Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Hellstorm: Prince of Lies #2

Halloween 2018 Post-A-Day: Day 16
Hellstorm: Prince of Lies #2

Hellcopier, Prince of “DC did it, why can’t we?”

"Strange Encounters”
Writer – Rafael Nieves
Penciler – Michael Bair
Inker – Michael Bair
Colors – Janet Jackson
Letterer – Richard Starkings
Editor – Fabian Nicieza
Editor-in-Chief – Tom DeFalco
May 1993

Hellblazer. For four years DC’s Vertigo title had eaten up the mature adult horror genre with no sign of stopping and Marvel was finally realizing how much money they were leaving on the table without a suitable entry. Sure Marvel’s Midnight Sons brand had gotten some attention, but none of the books approached what Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis, and others had put John Constantine through.

No, Marvel needed an adult occult hero all their own. In a hotel lobby in Tacoma, Washington, Fabian Nicieza and Kurt Busick were meeting Mark Bagley for lunch. Mark was late. Fabian got to talking about reviving Son of Satan. Busick threw a few ideas at him. The result was something Nicieza hoped would walk “the fine line between Marvel’s Midnight Sons and DC’s Vertigo,” a clear reference to Hellblazer.

Afterwards Nicieza settled on Rafael Nieves as writer and then unsettled on him four issues later. I feel there must have been some friction over the story or the pace at which Nieves came out with stuff because Nicieza mentioned in issue number two that one of the “fits and starts” of the title getting off the ground was “Raff learning the requirements of working on a monthly comic book for an obnoxious editor who works for a big company.” That sounds like hidden speak for I have to send back or change some of Nieves story ideas and there may be some chafing because of it.

Daimon as Marvel’s John Constantine…Don’t believe me, right? Let’s see how you feel after this issue shall we?

We begin by giving Daimon a place that smells of booze and cigarettes. A place of darkness and loud music, and we make that Daimon’s home-away-from-home. This would be Helzapoppin’, of course.

This mirrors much of Constantine’s club, pub, and bar hopping as he ends up in places brooding and trying to drown his sorrows. He occasionally meets old friends there. Sometimes normies and sometimes not. Daimon is about to have his first guest star. A guest star that Bruno Coffee lets in with a terrified look on his face. You see…the Doctor is IN…

First he bumps into Al Shaitan, the club owner whose name literally translates from Islamic theology as the “head of the shayateen” or more literally “Satan”. The book is trying to be coy with us, in that shayatin are tempters and causers of misfortune. This one owns a nightclub where people get drunk. This kind of drunk, to be exact…

And then the book has an UGH!! moment of unfunny self-awareness.

Yes, we get it. John Constantine. You are trying to be like John Constantine. And failing miserably. Especially when directly after this you act as if you have the stones to somehow intimidate the sorcerer supreme of the Marvel universe. Give it a rest, Daimon. You are strictly D-List at this point.

This annoys me. The book has introduced Daimon as if he is some bad-ass that could take Doc Strange on AND he’s treating women like objects. There is nothing to like in his personality. They are trying so hard for “anti-hero” and missing by a grave margin. They overlook the fact that Constantine still gives us reason to root for him. He isn’t an asshole because he’s an asshole, he’s a regular guy who has lived through so much horrible shit that he acts like an asshole. Daimon tries the rest of the issue to persuade us that he’s done the same. In better writing hands, he might have succeeded.

To get there we have to show that Gabriel has written a hit piece on Daimon and that is the reason Strange has shown up. Notice how Helldude tries to distance himself from his more heroic, costumed status. Because that won’t fit in with Constantine, not because it shouldn’t be who the Son of Satan is.

Meanwhile Gabriel, the author of said article is brooding and doing odd upper body exercises in his apartment. He is messed up by Daimon saving his life last issue and even more messed up that God let his lover be…stolen by the forces of evil.

Evil so bad that it can barely pour a glass of whiskey, from the looks of things. Slide that back to the center of the glass bud, you're slopping it all over my shoes. And then we are back at the table with Strange and HellSTORMY.

The rest of this gets tedious and I find myself HATING the book. Not since Fate #1 have I felt this level of misfire re-imagining of a character has taken place, but at least with Fate I found it laughable. Hellstorm just ends up being sad pandering to another character’s audience. It is sad “me too”-ism that makes me wish the book didn’t exist, no matter how much I respect Blair’s art.

I have to suffer through the rest of this so you have to go too. Next up, Daimon spins up the wayback machine as seen through the eyes of someone revising their history to match someone else’s stat sheet. It is kicked off by Strange acting as a surrogate for the longstanding Son of Satan’s #1 fan asking “how did he get to become THIS?”

And of course we have re-write any history of personal intimacy the two characters might have had, because Daimon has to be a cursed loner. 

A loner that will never be a man. Now curl up as we tell the tale…

We go into how dumb Daimon’s mother was as she meets a guy wandering around the woods and falls in love with him instantly. Her parents forbid her to marry, they suddenly die, and she marries the guy a week later. Oh, and the guy was a huge Star Trek fan because he wore pointed Spock ears all the time.

She gets prego and pops out a son which doesn’t equal the marital bliss she thought it would. Her man turns away from her and spends all his time teaching his son how to read apparently, beginning at the tender age of, what is that? 7-8 months? 

And the mom gets jealous and pops out a baby girl, Satana. And Satana is more a chip off the on block, being cruel and partially evil. She might even have had a hand in the injury that left their mother in an insane asylum. In the original books, I think she turned over a new leaf, but I’m going to be honest in stating I’ve never read a Satana story. I just know she had her own run through various Marvel titles, mostly in roles that cast her as helping a hero.

And Daimon wraps up his little trip down memory lane with his mother’s death in the asylum and his inheritance of both her estate and her diary. But that’s not all…Dun-dun-DUN!

Because you see, the NEW Daimon is going to say that superhero on the Defender’s roster was never really him. This is the real him. The him that likes to smoke cigarettes in dank clubs and act all moody-broody. What a crock of crap! What a ham-fisted attempt at changing a character to someone dark and mysterious. Crock of Crap!

Next Daimon claims he did all of that superhero crud because “reality was too much to bear” or something. That he can see the evil that all men hide and his father’s influence on them. Then he claims he is drunk and asks Doctor Strange to leave, because, LIKE JOHN CONSTANTINE, Daimon now drinks to excess and can have no lasting friends who view him as someone they can count on.

And that means Strange has to issue a final threat about Patsy Walker’s good health before leaving. Daimon mentions Isaac is helping him run affairs and I realize the book will be screwing up lots of ex-Defenders in just a bit. Doc Strange leaves first…

And then Daimon has a run-in with the “Hellfire” guy, which is basically Daimon beating him up for a half-page not shown here.

And then leaving with a pair of sour jokes, which is something Hellblazer would do on occasion, but with a pinch of restraint that Hellstorm can’t quite figure out. Neither of the jokes are funny and they come on the heels of what should be dramatic moments. They make Daimon appear moronic in context. But they are something Constantine did (at appropriate moments) so we have to have something like them in our book to be able to compete. 

Now we start racking up the other sins of the book. One that it has turned Isaac into some kind of sniveling servant instead of the hero he was in the New Defenders mag…

A person of such little interest that Doctor Strange, an ex-teammate doesn’t even ask about him.

But the biggest offense is saved for last. That being Daimon coming into his wife’s bedchamber…

…only for the audience to find she’s been turned into a drooling, catatonic vegetable complete with crazy Britney haircut. And Blair is throwing out a clear homage to Bill Sinkevitch.

This is a travesty. I don’t even really know the Hellstrom character all that well, and even I can tell this is character assignation and replacement. The book’s misguided attempts at becoming something it could not attain would be evident in just two more issues as a new writing staff takes over, and then another seven months down the line from that with Ellis putting the title to bed in just ten issues.

Any reason to pick these up? Blair’s art is worth a couple of quarters, I suppose. Just don’t try to read any of the words or you’ll be tempted to throw the book into the firepit.

I am the God of Hellfire, indeed.

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