By Jamie Delano & various (Vertigo)
This book begins by concluding an epic tale begun in Hellblazer: Original Sins (ISBN 1-84576-465-X) as the Resurrection Crusade attempt to re-enact the birth of Christ and the Damnation Army try to stop them, using Constantine as their weapon. Both sides learn that such a trickster is never to be trusted. ‘Sex and Death’ is by Jamie Delano with art from Richard Piers Rayner and Mark Buckingham.
The same team is responsible for ‘Newcastle’, ‘The Devil You Know’ and ‘On the Beach’. The first two (from issues #11 and 12 of the monthly comic) form an origin of sorts for the character as we flashback to 1978 and the punk rock singer John Constantine takes a motley assortment of mystic wannabees into a possessed nightclub for what they think will be a simple exorcism with catastrophic results. The second part features the wizards return and revenge on the hellbeast that shaped his life.
The next issue, ‘On the Beach’, sees him chilling after all the horror, but still sucked into an ecological nightmare. What follows is an epic tale of two Constantines as his ghastly heritage is revealed. Taken from the first Hellblazer Annual in 1989, ‘The Bloody Saints’ plays the modern Mage’s squalid existence against the history of Kon-Sten-Tyn, Merlin’s apprentice and putative successor to King Arthur.
A glamorous rogue and unprincipled cheat, he stole Merlin’s magic, made pacts with devils, pretended to convert to Christianity, assumed sainthood and generally did whatever he wanted. This dark, outlandish comedy terror is beautifully illustrated by Bryan Talbot. Also from that issue is an illustrated version of ‘Venus of the Hard-Sell’ originally recorded by Constantine’s punk band Mucous Membrane. Whatever you think it is, you’re wrong. Just get the book and revel in it and the wonderful creativity of Dean Motter.
The two part miniseries ‘The Horrorist’ fills the remainder of the book. Written by Delano and stunningly painted by David Lloyd, this bleak, cold fable has an emotionally paralysed Constantine hunting for the destructive force wreaking havoc throughout America by unleashing guilt fear and terror that can alter reality. All the trauma and blood of an uncaring world is the tool of a third world survivor and only more suffering seems to satisfy her.
Constantine is probably the most successful horror comic character ever, with mood and tension easily overwhelming mere blood and splatter time after time. Ambivalent and ever-changing the series never fails to deliver shock after shock. Every Fraidy-Cat and chicken should have them.
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