Hellblazer: Fear and Loathing
Garth Ennis, writer,
Steve Dillon, artist
(DC Comics/Vertigo, 1997;
reprinted from Hellblazer
issues 62-67, 1993)

There's a horrific nature to the tales of John Constantine. He quite frequently is not a nice person. He dabbles in things which are often unpleasant and, quite usually, result in someone's untimely and ghastly death. Perhaps that's why the first two chapters of Fear and Loathing are such a good read; writer Garth Ennis gives readers the other side of Constantine.

In the first section, he flies to the rescue of his young niece, who is exploring magic because she thinks it'll be fun. His compassion towards her (aided by his lover, Kit) is touching, while his solution to the problem is both terrible and witty to read. Along the way, he gives peace to an ancestor long overdue for a rest.

In chapter two, Kit is away with an ill aunt, and John prepares to celebrate his 40th birthday alone. But an unexpected group of friends show up, and the chapter is devoted entirely to the party they throw. No great action here, folks, but it's a fun, funny bit, showing us something of Constantine we rarely get to see.

The rest of the book has John up to his old tricks. The fall of an angel is cleverly plotted; the racial violence is brutal and ugly, and artist Steve Dillon doesn't pull any punches. A few pages here will make you flinch -- or, at least, they should. And perhaps it's only just that John has a bit of a fall himself towards the end.

This isn't the best place to start if you're a John Constantine novice, but it's a great place to get to. Ennis and Dillon combined their talents for one of the best runs in the series, and the storytelling here is excellent. However, I'd advise you to stay away if your stomach is weak or if your religious convictions are strict and unyielding.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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