Thursday, March 02, 2006

Setting Sun/Haunted

Currently reading: "The Odyssey" by Homer
Next up: either "Ulysses" by James Joyce, or "Cat's Cradle" by Kurt Vonnegut

I don't like Hellblazer. I like the character of John Constantine, but the few issues of the Hellblazer series I've read didn't do anything for me storywise, so I chalked it up as a comic I just don't like and went on my way. However, when I was told that Warren Ellis, the writer behind the "Transmetropolitan" series, had written several issues of the comic that are now in two collections, I had to try again - because Warren Ellis is the Man, and that's all there is to it.

The first collection I read, "Setting Sun", was the more successful of the two. Warren Ellis writes best in shorts - some of the best issues of Transmetropolitan were the issues that were "short stories" - as he is wonderful at witty observation, which is best delivered in one quick shot. In the collection, we see John Constantine effortlessly go head-to-head with a serial killer in "Locked" (one of my favorites, as there's no magic involved, merely Constantine's wits); "The Crib" introduces us to the aborted fetus of the Antichrist; in "One Last Love Song", John deals with the ghosts of his past; the title story of the collection, "Setting Sun" pits Constantine against a Japanese war criminal; and in "Telling Tales", Constantine makes a dupe out of someone who comes to him for help. In addition to "Locked", my other favorite was "Telling Tales." It has the best of Ellis and Constantine all rolled into one (including a sly reference to that other Ellis anti-hero, Spider Jerusalem). The weakest link in the collection was "One Last Love Song" - I get it. Constantine's "job" causes him to lose people. This was the only story that felt like more of the same to me.

The other trade paperback, "Haunted", is a single, long story - and not as effective. As I said, Ellis is best in the short form, and this rambling story in which he tries to evoke London as a character did nothing for me. Now, I'm not usually one to compare one work by an author to another...usually I like to let each piece stand on its own. However, "Haunted" was trying so desperately to be in the vein of Transmetropolitan, that a comparison seems necessary. In Transmetropolitan, The City was a character - it wasn't London, it wasn't New York, it was The City. It was its own entity, and the reader got to know it as well as it got to know Spider or the Filthy Assistants. This worked, though, because The City was Everycity while being no city of which you'd ever heard. It could be a character, because the reader couldn't come in with preconceived notions about it. Ellis tries to do the same with London in "Haunted" to lesser effect. He has Constantine's narrations introducing us to London in a very Spider Jerusalem style. First of all, Constantine is not Spider Jerusalem, so the narration rang false. Secondly, and more importantly - we've seen this London before, both in other issues of Hellblazer, and other literary sources. So really, Constantine wasn't "introducing" us to anything, which made the whole read pretty pointless.

Setting Sun - Good Times!

Haunted - Whatever