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Hellblazer #275

Written by Peter Milligan

Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Stefano Landini, Shawn Martinbrough, Trish Mulvihill and Lee Loughridge

Lettering by Sal Cipriano

Published by Vertigo

Review by David Pepose

There's weddings — and then there's John Constantine's wedding.

And make no mistake, the celebration in Hellblazer #275 is pretty rockin' — and surprisingly accessible for all newcomers. To get in on these nuptials, which has just the right balance of sweetness and malice, you don't need to know much more about John Constantine than the fact that he's kind of a jerk who deals with some pretty unsavory magical characters.

Now, I will say this about Peter Milligan's script — while it's might not be the damn-the-torpedoes-full-depravity-ahead tone that some unfamiliar with the book might expect, he delivers an imminently solid story that I think everyone can resonate with. Can you get married... and still be yourself? Bam, just like that, John Constantine is relatable — and that's when he mixes in the demons that Constantine has to deal with. The fact that he's able to bring action and sentiment to the table — all while briskly setting up the rules and protections against demonic double-crosses — is no easy feat. And Milligan's cliffhanger? Hoo boy, that is some dark stuff.

Visually — well, Giuseppe Camuncoli is one of those artists who I am always excited to see, and he certainly doesn't disappoint in this book. I love the acting and sense of angular design he brings to every page, and it's really interesting to see how his pencils interact with two separate inkers: Stefano Landini gives an almost McKelvie-ian look to the women of the book, while Shawn Martinbrough brings a more lush, liquid linework during the Main Event.

Towards the end, Landini's linework looks a little thin for a fight sequence — veering almost towards Jim Calafiore-style brittle — but Camuncoli has this mastery of shadow and expression that makes every page A-list. And you know who really deserves applause? Letterer Sal Cipriano, who gives John's demonic doppelganger a really subtle difference for his word balloons — it's just a hint of purple, and at first it's almost unnoticeable, but if it's tough for you to spot, the omniscient reader... how will John's nearest and dearest tell the difference either? That's a great, smart touch.

Now, is this book going to knock you out of your seat? That I don't know. Milligan's got a tough balance tonally to make anyway, and so as a single, standalone issue, this doesn't ask any particularly thorny questions or present any particularly harrowing answers — but hey, comic book weddings are increasingly rare, and they're typically either pretty saccharine or clichéd battle sequences.


Infinite Vacation #1

Written by Nick Spencer

Art by Christian Ward

Lettering by Jeff Powell

Published by Image Comics

Review by David Pepose

Reading Infinite Vacation #1, it really hit home for me that there's an overarching theme not just for this book, but for much of Nick Spencer's work as a whole: The idea of escape — and whether that might just mean a second chance.

The idea of having a new life has played in many of his comics, including Existence 2.0, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and now Infinite Vacation, and in an era of uncertainty, of unemployment and underemployment, who hasn't wondered about what a different life might be like? It's taking the fantasy, escapist aspect of comics and really plays it to the hilt.

Look at Mark, the main character of this book, as an example: He's a corporate drone who knows deep inside that he's just wasting his life. So what does he do? Lives vicariously through someone else's, surfing the multiverse of lives he could have lived, whether as a surf shop owner or as the President of the United States.

I'll be honest — it's scary how good Spencer has gotten at world building. He sets up all the rules and regulations of the iTuned, Infinite Vacationed world. And seeing how multiversal travel has impacted the world can be pretty funny. "Everybody has themselves for a therapist anymore. Nobody knows you like you do, right?" Mark says, as he worries about the number of times his parallel selves have died across time and space. "Problem is, I know I'm a fucking idiot." Great gag material, but at the same time, it really sets up the self-loathing our main character feels.

When I heard that Christian Ward was working on this book, I immediately knew I had to check it out. Ward provided some challenging, eye-popping artwork in last year's Olympus, and in many ways, while he's toned down the craziness of his colorwork, he still provides an unsettling, almost psychedelic vibe for his pages. His character design is really striking, as even with an acid hue you get a great sense of expressiveness and characterization, even from a purple-haired girl with a flower in her hair and headphones around her neck. There's also a sequence by photographer Kendell Brunns that is really great, giving a sort of lo-fi fumetti experience to sell you on Infinite Vacationing.

If I'd say there's one flaw as far as this book goes, it might be the fact that the world building does take up just a little too much of the page count — meaning that I wish Mark's overarching storyline could have taken a little bit more of the book. Still, Spencer is so brisk and economic with his storytelling decisions, it's hard to begrudge him for diving into this world he so clearly enjoys — but at the same time, I wonder if more examination on Mark's underlying insecurities would have provided a little more pop to the cliffhanger final page.

Still, considering the idea that Spencer is so new to the comics scene, it's really refreshing just to see how smart his storytelling is. Infinite Vacation is a book with a message, a theme, and a radically styled execution, to boot. Do yourself a favor and check this book out.

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