silkcuts's Hellblazer: The Laughing Magician #1 - TPB review

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"I am most definately not the second coming of Whoever-the-XXXX"

Like I mentioned in the review of Joyride, I read Andy Diggle's Hellblazer run ever holidays now.  It has become tradition.  This trade is not the reason, the next trade Roots of Coincidence is the reason, but stay tuned, that book will be reviewed soon.  The build up to Diggle's finally is in this book.  There are really two parts: The Smoke and The Laughing Magician. 

The Smoke

What I loved about Andy Diggle's run on Hellblazer was that he took old ideas and made them fresh.  The source material he focused on for most of his Hellblazer run was the Jamie Delano run.  The first 40 issues of Hellblazer are layered in Diggle's arc.  There is the occasional Alan Moore influence, but by this time in the arc, it is the fleshed out ideas Delano had that set the ground work for this run.
Every so often I will reference issue #23 of Hellblazer.  It is an overlooked VERITGO issue.  Not just Hellblazer.  Vertigo is an imprint that pushed comics.  Before Alan Moore and the British Invasion, comics were just pictures and words.  Many of the best writers in comics can layer in so much by adding certain visuals, using certain names, etc.  When a great comic writer layers, he makes his comic a piece of literature.  In Hellblazer #23, Delano explored the idea of Public Domain Characters in the real world.  Within the Fables fans, many have never read Hellblazer #23, but that is the oldest Vertigo book to explore those literature characters in a mature way.
Diggle takes a different approach.  Instead of using famous fables, Diggle explores the smoke and mirrors of the Urban Legend.  How a reputation can hold so much weight and almost create something that is not real.  This ability to create an idea is real Magic(k).  Any Diggle has done his research, Crowley stated " Magick" is "the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will." These include ritual acts as well as mundane acts.  Alan Moore has explained that Magick is disease of Language.  What he meant by this is that what we say can effect another person's mind.  If we take that in to principle then a writer is a modern Shaman. A writer creates new worlds out of thin air, just words.  These words bring things to life.
The Urban Legend is the explored magick in this story.   Spring Heeled Jack and the Chelsea Smile are two urban legends Diggle works in to this self contained issue.  It is very clever how Diddle defines reputation in this single issue.  The issues makes more sense if you are more familiar with some of the topics, if you are not, that is what the internet is for.
Danijel Zezelj's art is not for everyone, but I really enjoy it.  It is moody and uses a lot of Shadow.  It goes very well to the "magic" of Hellblazer and especially this issue.  

The Passage (Prelude to the Laughing Magician)

 Andy Diggle sends a Message In A Bottle.
What I mean by this is that Andy Diggle knows John Constantine very well.  A little fact not every comic fan knows, but all should, John Constantine was originally intended to look like British Pop-Rocker Sting.  Some writers of Hellblazer play upon this inside joke and this issue is one of them.
The Premise is that there is another villain now chasing John Constantine.  This blood-mage villain comes from Africa.  Diggle is clever to name him Mako.  Most will think of the Shark, which is referenced later in the run, but Mako is a town in Ethiopia. I also found it funny when researching Makó, a town in Hungary.  This villain can also be seen as a play on words with "Hungry"  since he must eat his victims to absorb their life force.
Mako is hunting John down because an old Shaman from John's Past had dreams of the "Laughing Magician". The Laughing Magician is theory is the "Great balance" or Savior if you will.  Mako wants to absorbs the Laughing Magician's life force, but to protect John the Shaman "bottles" up all his important memories of John and sends it to John.
This issues really is part of the Laughing Magician arc since it is its prelude.  This issue is important to the Laughing Magician arc.  It is a must read.  

The Laughing Magician

The Premise of the Laughing Magician is that Andy Diggle is tying up loose ends.  I really don't know why Delano's Golden Boy story was never touched by anther writer.  Maybe its is because Ennis' run became so influential on Jenkins' run and those two alone are a huge chuck on Hellblazer history. Diggle noticed these old forgotten plot point and tightened the Hellblazer history up nicely.  John's dead twin brother is brought back into Canon after being forgotten for so long.  
Mako is now in London and John is running for his life and tossing more "friends" in the line of fire.  The Laughing Magician as a three issue arc is a reflection of John's con artist skills.  Pinning the villain from Joyride against Mako.  By doing this older Hellblazer fans are reminded once more of the old great times of John Constantine, before Ennis brought John so low.  There again is the use of mirrors which are symbolic.  If you haven't read Delano's full run, some of this layering is lost, but the story is contained enough to understand the major points.
Redefining John Constantine was Diggle's Goal in his run.  At this point in his run, he has raised John back to the great Constant he use to be.  Is John Constantine the Laughing Magician?  Is the Laughing Magician the great balance (savior)?  Is John Constantine thee "Constant-One"?  All those questions are answered in this trade.

The Verdict:

 I absolutely love Diggle's Hellblazer run.  It is the run I suggest as the "jump in" run for anyone who wants to read John Constantine. The three books are low commitment compared to all the other better writers who tend to have four or more books. Diggle is a Hellblazer fan, he understands John Constantine.  He made John better with his run.  This is such a great run it has become an annual tradition for me.  May be it will be a tradition for you too. Pick up Joyride and the Laughing Magician, for sure you'll want Roots of Coincidence. 
- Silkcuts
2 Comments Refresh
Posted by Trodorne

diggle has been a hit and miss with me in the Marvel section, but he seems to be doing well in the vertigo section with john constantine. Hellblazer has been an on and off series based on if i can purchase it at the time. though its not a good idea to get random and scattered issues it makes it interesting to see how well he can write a story for someone who is just picking up the series on the fly. 
   Good review

Edited by Silkcuts
@Trodorne:  thanks. ^_^
Yeah, I hear Diggle let people down on DD.  Glad I was not reading it monthly, I may just get the first trade and leave it at that..
With any series now, there are few stand alone issues.  Most series are written so they can be collected into trades.  
Diggle's HB was great.  If I had to recommend one trade, it would be the last one, Roots of Coincidence.  I plan to have that one reviewed by next week.

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