Welcome back to Graphic Content where we cover comics, and this week we tackle Hellblazer and Killadelphia My initial impulse after the last article was to jump into another Swamp Thing retrospective. However, I also realize I have a bunch of titles I am actively reading so I figure it would be best to get back to those. Swamp Thing next time, I promise.
This week we continue with two super-star series we’ve been reading for a while. John Constantine, Hellblazer, now cancelled, and the fantastic Killadelphia.
John Constantine, Hellblazer #10
“The Wake Up Call,” the tenth issue of the 2019 run of John Constantine, Hellblazer, lays all the cards out on the table and establishes the central conceit behind the series: John is fighting guilt over the trail of broken and destroyed bodies, minds, and souls that come into his orbit. We’ve seen bits and pieces of it throughout the run, but the grim and bloody thesis is laid bare in this issue. The issue follows John Constantine and Old John Constantine who comes to John in a dream to mention their bargain and a new wrinkle; he wants John’s soul, of course, just not yet. What follows is a surge of dream logic that travels from John’s apparent death in the War of Magic from the mainline DC Universe, where he sold his soul to Old John, to the Dreaming. All the while, John’s allies Nat, Noah, Tommy, and even Vestibulan, the demon in his smartphone, are subjected to horror because they are his allies.
The writing is good, as it has been since the start; a kind of Hellblazer road trip across the mind of John Constantine, all presented through dream logic. John the Younger shows his wit and trickery, but it still outmatched by his older, asshole self. it’s all very fascinating and just raises further questions about the nature of what Old John wants – or his very nature. We see glimpses of Ravenscar Sanitarium, the Dreaming, and nightmarish places including a bar filled with Constantines of all kinds. The threads are fairly dense, however, having an expectation that the reader is familiar with Constantine’s current incarnation and the immediate past. Some periodic reminders of issues or runs would have been helpful here. It can be a lot to keep track of.
Bergara’s art here is wonderful, especially in dealing with the strange visuals of the dreamquest and the uncanny presence in the dream logic of the issue. The revelation of the “heart” of the matter is particularly stunning and is some fantastic horror imagery. The usage of light and shadow is particularly dramatic and something you’d only ever seen in comics, which is incredibly fitting. The brightness of The Dreaming also stands out as perhaps some of the most visually bright material in the run, but is nonetheless disturbing, given what exactly is at stake.
I have not finished Spurrier’s run, just yet. I’ve been taking my time and savoring it. With this issue, had I not know the series was coming to and end, I would have been thrilled about the long haul. Now, though? I dread that I won’t get my answers. I resolve myself to enjoy the rest of the ride as best I can, however. (4.5 / 5)
John Constantine: Hellblazer #10, written by Simon Spurrier and illustrated by Matías Bergara, is available from DC Comics and your local comic shop.
Killadelphia #10, aka “Burn Baby Burn, Part IV, Kill Them All,” while ridiculous in the title, continues the strong work laid out so far by writer Rodney Barnes and artist Jason Shawn Alexander. The issue mirrors the previous, only this time we look back at the wild west, Deadwood, specifically, and get to know “Toppy,” formerly Fergus. Toppy has been in the periphery of Killadelphia for a while, now, but this is the most complete picture we get of him yet. This issue continues the trend of revealing the vampires have their own tragic histories that feed into their vampiric lives. Structurally it is very compelling: we progress the current narrative, but take time to look at motivations and reasons. I did express apprehension in previous reviews about the pace of the series, the constant momentum, but I am pleased to see that things are slowing down a bit. The pieces are in place, the plot is moving – why not wind the clock back a bit? I really am appreciating getting to know the various vampires in Abigail’s orbit.
Meanwhile, the present-day narrative concerns the series of mass vampire attacks on the city, specifically following up on the Sangsters’ raid on a vampire brothel. It’s a small scene in the grand scheme of things, with the narrative importance falling on the aftermath: John and John Sr.’s relationship is still struggling, with Sr. snapping after a botched mission as Sr. is still raw from being deprived of rest alongside his wife a couple of issues back. Lastly, we also see a horde of vampiric prisoners escaping from prison, and “Jupiter” (don’t call him that) makes his way to Abigail’s home for a very specific purpose. To say much else would spoil a satisfying ending.
The issue also presents another installment of the werewolf story “Elysium Gardens.” I’m never quite sure how to address it in these reviews as it is its own entity. May I will need to review the bunch of them assembled as their own release eventually. It’s good stuff, a nice companion to Killadelphia. It of course also makes me wonder what else might Barnes want to tackle in this horror universe. I’d love to see Barnes and Alexander work on zombies next; the news report and set-up presented in the first few pages give me Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead vibes.
Speaking of Jason Shawn Alexander, his work is consummately professional. Issue after issue Killadelphia looks great. When the series first rolled out I had expressed concerns with some of the artistic choices, but since then the style has refined itself. The splatter of ink feels a little more pointed now, like a flourish or signature. The likenesses and character designs feel more consistent overall. The carnage of vampiric slaughter is appropriately messy but never ill-defined. I find it can be a challenge to write about the art from week to week when the work is so good. I do wonder about some staging, however. The emphasis on Abigail’s posterior on one page practically served as the center mass the panels orbited around. A little cheeky, but may not the best decision thus far. I can see this choice possibly biting the title in the ass when the inevitable streaming series happens. Only hindsight will tell.
Alright, enough butt puns.
Killadelphia slows down a bit to take in the sights and memories of one of the vampire crew in a fun issue that gives us just enough forward momentum while rewarding long time readers who ask: “what is with the vampire in the top hat?” (4.5 / 5)
Again, Swamp Thing next time, I swear. In the meantime, please let me know what you think about these comics, the review, or please suggest titles you want to see reviewed. You can also find me on Twitter where I pick fights with nerds. See you next week for Graphic Content #12.
Creepy Comics Collages by Jennifer Weigel, Part 5
Well, you won’t get rid of me that easily… Ha ha, I lied about coming to the end and the afterlife in the Creepy Comics Collages segment, it was just an opportunity for rebirth. Besides, it’s World Collage Day! So having come into another comic book to rework, here we go again…
Creepy Comics Story 9: The Voice (of God or Reason or perhaps an homage to my ex)
“Come to me my children, the voice of God awaits!… Don’t let them escape!” Please beam me up out of this weird comic collage alternate reality. “God I am your hand! Lift me… to your place. I commend my spirit!” I want to go back to dreaming about starfish.
The computer programmer behind the scenes turns to face us and smiles. “Guardians! This is a place of God!… Come to the true voice of God!” “I am everything.” “Come to the voice!” And the horrific AI generated creatures abide by his every coded word.
Just like last night in the — signs posted for Nightmare, No Exit. The deer spirit faun screams in surprise, “Eeek!” “No! I defy you!” She returns to the form of a little girl with arms outspread to the open sky. “Y’know, a day like today makes all the stuff that happened last night seem just like a bad dream!” The dream seems so real…
Somewhere in the city, the computer programmer sits up at night in pensive monologue, “You try to make a difference… But it doesn’t really matter.”
Creepy Comics Story 10: The City (Metropolis becomes self-aware)
This segment is brought to you by Dead Artists and Talking Dinosaurs. No really, wait for it…
Woooooo Uhhhh Wooooooo Uhhhh… Wump! Uff! Wump! Uff! “She belongs to The City!” The Glenn Fry 1985 hit single looms ominously overhead as Metropolis becomes self-aware. “The City… will live!… The City… will breathe!” The City gasps for air, “Got to… breathe!… Got to… Breathe!“
Her breath is the wind… Her eyes are windows. Her heart pumps fluid through buried plumbing… “I’m The City!” Her mind is The City!
And we have a celebrity appearance by Rich Koz “Son of Svengoolie” WFLD 1973: “I take a nap for 10,000 years and look what happens… some-body builds a city!” Kerwyn chimes in, “Geez! Somebody’s been busy!” And we cut out to a scene of Svengoolie standing alongside his coffin.
Well, that’s all folks. Or is it? For now, any way… until I get more comic books… Duh duh DUHHHH…
Creepy Comics Collages by Jennifer Weigel, Part 4
Wow, I can’t believe you’ve stayed the course through four whole strange story posts of these creepy comics collages. But this is the final frontier, the last segment, the standing ovation as it were. So here goes…
Creepy Comics Story 7: The Grave (shallow enough for ya?)
“It should take longer, it seems to all of them. Such holy flesh should not give before a blade so easily.” “His brow is growing so cold.” “Yes it would be. He’s dying.”
“My god… I’m not dead.” Put the shovel down. “Life is a no-win situation. Besides… You’re already dead!”
“I’m not dead. I’m not dead!… Oh, Oh my god… I can’t move… What’s happened to me?” Buried alive. Or maybe not.
“Dead?” Perhaps I am actually dead. I was expecting something… I dunno… different.
“I’m not hungry, I’m dead. I’m not sure what I’m doing here, in fact.” At least I’m not a zombie. That seems a small consolation right now though. “My organs are shutting down. It is a relief.”
“Three days have already passed.” We’re just sitting here, rotting. Like Norman Bates’ Mother. At least someone was kind enough to supply a rocking chair. “Oh, one last thing before I go… You’re doing my fucking head in.”
Creepy Comics Story 8: Adrift Afterlife (why you save the best gold coins for the ferryman)
How’d we get here? “I do not stand alone. I am sat in a boat.” “.. to be millions of miles away from any care in the world.” Was that the Ferryman? “Only liberty I know.”
“He does not remember arriving here, or if he has been here before. It is not the island he grew up on, though it feels so very familiar… He has been waiting for the night tides to come in, for they will bring starfish. He has always liked watching them cling to the beach before the current pulls them back into fathoms.”
“And the ocean brings him starfish… Perhaps his father had nothing to do with this place at all.” The ferryman stands on the far shore. It makes no difference now.
“Beneath the ocean, razor-sharp coral grows and plunges towards the surface, sent by a green place that would not like to burn.” “The sand is soft between his toes and he is not ashamed of anything.” The ghosts are here, contentedly it seems.
Thank you for joining us for these creepy comics collage art stories. But here’s where we have to leave it off. Trust me, it’s best that way. Besides I’m out of creepy comics to collage with.
Creepy Comics Collages by Jennifer Weigel, Part 3
We’re ba-ack… Are you ready for the next creepy comics collages graphic story overload? After the last time and the intermission I wasn’t sure I’d see you again, but here we are, together again. You’d almost think we put something in the water – wink.
Now where were we? Oh yeah, the world was going to hell… or was it?
Creepy Comics Story 5: Alien Invasion (A Fist Full of Physics!!!)
“Elsewhere… months… earlier…” “It begins as a flicker pin-point of light getting closer ever closer until it takes form.” The sky is falling, damn you Chicken Little.
“…unconfirmed rumors of extraterrestrials have surfaced this evening following reported sightings in upstate New York earlier today.” There’s the news for you. Always blowing things up to increase viewership ratings.
“Then I would suggest a test immediately.” ‘K Doc, we get it; maybe there’s cause for concern. Guessing these aren’t friendlies based on intel, or that the government pissed them off. “Where’s William Shatner when you really need him?”
“Next morning… City Hall…” “A Fist Full of Physics” Blamm-o! “As if that’s some kind of homage.” It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I was feeling fine but now I’m not so sure. “All of this is on your head.” You can thank the world governments with their shoot first, ask questions later policies for that.
“The act was deplorable. It’s ramifications were permanent.” Doc looks unamused. “And the doctor drones on in his cold monotone… ‘Then we all die.’”
Creepy Comics Story 6: Werewolves (Londoners, eat your hearts out)
“Fables Werewolves… no one can hear you howl.” So now we’re elbow-deep in lycanthropy? This story just keeps getting weirder and weirder…
“… I feel so… disoriented… is this vertigo?” No, you wouldn’t be so lucky. Once bitten, twice shy. It’s The Change. Prepare yourself for the transformation.
“What now?” Enough with the damned interruptions already, can’t you see I’m at work?!
“Shall we start a war?”
“No! No! Leave me alone! Leave me alone! No!“
“I know one thing.” “Never will you suffer the indignity of this animal’s touch again.” The wolf seems somewhat offended by that statement. No really. And probably rightly so.
“Maybe it’s just an excuse, a fucking cop-out for when we inevitably fuck-up our lives and hurt people… We’re not cursed, we’re rotten, or mad or…”
“I don’t deserve this!” he howls. Stop blaming the werewolves for your own human indecencies. Teacups get broken and the London werewolves get angry.
Thank you for going all in with us over this series, there’s… one… more… final… huzzah… In the meantime, check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites.