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Hellblazer #250 [Review]

Happy New F***ing Year, Christmas Cards, All I Goat for Christmas, The Curse of Christmas, Snow Had Fallen

Writers: Dave Gibbons, Brian Azzarello, China Mieville, Jamie Delano, Peter Milligan
Art: Sean Phillips, Rafael Grampa, David Lloyd, Eddie Campbell
Letters: Sean Phillips, Jared K. Fletcher
Colors: Val Staples, Marcus Penna, Jamie Grant, David Lloyd, Dominic Regan
Breakdowns (Snow Had Fallen): Giuseppe Camuncoli
Finishes (Snow Had Fallen): Stefano Landini
Asst. Editor: Brandon Montclare
Editor: Bob Schreck
Cover: Lee Bermejo
Publisher: Vertigo (DC Comics)

If you’re gonna charge me $3.99 for one issue, this is the way to go. 38 pages of actual story content, high-quality creative teams (multiple instances of quality Hellblazer talent), contained in a milestone issue that could be an event and yet isn’t an event. This is the longest-running Vertigo title, this is the milestone 250th issue of the series–an extremely respectable number in a day ‘n age when only a handful of titles in all comics have maintained consistent numbering while reaching such a point. Focusing in on Christmas (“holiday, sure, but there’s a lot of reference by name to Christmas!), we get five shorts showing John Constantine in slices of life, just being himself around Christmas.

I checked out a couple years ago from buying the single issues, finding that I was enjoying this series far more through the collected volumes; I’ve fallen behind on those collected volumes, so am not up to date on recent happenings for this book. That said, I feel like I only missed nuances here. The character, the feel and tone of Constantine is still there. The stories fit the character. And though just picking this up for the “special” nature of the issue, I don’t feel out of it nor lost.

The first story follows Constantine as he pursues someone who has been assembling stuff to invoke immortality for himself–the price of said immortality likely requiring the life of a child. In Christmas Cards, John watches a game of poker he himself is banned from–offering commentary and observations none the less, as well as the nature of a couple of people present. All I Goat for Christmas suggests a ritual that may have broken the curse on a certain sports team seemingly cursed right out of any championships. The Curse of Christmas shows an encounter Constantine has with someone who managed to work an actual curse into an address given by a very public official. Finally, Snow Had Fallen details a fairly magical sort of snowfall that challenges the faith of a man overseeing sick children.

All five stories have that “classic” Constantine feel to them. They’re sorta slice-of-life due to being short and not part of some big event–these are the sorta things John deals with routinely in his world/experiences, specifically around Christmas.

The art varies, giving different visual styles, different visual interpretations of Constantine & Co. The first three–by Phillips, Lloyd, and Grampa respectively–are probably my favorites, as they get across a certain feel of darkness or grittiness that seems particularly appropriate for their stories. The fourth didn’t work very well for me visually–personal preference, probably. The final story’s visuals were not bad, but had something I can’t quite put my finger on–perhaps a bit of brightness–that simply didn’t put it in the top three for me of this issue.

All in all, this works very well as an anniversary-style issue. Rather than hosting a huge event, this serves also as a “holiday special” with the focus of the tales. And the tales are provided by Hellblazer creative teams from throughout the years.

Whether you follow this series regularly are are merely aware of the character’s existence, this seems a great issue to pick up as a one-shot, whether you plan to continue with the next issue or not. Besides….you could do so much worse for $4. I give this issue an extra half point as a whole–the package is greater than any of the individual parts.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8.5/10

Supergirl #36 [Review]

New Krypton part eight: Death in the House of El

Writer: Sterling Gates
Penciller: Jamal Igle
Inker: Keith Champagne
Colorist: Tom Chu
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Joshua Middleton (variant by Chris Sprouse, Karl Story & Laura Martin)
Publisher: DC Comics

After a brief reunion with parents she already thought were dead, Supergirl finds herself facing the death of her father, assassinated during an attach on the Kryptonians by Reactron and Metallo. While the loss is mourned, other more sinister elements build toward fruition, and Supergirl meets a Kryptonian calling herself Superwoman and wearing a mask.

This issue plays nicely within the overarching New Krypton story, while having plenty of space to do its own thing, focusing on its primary character. Given the recent “fixing” of the problems with her earlier appearances half a decade ago, this issue gives us a chance to move forward after those and give some development to Supergirl’s character as she faces the loss of her father–something her cousin is also dealing with in his own life…perhaps a point that’ll help bond the two in whatever’s to come.

The art is a mixed bag for me. Perhaps a personal thing, but something just gets me about the way characters’ ears are drawn that puts me off. Other than that, the art is quite good, and fits the story quite well.

On the whole, this is a solid issue. While Zor’s death could have just been an action point in the overall story, this issue allows for that to be dealt with in greater detail–a strength I’m seeing in this story as elements that most impact someone are dealt with by a creative team that will be playing with them the most. Whether you’re falling just this title, or the New Krypton story, this one’s well worth picking up.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8/10

Air #5 [Review]

The Engine Room

Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist & Cover: M. K. Perker
Colorist: Chris Chuckry
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Assoc. Editor: Pornsak Pichetshote
Editor: Karen Berger
Publisher: Vertigo (DC Comics)

Having been unexpectedly rescued from an unplanned predicament, Blythe finds herself discovering a whole world she’d never known was present, right within the world we all know. After several issues of curious elements cropping up, some secrets are finally revealed–including a last-page doozy that promises plenty of fun potential for this series as it continues.

The story has been a bit of a slow build–with perhaps an extra issue’s worth of context being laid out that probably would have benefited from coming later in the sequence to get us to this point. So far, this isn’t something I’d consider the greatest story I’ve ever read–but while I can’t put my finger on it, there’s something to this that has brought me back four issues more than I’d intended when I decided to check out the first issue.

The art has a certain realism to it without getting so realistic that you forget this IS a comic. The detail is nice and clean, with a soft color pallet complementing it without overwhelming it. No complaints from me on the visuals.

On the whole, this is a fairly interesting new series that started out simply as a premise, but is quickly showing its potential to have a rich, deep mythology about it. It’s certainly worth checking out, though it’s probably not for everyone.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Secret Invasion: Dark Reign #1 [Review]

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist and Cover: Alex Maleev
Color Artist: Dean White
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Production: Joe Sabino
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics

A week late and a dollar short…that about describes this.

Picking up where Secret Invasion #8 left off, this issue follows the “dark Illuminati”–a group of fairly villanous Marvel characters that serves here as a counterpart to the Illuminati group revealed in the “Road to Civil War” era. We see what Norman is willing to offer these individuals, and for what price, as well as some of their initial reactions to the offer and what they could do with it.

The story isn’t too bad–for what it is. What it is isn’t all that much–basicaly just a wordier description with pictures of the “premise” behind this whole “Dark Reign” thing kicking off (a sentence about what brings each character to the table would suffice).

The art is fairly stylistic–not something I’d consider terribly realistic, though it is by no means bad. It’s got a gritty feel to it that seems out of place for characters I’d consider to not be part of a “gritty” story. On the whole, though, you could get a lot worse. The main weakness is that Namor doesn’t look like Namor–he looks to me like some drunken, unshaven guy off the street put in Namor’s clothes.

As a whole, this issue is almost entirely uninteresting. I was only slightly curious as to what details might be provided heading into Marvel’s Dark Reign event, and enjoyed Bendis when I read Ultimate Spider-Man, so was thinking a “talking heads issue” given the context would actually hold me interest and feel like a good story. This felt quite short…only 26 pages of story, plus NINE pages of “previews” for three other titles.

This was NOT worth its cover price to me–better to have paid $2.99 for the main story and have NO previews. Hardcore Marvel fans and those actually enjoying the overall direction the Marvel Universe has been taking will probably enjoy this, especially if picking up a bunch of titles from across the Avengers/X-Men families of books. If you’re a casual fan or not chomping at the bit for stuff following that last page of Secret Invasion, don’t bother with this issue. The previews and price actually detract from the overall experience of the issue for me, hence the final rating falling below the story/art ratings.

Story: 6/10
Art: 6/10
Whole: 5.5/10

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