Saturday, July 6, 2013

Hellblazer: Death and Cigarettes – graphic novel review

Death and Cigarettes is the final volume in Vertigo’s Hellblazer series. What a shame. I gather that John Constantine – the dubious hero of these stories – will return but in a more family-friendly incarnation. So I imagine out goes his smoking and drinking and womanising... Not that Constantine womanise much, now that he’s married – that happened a graphic novel or two ago.

Anyway, Death and Cigarettes contains four stories – “Suicide Bridge”, “The House of Wolves”, “The Curse of the Constantines” and “Death and Cigarettes” – collected from the Hellblazer annual 1 and issues 292-300. All are penned by Peter Milligan with artwork coming from Simon Bisley, Guiseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini. All the pictures perfectly complement the stories – dark and grim and, when needed, suitably graphic.

 As is usual, Constantine often finds himself enmeshed in a sequence of supernatural events, usually drawn into them by others asking favours or calling in debts. Constantine embarks on the quest to find so-and-so in order to keep a promise – not that he’s adverse to breaking promises when it suits him. In “Suicide Bridge” he searches for a boy-hood friend who went missing decades ago, and in the process other lost souls are discovered.

“The House of Wolves” fills in some of the Constantine-Epiphany back-story, and is bleakly humorous.  In “The Curse of the Constantines” our hero seeks the long-lost son of his dead sister (although she’s in Hell she asked him to do just that). It seems that Contantine’s nephew is in Ireland and may be a serial killer...

And finally we come to “Death and Cigarettes”. Here, Constantine knows that within a week he will be dead. All the signs and portents can’t possibly be wrong. Do the Fates get their way and does he die? Does the Devil (or one of the devils) claim Constantine’s soul, as they have tried to do so over the years? Or is there another outcome? I’m not saying...

As I mentioned, this sees the last of the present John Constantine incarnation. It’s been a good run. Can it possibly be equalled? Let’s hope so.

Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

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