A Very British Trade Post: Jenny Sparks & Hellblazer: The Roots Of Coincidence

JENNY SPARKS: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE AUTHORITY (Wildstorm)
Written by Mark Millar, drawn by John McCrea
Collects the miniseries of the same name #1-5
I’ve gone on record saying that I’m a big Authority fan, having reviewed a good number of the books on the blog, so this Jenny Sparks mini was right up my alley. I got it off a Sequential Swap and then saw two words on the cover that tend to turn me off from comics: Mark Millar. I’m just not a fan of the dude’s writing in general. I feel like he tries too hard to shock readers and I haven’t been truly shocked by a comic since Preacher and I’m fairly certain it won’t happen again. I will give the guy credit for creating great big popcorn books (the equivalent of a summer blockbuster), but for whatever reason, I don’t tend to enjoy those comics as much.

Anyway, my desire to learn more about Jenny Sparks and to check out some John McCrea art (I’ve been slowly collecting and reading all of the old Hitman trades and really dig his art), so I soldiered on. And, overall, it’s a pretty interesting little book. We do get more bits of Jenny’s history, but also how she met each member of the original Authority team and convinced them to join. For that alone, it will stay in my Wildstorm trade collection, but I’m not sure how many times I will go back to it.

For one thing, Millar decided to make Hitler a large part of one of the issues, stating that Jenny and he were friends back when he was a lowly artist and she suggested he go into politics. Later, she’s working as a spy during WWII and gets caught by the Nazis, but Hitler lets her go. Now, I’m torn on this because it feels like a very “look how crazy I’m being” Millar moment, but at the same time it makes sense that Jenny, being the spirit of the 20th century, would have influenced the good along with the bad. I’ll give it a pass for now. What I can’t give a pass is the non McCrea-ness of the art. Don’t get me wrong, the art is good, but it doesn’t look like the McCrea I know and love and have in my head when I think of him, which was disappointing. Add him to the list of artists who have changed their style for the worse from the 90s.

I can’t really see anyone aside from Authority fans really digging this book. It’s not Millar-y enough to appeal to his hardcore fans (though they probably already have read it) and it’s not like Jenny Sparks is a belovedly missed character (though I would definitely like to hear more about her getting sent into a crazy depression). Bonus points for getting a pretty good intro by Authority creator Warren Ellis in the book too!

HELLBLAZER: THE ROOTS OF COINCIDENCE (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Andy Diggle, drawn by Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Manco
Collects Hellblazer #243-244, 247-249
Even though this collection of Hellblazer breaks my number one rule for trades (collect EVERY ISSUE consecutively), it was still an interesting read. But, in cases like this I’m always left asking “Would it have killed them to include those two other issues?” I don’t tend to read Hellblazer books in any kind of order, just reading whatever trades I get my hands on, but it’s still frustrating to have that question mark hanging over my reading experience.

Anyway, the book is broken up into two related stories, the first about a room in the Vatican that doesn’t allow God to see what’s going on inside. The idea is that priests can go in there and do whatever their black hearts desire to whoever they can find and it won’t be considered breaking their vows. Considering all the bad energy in the place, it should come as no surprise that a demon gets loosed inside. I was raised Catholic, don’t practice now, but also took a lot of classics and lit classes in college that focused on Church teachings and its history, so the story was really interesting to me and had me wondering if that room really exists in the real Vatican. Constantine gets called in to get rid of the demon, but also has motives of his own. Without giving it away, I give Diggle a lot of credit for adding a few extra layers to the story than what someone else might have done.

The second story involves a businessman who’s done a lot of wrong trying to set up his own private heaven and then killing himself. He gets a demon to help him, but Constantine gets involved and winds up serving his own brand of justice. After that, though, we get an issue that probably plays better with people who have been reading Hellblazer comics for longer than me as Constantine comes face to face with the force that has been plaguing him for years. I’ll be honest, I didn’t completely understand it, but I think I liked it.

There are two elements that I really liked in this book. First off, the artists are amazing. Camuncoli and Manco should always be drawing Hellblazer or Hellboy comics as far as I’m concerned. They’re perfectly suited for this kind of work. The other aspect that I liked was Diggle’s ability to really set Constantine up as a man with a strong grasp of his own morality, punishing privileged, wicked men who has a devilish way of putting people in their place. He’s a great character that I really enjoy reading about and would have liked to have gotten those extra two issues in this book!

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