“The Good Old Days” continues — John’s old flame is a living portal to Hell, possessed by a damned soul as part of a plot by Nergal to unleash Hell on London and revenge on Constantine. Will old enemies and new allies help John race to the rescue or tumble to defeat?
THE HELLBLAZER #23
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artists: Davide Fabbri and Christian Dalla Vecchia
Colorist: Carrie Strachan
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Covers: (a) Tim Seeley and Chris Sotomayor (b) Sean Phillips
Editors: Kristy Quinn and Jim Chadwick
What You Need to Know:
A priest (Adam Day) has resurrected his brothers, Burke and Lucas, former heads of London’s criminal underworld. Their resurrection is part of a plan by the demon Nergal to use John’s former lover Margeret (Maggie) Ames to unleash Hell in London. Through recent events, Maggie has been transformed into a daemonic osmium, a living portal that can access almost anywhere. Superhero guest star the Huntress has been dispatched by the church to kill Maggie and end her threat. John struggles to find a way to save Maggie from Nergal, the Huntress, herself, and maybe even John, too.
What You’ll Find Out:
Father Adam Day is having second thoughts about resurrecting his brothers as things go far beyond what he intended. Lucas and Nergal use Burke (in Maggie’s body) to call up demon lords to possess the other heads of the London crime families. When Burke’s strength fails and completing the process requires a young girl’s sacrifice, Adam’s resolve falters and he turns on the others.
Meanwhile, John convinces the Huntress to let him find a way to exorcise Burke from Maggie rather than killing her. The Huntress agrees to spare Maggie, at least for now but lets loose on the rest of the possessed with unbridled fury and hatred. She wades through the mob but falls short with Nergal who intends to possess her as well. Meanwhile, John strikes a bargain with an old frenemy to dump the demons back where they belong. The deal will spell big trouble for John down the line, but what part of his life doesn’t?
As Maggie’s body fades, it looks like John and the Huntress will both be too late, but a little family tragedy seals Nergal’s bargain. The victory is short-lived as John executes his plan to send the demons packing. One snag — getting rid of Burke means getting rid of Maggie unless she can trust John to help. And that’s not likely to happen this side of ever. The end of the issue leaves John in a heap of trouble possibly for nothing and within inches of losing his life, his soul, and Maggie as well.
What Just Happened:
John’s guilt over what he’s done to Maggie over the years has landed him in quite a tight spot. He’s managed to chuck Nergal, at least for now, but Burke can still use Maggie to open portals and is proving difficult to exorcise. It’s looking more and more like saving Maggie might not be in the cards for John, but he’s still willing to die trying.
John’s determination to save Maggie is equal parts guilt and nobility neither of which is likely to lead him to a good end. Already he’s set himself with another heap of trouble with Blythe, assuming he survives the next issue. And I am genuinely intrigued to see what Burke is going to find when he looks through the portal he opens at the very end of the issue.
“The Good Old Days” continues to be a thoroughly entertaining arc. Tim Seeley’s run started off well and has continued to improve with each story. The latest arc has just the right mix of horror and action, striking the difficult and unlikely balance of a superhero guest star in a more occult and grim book. The Huntress was a great choice for a guest star with her religious and organized crime ties and she fits in perfectly with the rest of the story. It’s a testament to Seeley’s writing that he takes all of the elements that you would think are entirely unrelated and fits them together so smoothly.
The art also continues to deliver with a classic style that strikes a good balance in its level of detail. Expressions and action are dynamic and clear, the mundane and demonic aspects blend well together. Fabbri and Vecchia compose a wonderful layout with clean drawings, bold outlines and appropriate detail, and which are rounded out nicely by Carrie Strachan’s colors. The longer this team steers the book, the more levels they manage to weave into the art, the story, and the overall narrative.
This book has been for me a real treat since its relaunch after Rebirth, capturing the essence of classic Hellblazer but also bringing a fresh new take at the same time. I’m very much looking forward to the next installment of reliving “The Good Old Days” and the things that tie people to each other in love, hatred and most of all — guilt.
Final Thoughts: This story and indeed this book just keep getting better. The current arc is well-worth picking up for Hellblazer fans or someone just looking for a good story.