Wednesday, May 28, 2008

John Constantine: Hellblazer- Joyride by Andy Diggle and Leonardo Manco

John Constantine is the premiere magician of the DC Universe, but his history is long and checkered, not to mention he's a magnificent bastard who tends to take as high a toll on his friends as he does his enemies. Sometimes even higher.

But now it's Constantine's chance to return to his roots, but first he has to do a job for a con whose daughter was killed. The Con wants revenge on the man who killed her, and a killer believes it's Constantine who did the deed. So he takes John down to the tidewater, where the spirits of those killed will return to take revenge upon the killer, but Constantine turns the tables on the man, revealing him to be the killer and sending both killer and killed onto their final reward... not all of which is "all rainbows and cherubs".

Then it is back to the scene of Constantine's darkest memory, his incarceration at Ravenscar Asylum for the insane. Now it has been turned into a hotel/casino, but Constantine has to reclaim something he lost there, something that was taken away from him when his sanity was returned; his confidence in himself. But to do that, he will have to deal with and face up to what he left behind... and it isn't all good.

Following that, Constantine gets drawn into the problems in an area of Britain called Hunger Hill. When a husband and wife are preyed upon by a street gang, causing the death of their baby daughter, the husband is seduced into taking his revenge on the street gang, who are having their own problems. The youngest member, whose actions killed the girl, doesn't remember the actions that led up to the little girl dying, and it is spooking him badly. Worse, he killed the little girl in a car accident, but he doesn't even know how to drive!

The council member who has "saved" the man and his wife from their dangerous neighborhood is in these problems up to his neck. Can he have actually caused them for some sinister purpose of his own? The husband calls on Constantine for help, but even Constantine, with his new/old confidence back, may be unable to do anything to help the man. But it does leave Constantine with a new enemy, one he will have to take care of in the future...

For a graphic novel that is supposed to be the return of the Old Constantine, I couldn't really tell the difference between the supposedly Old Constantine, and the usual New Constantine. The difference being that he is really feeling the confidence he usually affects, this time, I suppose. Really? I didn't see any difference.

The stories do shine, with the first one being the most affecting, to me. We are set up to believe that the Con, Pearly's daughter, was an innocent killed because of who her father was. But the truth isn't that easy or palatable. (Is it ever, in a Constantine story?) And when she gets taken to her earthly reward, even the other dead people react. As one says, "Damn, Constantine, that was cold!"

Of course, he's just nearly been killed himself, so he's not exactly in the best of moods, but it's really no different than he acts later on in the book when he regains his confidence and arrogance.

Make no mistake, I enjoyed the graphic novel, but it's rather a pedestrian, middle of the road Constantine GN, no better and no worse than many of his other novels. YMMV, of course, and you may want to read this before you decide to buy.

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