Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Comic Book Review: The Hellblazer #8, "The Smokeless Fire, Pt.2"

By: Jerry Montgomery
March 26, 2017

The Hellblazer #8
“The Smokeless Fire, Pt. 2”

Written by: Simon Oliver
Art by: Phillip Tan

The roadtrip (yawn) continues in issue 8 of The Hellblazer as Constantine and Mercury are in Paris France.  It picks up from last issue when Constantine was arrested by the French Police for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Seems like falling out a dead man’s window will do that. Anyway…

In Part 1 of “The Smokeless Fire” story arc, Constantine and Mercury arrive in Paris,  in search of a man by the name of Jacque Henry, who it has been said, met a Djinn (Yeah,  we’re still on that!) as a young boy while on expedition with his Dad in Arabia in 1936.  As it turns out, they’re not the only ones looking for him. A gang of Parisian thieves cross paths with Jacque Henry and while thinking he’s just a crazy old man, they also think he may have some money laying around. Enter inside man Dante, whose job it is to case the houses he does work for and then report back to the gang. As chance would have it, Dante has done work for the old man. So, the gang sets out to rob Jacque and this time with Dante along for the ride. Its time he push mad weight within the group. They race by on their motorcycles,  past Constantine and Mercury on the way to Jacque’s house. Mercury senses where they are going and the chase is on but how can you expect a chain smoking, three pack a day habit to keep up?

Needless to say, the gang busts into Jacque Henry’s house and demand his valuables. Jacque hurls off a few insults and makes Dante pretty mad to the point that he’s going to shoot him for talking that smack! Instead, in the excitement,  Jacque Henry suffers a fatal heart attack. Before he dies, he instructs Dante where to find his journal. At this point, Constantine busts in, ax in hand (ax?) But is fended off by a hail of bullets fired his way, allowing Dante and the gang to escape. Constantine follows Dante out the window and onto the roof but slips and tumbles into the bushes a few stories down. When he comes to, the drawn guns of the French Police are in Constantine’s face. That’s where we find ourselves now.

Issue 8 and Part 2 of “The Smokeless Fire” picks up at police headquarters with Constantine’s interrogation by a couple of French detectives and gets thrown in jail. Mercury,  consulting her “Genie in a broom closet .”, Adnan,  before bailing Constantine out, receives some surprising news from him.  While processing out of the slammer, Constantine spies a weeping woman claiming to be Jacque’s daughter. Constantine instantly recognizes her as an old mystic acquaintance from years back. He and Mercury follow her back to the dead man’s home and confront the imposter. It seems Constantine has the penchant for pissing off just about everyone he’s ever known and this woman is no exception, yet they are able to come to an uneasy deal between them. At first, Constantine is unsure what he’s looking for but through magic, Dante’s missing shoe (He lost it in his hurried escape!), and some good old fashioned trickery, he is able to learn that Jacque’s desert journal is what people are dying to get. The issue ends with Constantine and company in pursuit of Dante’s flying shoe (Don’t ask, just read it.).

The Verdict: Well, I have to say there hasn’t been much hellblazing in The Hellblazer. This story line has been going on for so long, I’ve forgotten why they’re ever in Paris. Writer Simon Oliver has scripted this story so far as one unending journey with little payoff. I’ve likened his story telling to if I asked Simon what time is it, he’d tell me how to build a watch. Artist, Phillip Tan can’t save the story either with his scribbly, inconsistent renderings of Constantine and Mercury.  He’s said that he was inspired by Alan Moore and John Totleben’s  run on Swamp Thing for his work here. I just don’t see it. Moore wrote some unsettling, horrific stories while John Totleban’s pencils bordered on crap- your-pants scary at times. Tan’s efforts fall way below the mark, looking more suited to a childrens book. The Hellblazer may well do better under DC’s Vertigo or Young Animals imprints to really do it justice. Imprints that would allow it to be what it should...edgy, r-rated, cerebral and worthy of the first Vertigo run, especially issues 1-9. So, you’ll have to read this barnburner to stay up to date with the story and hope that the point of it all will soon be revealed.

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