Friday, March 22, 2013

#CBR5 Review #13: Hellblazer – Original Sins by Jamie Delano

(With art by John Ridgway and Alfredo Alcala)

And so I have officially completed a quarter-cannonball and reached the halfway point of my goal of 26! Albeit, most of the books I have reviewed in the past few months have been Shakespeare plays and/or graphic novels, which typically don’t take all that long to read. In any case, here I am to keep that theme going with yet another graphic novel:

Original Sins in the first volume of the “Hellblazer” collection, and is made up of the first nine issues of the comic series, all focusing on the character of John Constantine, as he works his way through the world of demons and dark magic. You may be familiar with the movie, Constantine, with Keanu Reeves as the demon-killing hero? Well, in the original literary source material that is these novels, Constantine is British as British can be. And also dresses just like Castiel the angel in “Supernatural”… And to be honest I really can’t see that as a coincidence, as a lot of the things that occur within this first volume really remind me of different episodes or situations from the show. I mean, the first short tale alone has Famine mixed with Bugs all over it, so it’s obvious that the books influenced the show in some way or another. The difference, however, being that “Hellblazer” is far less sanitized than the CW network program, and certainly isn't for a youth demographic, and that’s really not a bad thing.

As for plot, it would be hard to explain in detail, as quite a lot occurs within each distinct section of Constantine’s story. But in essence, each issue of this volume follows Constantine as he faces a different demonic or paranormal threat, along the way losing friends, and learning more and more about two oppositional sides of a large dispute between the strict religious movement known as the Pyramid of Prayer, and a circle of hell known as the Damnation Army. The issues that directly connect to one another with characters and storylines (ie, those about the Pyramid of Prayer group) are definitely the strongest, and it soon becomes clear that this is one of the big threats or conflicts that will predominate the rest of the series.

What I enjoyed about this book is simple: The monsters and the demons. Then again, I absolutely adore anything that takes these celestial notions of angels and heaven and demons and hell and twists them into something new: the fight between “good” and “evil” which is really just subjective shades of gray fighting shades of gray. Because of that, I didn’t even really mind the movie all that much, to be honest, though when push comes to shove, I find this original concept of John Constantine to be incredibly engaging and I just want to know more about him, where his moral compass points, and what things in his twisted past he is hiding from.

There were, however, a couple of hiccups I found in reading this volume. Particularly, the very “episodic” feel of the whole thing. Yes yes, I understand that it is a bunch of separate issues strung together, but there is a bit of disconnect when you just go from start to finish without any real breaks. This also makes some stories frustrating and confusing, because as soon as you start to see some over-arching story or idea taking shape, the pace quickly turns to something new that seems (at least at the moment) unrelated to the big idea. But how are we to know for certain this soon in the series?

At the end of the day, I really want to know more about John Constantine, and I want to know more about the Pyramid of Prayer and what it’s really trying to do. In that way, Original Sins becomes an intriguing taste as to what you may be in for if you continue the ride into Constantine’s life, and you just know that an overriding idea is going to be front and centre with some real shape real soon. But at the same time, you wonder if you really want to know about all the ins and outs of Constantine’s life, as you can tell from the get-go that he lives in a dark, warped world that leaves plenty of carnage behind at every turn… But I guess it’s just for each of us to decide whether or not we want to take a step further down into the demon’s lair. For myself, however, I think I’d like to take another glimpse or two into this world, as Original Sins peaked my interest just enough.

[And be sure to check out more reviews on the Cannonball Read Group Blog]

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