Hellblazer #217


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Hellblazer #217


  • Words: Denise Mina
  • Art: Leonardo Manco
  • Inks: Leonardo Manco
  • Colors: Lee Loughridge
  • Story Title: Empathy is the Enemy, Pt. 2
  • Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
  • Price: $2.75
  • Release Date: Feb 15, 2006

John Constantine has been cursed with empathy and he is out to find out who has done it. You would not want to be the guy at the end of that road.

Writer Denise Mina had achieved critical acclaim for her crime noir novels; so how is her grasp of Vertigo’s rogue mage?

This issue opens with the discovery that, in helping out a man named Chris Cole, Constantine has been ‘cursed’ to fell empathy for his fellow men. He finds himself being more kind and considerate and it’s killing him. Literally and figuratively. If he cannot rid himself of this curse he will be crushed by all the emotions swirling around him – pity, grief, fear, even love and joy. When the case takes a homicidal turn Constantine decides it is time for a road trip to find the person who set all this in motion. The thing is, road trips with John usually end up bloody and this one looks to be no exception.

Mina’s background may be in mystery/crime novels but she proves adept at handling the mystical side of this title. Her utilization of the Scottish legend of Oran and St. Columba is an intriguing hook. I’d become acquainted with this creepy legend a few years back and was pleased to see her weaving it into this story arc. She also does a good job at capturing Constantine’s black humor and hard edge. It makes her portrayal of Constantine’s distress at being emotionally tied in to people a wonderful twist of the irony knife. Although my own history with Hellblazer is spotty, Mina appears to be on target with the character.

This issue, however, is the second one in a seven-issue arc and I found myself a little bewildered starting out here. I found I had to do a little investigating about the previous issue in order to put things in perspective. Since this is only the second issue, though, acquiring the previous one should not be difficult for those interested.

After nearly 20 years and over 200 issues, Hellblazer has seen a number of artists come and go and their styles have been varied. Leonardo Manco is new to the title along with Mina but his art is, like her writing, a perfect fit for the character. Dark, heavily shadowed lines and figures and a gritty texture make Constantine and his world look slightly ragged and shopworn. Lee Loughridge’s dark colors and sepia casts only add to this feeling of a world where people live a little closer to the edge.

If you’ve been away from Hellblazer for a while or been thinking about jumping in, this new creative team is a good place to do so. Denise Mina proves that black magic and black humor are a potent combination.

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