Nathan's Reviews > Hellblazer: The Devil You Know

Hellblazer by Jamie Delano
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's review
Mar 04, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: dark, graphic-novels, fun-entertaining, fantastic, quick-reads
Read in January, 1996

"The Devil You Know" collects Hellblazer issues #10-13, plus the "Bloody Saint" from the Special, and both issues of The Horrorist.

Overall, this is a solid collection -- if for no other reason than it's great they're finally making an effort at collecting the earlier issues in a mostly complete way. It's only four issues, but it's a fairly important and interesting four issues, and it's padded with some good Hellblazer miscellany. The writing and storyline is good, and improves slightly from Book 1 (Hellblazer Original Sins). The art is still somewhat garishly colored (typical for the late 80s), but the art itself is improved as well.

The storyline mostly deals with Newcastle and its aftermath, as well as John's current troubles with the demon Nergal; this is the first three issues, #10, #11, and #12. #13 is a one-shot sort of filler story in which John has hallucinations or visions of a nuclear apocalypse while resting at the beach. The "Bloody Saint" annual is entirely about John's distant ancestor, the ruthless and cunning priest-king Con-Stan-Tyne, set probably in the 7th century or so, and it establishes a relationship with both Ravenscar and the Dragon. Finally the story of The Horrorist is the tale of a frigid winter and John's tracking of a destructively empowered African girl who recreates atrocities wherever she goes.

Honestly, though I'm glad it's out, it could have been pieced together a little better.

First of all, the inclusion of the Bloody Saint annual isn't terribly unfitting, but it would do better as a prelude to the next trade, Book 3 (Hellblazer The Fear Machine)... I say this because of the importance of the Dragon and the God/Goddess balancing elements in the Fear Machine storyline. I assume it was put here instead to act as padding for the mere four issues.

Secondly, the story of The Horrorist doesn't fit here, and should go somewhere else (it's been suggested it fits between issues #83 and #84). I assume it was just added as padding as well, but padding really isn't necessary -- other elements could have been added in.

For example: Since the Nergal storyline is the main focus, I think they should have included part of Brian Azzarello's "The First Time" story from "Hellblazer Secret Files", the bit where an 8-year-old John meets Nergal while watching them dredge a dead body from the river. Make it the first part of the book and then go into the issues, or put it after, either way.

Also, with the nuclear omens theme in issue #13, Grant Morrison's issues #25 and #26 could be included here, since they aren't part of the TPB for Book 4 (Hellblazer Family Man). This would be a bit of a stretch, since they were written more than ten issues later, but it's less a stretch than the inclusion of The Horrorist, and it makes more sense. Plus the storyline of those two issues is deliberately vague in terms of timeline and continuity with the rest of the series, since it was a guest-writer spot.

Finally, putting the story about John's old heroine-addict girlfriend who gets addicted to Morpheus' sand (Sandman #3) might have been a nice inclusion for the end of the book, though there is some debate about when that storyline occurred within the Hellblazer timeline.

Any of these could have been included more sensibly, and filled the book out enough to keep it from being a skinny one. The Morrison issues and the Gaiman Sandman cameo issue may have legal or financial complications that would prevent inclusion, but the Azzarello "Secret Files" story is a no-brainer and definitely should have been included.

However, aside from these niggling concerns about how the book could have been filled out more fittingly, it's still a really good book overall. The "Bloody Saint" story from the Hellblazer Annual is really pretty hard to find, so it's great to have it included, and as I said it's wonderful that they're finally going back and trying to put Jamie Delano's series-originating work into TPBs.

Next: Book 3 (Hellblazer The Fear Machine)
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