Hellblazer: Rise and Fall #1
A creature is hunting John Constantine — and it wears a very familiar face…
One of the things which intrigued me the most about this series was the prospect of watching Tom Taylor tackle a subject that was as unrelentingly dark as a good John Constantine story almost has to be. Taylor is known for having his fingers wound tight amidst his readers’ heartstrings (so that he can give them a good, viscous yank) but his stories tend to focus on the lighter end of the emotional spectrum ending, as they so often do, with familial reconciliation. That’s far from a flaw, but this story is a chance for Taylor to stretch himself a bit beyond his usual metier. And it’s paying off.
The themes of the series are already declaring themselves, and while guilt, forgiveness, and acceptance of the self are clearly strong thematic beats, Taylor isn’t turning the plow from the story-furrow Hellblazer requires. I mean, we watch his mother dying (in a very un-Disney way) over the first three pages. Then we see a child’s bloody body, smeared across a muddy riverbank. Then, naked fat men start falling from the sky. And the literal devil shows up. It’s satisfyingly dark, is what I’m saying. But Taylor’s voice is clearly there, so although you know that you’re likely to be cut pretty badly by these pages (and I’m not talking paper it’s) you feel as though you are in good hands.
Part of this is down to the jokes. ‘He’s a wizard, Harry’ being one of the better ones, but there are a good many little jabs buried in there, to shock a smile out of you. It was nice, also, to see Liverpool depicted in a way that is familiar to people who have actually been or lived there. God knows that’s rare enough, in American comics.
I was particularly struck by the death of John’s mother. It’s easy enough to see how feeling that you’d caused your parent’s death could fill a body with guilt, but having been on the other side of that experience (I died for three minutes while giving birth to my son — though I am a parent, not a mother. My heart stopped, And I was aware of it) it was nice to see that the guilt that John experienced was clearly placed on him by his father. His mother was only concerned with him. This resonated as particularly true,for me, for obvious reasons.
The ‘camera’ effects on the page (Darick Robertson is something of a genius) were painfully representative of what it feels like to die in a delivery room. It feels like Robertson made it look. I could talk about the love of subject and emotional nuance that is clearly evident on every page of this work, but I have already let this review run on too long. So I’ll just say that I could not ask for a better pairing of writer and artist, and I absolutely cannot wait to see what comes next.
Reviewed by Bethany W Pope
This is a dark, troubling, brilliantly illustrated story — told with humor and a lot of heart. Be sure to save this dark angel some room on your pull list.
Hellblazer: Rise and Fall #1: What Goes Up…
Writing - 9.5/109.5/10
Storyline - 9.5/109.5/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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