solid, historical timeline without any errors throughout? Especially when your main characters never age. What the fuck do they want? Magic?! Anyway, I think Spurrier does the best he can here dealing with the audience he knows he need to fucking explain every little thing to. He's just putting it right out front: "Yeah, Constantine has a bunch of memories that don't mesh at all and he's now in 2019 and he's in his thirties or something and yes he was heavily involved in the 70s punk scene and maybe just get over it, okay? You're reading a funny book about magic. Grow the fuck up."

Constantine finds Chas possessed by all the demons that meant to kill him years ago. He's dying of cancer from second-hand smoke and tells Constantine to fuck off and ruin somebody else's life. So John fucks off to go ruin somebody else's life. Or maybe to be a better version of himself. Or just to go drink himself into retirement.

Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer #1 Final Thoughts: I guess this is the Hellblazer #1 prologue introducing the new series starting this week in Hellblazer #1. That's going to be really confusing for my image tags if I forget that I labeled these images "Hellblazer1.jpg" and such. If the scans in this review don't seem to make any sense, it's because you're reading this a few months on and I forgot about the image tags and reused the same tags for John Constantine, Hellblazer #1 coming out this Wednesday (but which I won't probably review for another week or two). Sorry!

No comments:

Post a Comment