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.