Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pull List Review: Hellblazer #292

Two things that, more often than not, mean a great issue of Hellblazer: standalone stories, and Simon Bilsey. And, nowadays, another surefire sign of an excellent Constantine story is one centered on his wife Epiphany. Peter Milligan has built a romance that's stable and comfortable but still freaky enough to satisfy Constantine, and any new layer to that relationship is welcome. So even before getting to the first page, Hellblazer #292 has incredible potential in its ingredients, and the dish it serves lives up to that entirely.

I'm tempted to describe the issue as a children's story for adults, but I don't know if that's accurate. It's about a child, at least partially, and Bilsey's art (along with the enchantingly smooth, dark colors from Brian Buccellatto) definitely has a storybook quality to it. But a fucked up storybook about extra-hideous werewolves. These wolfmen make for all the coolest images, in particular the initial full-page reveal of the man changed by young Epiphany's potion, and later Constantine's own two-page transformation. But while these beasts give the strongest first impressions, the more lasting images are of Constantine and Epiphany together as grown-ups, their faces and bodies showing love for one another but their eyes hiding shameful secrets.

I said before that the art had a twisted storybook feel and, upon further reflection, I think I see that more in Terry Greaves' appearance than anything else. The shape of his head and smile remind me of the art of Lane Smith (The Stinky Cheese Man) in an odd way. And because we are, theoretically, seeing Greaves through the lens of Epiphany's childhood memory, it makes sense that he'd be exaggerated and warped to fit the worldview of a mature, abnormal child.

Or maybe not "abnormal" but definitely unique, talented, and powerful beyond her own understanding. It's nice to visit Epiphany's younger years and see what a capable force of magic she was and is in her own right without Constantine. Most importantly, though, we learn that long before they became the occult power couple they are today, the two of them were somehow drawn to each other, and that they're still bound by a secret they unknowingly share. It's a significant new facet of their past and present, and one which I wouldn't be surprised to see come up again down the line. But whether it does or not, whether they ever discover it or live out their days in ignorance, I'm glad to know about it, and their love is even lovelier to me now that I do.

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