The ZONE genre worldwide books movies
the science fiction
fantasy horror &
mystery website
home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email

John Constantine - Hellblazer: All His Engines
Mike Carey and Leonardo Manco
Vertigo / Titan hardcover $24.95 / £19.99

review by Tony Lee
Spoiler Alert!
Not having read any Hellblazer stuff before, I'm uncertain how this book's story fits into the overall Constantine / Hellblazer 'universe', but I enjoyed its mix of suitably ghastly shocks and twisted sense of humour. Basically, John Constantine is a kind of private investigator of the occult, a "blue collar warlock" - according to creator Alan Moore. He's a superhero (or accurately, perhaps, an antihero) in the manner of Sam Spade meets Dr Strange. Constantine has been haunted by demons since his childhood in 1960s' Liverpool (where his dad warns him: "If you see any more ghosts, my fucking belt is coming off to you."), and for his latest 'case' in present day South London, Constantine - as a friend of the Chandler family, is asked to find out what's happened to their inexplicably comatose young daughter Tricia.

Turns out that poor little Trish's soul has been snared in a 'womb of night' by an unknown but utterly callous dark entity, and Constantine's inquiry leads him to a boulevard in Los Angeles where he finds something truly awful in a rundown mansion's swimming pool. What our chain-smoking, wisecracking, rumpled trenchcoat wearing, devil-cursed con-man eventually uncovers is a weird 'turf war' between assorted demons and netherworld fiends that seems to threaten every mortal soul with a new hell on Earth. There's a violent punch-up in a bloody slaughterhouse, a meeting with varied freaky monsters in a disused church, a grimly amusing joke in a funeral parlour where Constantine reminds an overambitious 'death god' of its own 'vocational' duties and, for the grand finale, a murderous game of voodoo 'chicken' in a Seattle hospital.

"Some bugger's messing with my head. And they'd better hope I don't catch them at it."

Despite the transatlantic narrative, it's all very obviously British in tone, but I doubt this particular cultural aspect will crossover into the Hollywood movie starring Keanu Reeves. Much of the book's philosophically stoical dialogue is frequently comprised of hardboiled scouser levity, so belying the world-weary yet infinitely stubborn Constantine's efforts to drag around the soul-wrecking baggage of his amoral past. Yet, contrary to logic, it's this very burden of grief, regret and lonely shame that actually enables Constantine to carry, or at least chivvy along, the main plot, regardless of this story's profound concerns. We are in the realm of a streetwise magician, so ordinary commonsense does not function here. John Constantine remains a formidable yet nonchalant presence throughout the poignantly everyday misery and bizarre horrors (while his best mate gets off with the pretty girl, our hero is left alone to summon demons in bug-infested hotel room). He's a working class magus blessed with a savvy post-punk attitude, and on the basis of this quietly disturbing tale, I think, Constantine is one of the most fascinating, if sorrowful, champions in comicdom.
John Constantine - Hellblazer: ALl His Engines

Please support this
website - buy stuff
using these links:
Send it
W.H. Smith

home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email
copyright © 2001 - 2005 Pigasus Press