Hellblazer #251


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Hellblazer #251


  • Words: Peter Milligan
  • Art: Giuseppe Camuncoli
  • Inks: Stefano Landini
  • Colors: Jamie Grant
  • Story Title: Scab: Part One (of Three) - Secrets and Lies.
  • Publisher: Vertigo Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Jan 21, 2009

A scab has formed on Constantine’s chest and it seems to be catching. What does this mean to his new relationship?

Peter Milligan takes over Vertigo’s longest running property this month with a story entitled "Scab." Not exactly the most inventive name given the subject matter here, but then Milligan will always surprise the reader one way or the other.

This issue is all exposition. There is a mysterious man who did something 12 years ago. The reader doesn’t know what, but given his appearance later in the book, it probably has something to do with John’s new skin problem. The rest is mostly devoted to two things. First up, John’s new found relationship with a doctor named Phoebe. Things seem to be pretty good there, especially given that she doesn’t run out the door screaming after an all night confession session. Turns out she may not be willing to let all of her skeletons out of the closet just yet anyhow. The other thing is the eponymous male lead looking for a cure, any cure for his condition. Maybe he doesn’t make the wisest choices concerning that, but then when has our mystical warrior made the best choices in any given situation.

Milligan does a fantastic job of setting up the characters here. The reader is drawn inside their heads and not just through Constantine’s narration. Phoebe feels just as transparent and the reader only knows her through scarce mentions from the narrative boxes and her own dialogue. She might just be the one and John feels the same way. There is also the requisite creepy villain here, but you’ll have to pick up a copy for more on that.

What isn’t clear is what the plot is or where it is going. Given that the plot is most certainly a mystery to the reader and maybe to the book itself, that isn’t necessarily a problem. The fact that there are only three issues to play it out does seem to be one. Only time will tell. Reading the "On the Ledge" with the author in this issue does reveal that he does have ambitious plans for the character. One can only hope that this story is a catalyst and not the meat of those plans. The only reason to nit pick at the seemingly nowhere-ness of the plot here is that this book is written by a new creative team. This is when the book should be grasping at those new readers and it is troubling that so many of them will probably just be scratching their head. Of course, it is possible that the only new readers will be on board because of Milligan. If so, there are callouses on the heads of those readers and they will be back.

Camuncoli is no stranger to Hellblazer. In fact, it is the way Vertigo markets the artist as evident in the recent Tokyo Days, Bangkok Nights collection. What is different about his art here is Landini’s inks that bring the avant stylings of the penciller to a more mainstream line. The blocky details are toned down a bit. However, the most telling difference comes in Grant’s modern coloring. The digital rendering gives some scenes a nifty glow, but whereas the techniques employed usually make art pop, with Camuncoli, it just takes away from his distinct style. The book almost crosses into standard horror book territory. It is almost indistinguishable from Hack/Slash or Locke and Key. Not that those books are ugly or have no redeeming art qualities, but one has to wonder why you would hire such a powerful artist and then tone him down, especially given the past history of the artist with this title and the en vogue quality of his particular school with the likes of Gabriel Ba and Grampa receiving accolades left and right.

All that being said, it is a striking book and the art has a nice glow to it. The inker and the colorist do a fantastic job of differentiating this tale from others by the artist. Camuncoli also does brings his dynamic approach to each and every panel.

"Scab" is off to an intriguing if not new reader friendly start. Hopefully, if there are any new faces they want to read on. Nice characterization and a few puzzles should be strong enough.

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