By Mat Johnson, Tony Akins, Dan Green & various (DC/Vertigo)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1003-8 (TPB)
As a comics character, Papa Midnite debuted in the premier issue of John Constantine’s own Hellblazer comic back in January 1988, but it was really the movie that sealed the deal on this solo outing for the Voodoo Lord. In later decades and thanks also to TV outings, the master of the Dark made a return to comics as a far more nuanced baddie/good guy…
None of that matters here. This is vintage Vertigo horror: gathering 5-issue miniseries Hellblazer: Papa Midnite from April to August 2005 material, as a ghostly visitation leads the former Linton Midnite down memory lane and we discover the deeply disturbing early life of the former slave and his equally gifted sister, Luna.
As ownerless chattels and legal sub-humans, they scrounge out an existence in 18th century Manhattan, surviving on wits, bravado and a smattering of magic learned from their mother. Always seeking the main chance, they become agents provocateur in a slave uprising, the repercussions of which still challenge the potent and powerful Papa Midnite 300 years later.
The resulting climax of three centuries worth of bad karma and blood debts provides a good, old fashioned supernatural revenge thriller pay-off, thanks to solid plotting and deft scripting from Mat Johnson (Pym, Incognegro) and inspirational illustration from star -in-waiting Tony Akins (Fables, Jack of Fables, Wonder Woman) & veteran inker Dan Greene.
Although no breakout masterpiece, this is a solid addition to the Hellblazer canon, so followers of the franchise and horror fans in general should applaud another mystic anti-hero strutting his street-wise stuff in our grim and gritty modern world.
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