Welcome back to another installment of Graphic Content where I dive into some horror comics. This week we continue our ongoing reviews of Hellblazer and Killadelphia, but we also introduce a third comic into the mix. Might it become an ongoing read for Graphic Content? We’ll see…
John Constantine: Hellblazer #4
It’s a new age of magic in the fourth issue of John Constantine: Hellblazer, “Scrubbing Up, Part One.” John is finally trying to give this new world a go after his experiences opening up the series in the first arc, but he immediately gets razzed for his new look and encounters a new time of magician in Tommy Willowtree. This issue has the new standard of John at work, Noah driving him around, and introduces the wrinkle of Yoga magic through Tommy. Tommy plays on the kind of Millenial magic that you find on Instagram and Pinterest and while John takes the piss out of it Tommy’s brand of the “mystic arts” (his words, not mine) are pretty effective. Especially fun is John’s complete disdain for “Pun Magic” and pretty much being bested by this new guy at every turn.
The art has changed with this new storyline. As much as Aaron Campbell’s art evoked classic Hellblazer in the first arc, this new arc is doing something new. Artist Matías Bergara presents a brighter, more exaggerated style that may initially seem off for Hellblazer. However, it totally suits the current story and still has that underlying edge of grunge, such as the details around John’s eyes or the magical attack on foreign folk made by the ravens of the Tower of London.
Overall, this has been a welcome start to a new arc and maybe even a new era of Hellblazer. The previous arc, “A Green and Pleasant Land” felt very much like an evocation of a previous era to bring in the Hellblazer diehards. Hopefully, they stick around for this new shift in the series. I do worry Tommy Willowtree is being written a bit too broadly and is going to end up both a punching bag and a victim as a “take that” but time will tell.(4 / 5)
John Constantine: Hellblazer #4 was written by Simon Spurrier, illustrated by Matías Bergara, and colored by Jordie Bellaire.
We return to the exciting world of Killadelphia with “Sins of the Father, Part V: The Sun Will Rise.” I have been pretty effusive with my praise for the series since it launched and it still deserves every bit of praise. As excited as I am about the potential of it becoming a TV show I am also a bit bitter that such a unique comic, something that really represents the height of the art form, is going to probably become more known as a show. I would have preferred the series to remain a gem in comics for a while, but I do not begrudge the creative team their success. But hey, these are my hang-ups as someone who came into the series and appreciated it immediately; I just want to be that guy, again, the sort of “I knew about it first” hipster. Like it was with The Walking Dead all those years ago.
Anyway, Killadelphia is still good, damn good. This issue follows the aftermath of the prior’s mass vampire attack on Philadelphia. It is very much a “rallying the forces” moment in the series. We catch up with the larger cast of the story, particularly making time for the vampires of all ranks within Adams’ organization. We also learn that there are more ancient connections to Africa in the strain of vampirism, as illustrated by vampire Tevin, who is quickly turning out to be one of the best and most sympathetic characters in the series. We also spend a good deal of time with the little girl vampire, Brittany who lived during the slavery-period of the United States around the time of the Civil War.
Perhaps the biggest wrinkle to all of this is the introduction of a figure known as Seesaw, who seems to have an ability that has already made the Killadelphia form of vampirism even more interesting. I won’t be spoiling that here, but pay very close attention to Brittany’s storyline. This could be a game-changer in a series that already does some fantastic and interesting things with vampires. Hell, even Carl Kolchak makes an appearance.
Jason Shawn Alexander’s art still sings and the coloring choices by Luis Nct are absolutely on point. Brittany’s scene with a group of cops is particularly visceral and worth a few looks. Brittany’s bleeding eyes and heart-icon shirt create a very strong image when in silhouette.
The romance between two key characters still feels a bit forced to me, but the emphasis on it in this issue is limited to a few touches, glances, and a very brief acknowledgment. I am not anti-romance at all, but when the cast of the characters has such a small pool of women it feels a bit too much of a throwback to immediately pair her off with someone. Thankfully she still maintains her agency.(4.5 / 5)
Killadelphia #5 was written by Rodney Barnes, illustrated by Jason Shawn Alexander, and colored by Luis Nct.
This indie book was a suggestion by my friend Robert Livingston, creator of the webcomic Tom n’ Artie (be sure to check it out). Sink isn’t necessarily straight-up horror, being more of a crime book, but there is some rather horrific stuff going on within so it seems like a good fit for Graphic Content.
Set in Glasgow, Scotland, Sink is definitely a great example of that old adage, “well, that escalated quickly.” It’s a dirty, violent book. The kind of shit you would hide in your pile of comics away from the prying eyes of your parents. If vigilante violence with a fox-head mask and a shovel against a roaming gang of snuff filmmakers seems up your alley then Sink should be worth a read.
And that’s not even covering the psycho clowns in a blue van.
Not being a Glaswegian I am definitely missing out on a few references initially, but that’s what the internet is for. Much like how John Constantine, Hellblazer tackles modern London, Sink seems to be doing the same with Glasgow. As far as the narrative goes, I am still a bit on the fence. The first issue’s story is perfunctory at best but it establishes the waking nightmare of its own Glasgow, so it at least has me intrigued in that regard.
As far as the art goes, kudos to Cormack for illustrating some of the most violent material I’ve seen in a couple of years. The violence and gore rides that fine line of cartoonish exaggeration and grotesque realism and then dumps a bucket of blood over everything for good measure. Good thing the comic seems to be digitally colored because I would worry about the cost of red markers Alex Cormack faces week to week.
I am on the fence if I want to slot this title into my Graphic Content ongoing reviews, but at six issues I am likely to do so. We’ll just need to see how I feel about Sink #2. The first issue leans heavily on style over substance and the messaging about violent and marginalized neighborhoods could probably be handled a bit more elegantly, but overall I am intrigued enough to continue the ride.(3.5 / 5)
Sink #1 was written by John Lees and illustrated and colored by Alex Cormack.