Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hellblazer - Bloodlines (Ennis Vol. 2)

Hellblazer - Bloodlines
By Garth Ennis

A bit of filler, a bit of brilliance, and a bit of missed opportunity, Bloodlines offers up the very best and the very worst Garth Ennis’ run on Hellblazer has to offer. We get three story arcs in this hefty 300-page volume, plus a standalone story or two. They’re a mixed bag; when they’re good, they’re very good, and when they’re not, they’re largely disappointing because of what they could have been.

But overall, a solid thumbs up for this collection.

We open with “The Pub Where I Was Born,” a two-parter that starts wonderfully but finishes a bit so/so. Ennis offers the kind of romantic view of drinking that only those fond of downing beers with their buddies can offer, and as one of those people, yeah, it rings true. Ennis knows this territory inside and out and mines it to perfection. Made me want to meet up with some friends at the bar right then and there. But the story then descends into a gory ghost romp and kind of peters out. Too bad, as it began very human and wonderful.

A couple of just fine standalones follow (a Lord of the freakin' Dance story is “meh,” a vampire story was excellent despite my disdain for vampire stories) before we launch into the four-part “Royal Blood,” a story that would have been cool if Ennis wasn’t trying so damn hard to show us the depraved excesses of the rich and powerful. Great idea, great premise, cool demons, yada yada yada. Too bad about the ugly art and heavy-handed commentary, though. Still, the gore – both visually and in text – is delightfully unsettling.

“Guys And Dolls,” on the other, was excellent through and through. Angels and demons screwing, heaven versus hell, and all sorts of fun stuff. Some might call it “slow,” but Ennis is good at slow. He is at his best when he lingers in character moments, so as far as I'm concerned slow is not an issue. I enjoyed this arc. Great lead into artist Steve Dillon joining the book, at which point the title jumps into the stratosphere.

Is Bloodlines essential? No, probably not. It’s an uneven collection of stories the folks at DC couldn’t collect individually; sometimes excellent, sometimes “eh.” But if you’re going to read the Ennis run, it’s got a few tales (the two standalones and “Guys and Dolls”) that pay off later, so you’ll want to dip in. Even on the worst of this bunch, Ennis’ writing is strong and well worth reading.

An earlier version of this review was originally posted at and was also featured at

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