This week, I wanted to kick things off by talking about Hellblazer 259 and why this book is growing on me. I’ve mentioned on the podcast multiple times that I’ve only jumped on the Hellblazer bandwagon recently. I’ve actually been collecting it over the past year or so and was considering dropping it, not due to quality, but that I never actually was reading it.
When my comics arrive each week, I look through my stack and grab the first five to six books that catch my eye and those are my starting point. Those are usually the ones where the story has my so captivated that I just need to know what is happening next.
Hellblazer had become one of those titles.
Spoiler alert: (Scroll down for more)
John’s relationship with Phoebe, who is currently but hopefully not permanently deceased, is what’s really grabbing me. You know the age old threat of daddy bringing a shotgun to the door when his daughter brings home the boyfriend? Well, when John shows up, he should bring a bazooka. Not only did she die because of him, but he did a number of awful things to her. This included using magic to rekindle their relationship. The irony is that she was already considering getting back together with him when he did this.
That’s what I like about reading John’s story. He’s human. Sure he’s this know it all when it comes to the supernatural but even basic human interaction seems to escape him. Socially, he is a mess. He isn’t particularly respectful or nice to anyone. He has intense insecurities about himself and the fact that any woman, that he could really care for, could even love him.
So why do people like Chas and Phoebe get pulled into his world? It’s because deep down John is one of the good guys. He does care. It’s often very hard to see it and many times he doesn’t realize it himself. The thing is, when he sets his mind to accomplish a task, he will cross a ton of taboo boundaries to complete it, many times at the cost of his own soul.
Chas is loyal because of not only for what he did for Tricia. (Note: I am guessing Tricia is his daughter. Please excuse me long time fans. I am learning the ropes here.) I think this dialogue says it all: “John’s a mate. All right, he’s got some strange ideas, and people who spend too much time with him tend to have a run of bad luck, but he’s all right.” He’s the kind of guy that Chas can’t completely articulate why he likes him but he knows there is something about this guy that makes him good. He’s drawn to him even though he is very rough around the edges. I have to laugh because if he got any rougher, you’d get razor burn just shaking his hand.
When it comes to Phoebe, it looks like the classic “girl meets bad boy, bad boy is detached and heartless, girl will definitely get hurt” relationship. It does fit but it’s also not that simple. She sees the part of him that Chas does. She probably couldn’t ever put it into words that someone else would understand but she sees something in him. It feels very real because even as I write this, I have a hard time articulating what is so likeable about him. I think we all know or have known someone in our life that we have had that kind of relationship with. You like them but you are awkward or even ashamed to admit it to others.
John has made attempts to saved Phoebe’s body and soul from death. He is trying to cheat death. In his own mind he is making things right. The overarching question: Is John doing this for selfish reasons or because it is the right thing to do? I am not sure.
Phoebe is currently in hell. John’s handling of that will show us a great deal there. In 259, he encountered some things that are only fit to be in a horror movie. It also included a great flashback to the start of his relationship with Phoebe. This is a pretty solid jumping on point to see if this book is right for you as much of the current continuity is laid out in this issue.
I want to shout out the artwork of Simon Bisley and Jamie Grant. The mood and tone set by this issue feels very dark and creepy. There is a ton of emotion there as well as in many panels John’s face and posture tells many different stories. It’s visually clear that this man has a very low opinion of himself but that he hides it well with cockiness when necessary. Surprise, frustration, joy and even fear creep into this character throughout and pull us into his world.
John’s discovery that he is in hell is a brilliant segment visually and through dialogue. He comes across a girl named Kathy who he is familiar with. She is trapped in a bathroom stall with a guy named Troy who is telling her over and over again how he killed his parents. She seems doomed to relive that tragic relationship and some bad decisions she made as a personal torment of her own. You can see it on her face and in the environment. It was just a really well thought out way to make us a part of that discovery.
Hellblazer is currently one of many books that demonstrate what I love about great comics. John’s mistakes make me connect with my own humanity and mistakes that I have made in relationships of the past. I love that I feel like I am not sure what advice to give him on whether or not he should give up or keep trying when it comes to Phoebe. That just feels natural. It’s something you encounter when dealing with relationship advice with friends or family.
If you haven’t checked Hellblazer out, it’s dark, irreverent and creepy. There’s also some really intense humanity in the book. Give it a shot. If you do or currently read Hellblazer, email me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. I might even sneak some of them onto our podcast.