Hellblazer: Rare Cuts
by various writers, artists
(Vertigo, 2005)

How many times does John Constantine make a vague reference to a tragedy at Newcastle and leave readers wondering what the hell he's talking about? Well, the answer's here, in Rare Cuts.

What was Constantine like as a boy? That answer's here, too.

Rare Cuts is not the finest Hellblazer collection out there, but it's a nice set of short tales that fill in some of the blanks in Constantine's long and twisted career. Most of these stories haven't been reprinted since they first appeared in the monthly Hellblazer series; we can thank the release of the film Constantine for that much, at least.

The stories are unsettling, sometimes downright horrific ... although I'll admit the writing and art are not as good as they could be -- and would be, in later collections. We get to see young John and his mates summon a demon to kill a demon and try to save a young girl who's lived through unspeakable horrors. We see younger John find a dead boy's heart (or perhaps a really cool stone) and best the bogeyman. There's a village that's gone pagan in a nuclear kind of way, and a guy who's gone nuts from his own demon misdealings. And then there's the true, inescapable horror of a good mate's mom.

Rare Cuts isn't for the Hellblazer novice; it fills in the gaps for readers who know the story already and will only confuse those who don't. But for those of us who've loved a good Constantine tale since long before Keanu emasculated the man, this is a valuable book to have.

by Tom Knapp
7 July 2007

Buy it from Amazon.com.