Rake at the Gates of Hell

by Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon
(Vertigo, 2003)

Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon had an amazing run on Hellblazer -- but all good things come to an eventual end. Rake at the Gates of Hell put a masterful cap on their fruitful team-up with character John Constantine. And what a way to go out!

You'll remember Constantine's earlier bout with lung cancer, and the deal he struck with various rulers in Hell to fuddle their evil plans and save his own life. Well, Satan (not Lucifer, who has his own ongoing series) has been jonesing for a rematch, and he gets it here with the clever suggestion of a damned mortal once wronged by Constantine.

Of course, Constantine is never better than when he's faced by a really tough evil -- although the resolution to this particular problem seems a bit rushed right out of the blue.

But that doesn't stop Rake from being a fine, fine read, with Constantine at his roguish best. Couple that with a race riot, a little sacrilege, an ex-girlfriend turning tricks for crack and a far-too-short visit by love-of-John's-life Kit, and you've got a book that keeps the pages turning.

The meaty part of the book is followed by a short excursion to Belfast, where Kit's life is unfolding in interesting directions without John's baleful influence. There's no magic or supernatural mischief, to be sure, but she has her own set of demons to contend with, past and present.

It's a hell of ride.

by Tom Knapp
21 April 2007

Buy it from Amazon.com.