(2005) Mike Carey and Leonardo Manco, Titan Books, £19.99, hrdbk, 128 pp, ISBN 1-840-23966-2
This is one of three Hellblazer releases timed to coincide with the release of the Constantine movie, starring Keanu Reeves, and is easily the best of the three. The movie adaptation itself and Rare Cuts are the other two. This is an original novel length tale (i.e. not culled from the on-going comics series) from the fabulously impressive writer of Lucifer, Mike Carey, currently the writer of the monthly comic. Manco is also the current Hellblazer artist, though over all he's probably better known to fans of Marvel comics (despite some work on Batman for DC). The artwork is incredible throughout, as is the colouring by Lee Loughridge; Manco's Constantine is exactly right and, whether drawing demons or gods, streets or Hell, it is never less than convincing. The writing, of course, is brilliant, as we've come to expect from Carey's run on Lucifer; just the right mix of humour and horror, and Constantine the quintessential bastard hero-cum-anti-hero. Why didn't they make a film of this! So, the story: Chas' granddaughter falls into a coma, along with many others, and he calls on his old mate John Constantine to help him out. The trail leads to LA where it seems some demons are trying to set up Hell-On-Earth franchises and, using his friend's comatose granddaughter as leverage, it seems the baddies have got Constantine over a barrel. But then this is the guy who's bested the First of the Fallen and the King of the Vampires among others, and he's got other ideas. He just needs to make a deal...
All His Engines (you can look up the quote in Milton's "Paradise Lost") is an example of everything that is and has been right with this series from the beginning. Taut, genuinely horrific writing and evocative, dark artwork. The anti-hero with a strong loyalty to his friends. Menacing, nasty villians (like Angel with an 18 certificate). And clever plotting (as opposed to the film's sledgehammer script). Lots of humour, if a bit twisted. Snappy dialogue, with laugh out loud moments: "You forget yourself. I am no upstart demon, scrabbling in the dirt of the human soul. I am Mictlantecuhtli. I am a God." Constantine: "Great stuff. I'm John - and I'm a bastard." Look, let's not mess about, eh? Just go and buy this book; it will be the best twenty quid you've spent in a while. My word on it.
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