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Friday, October 16, 2009

New Constantine Graphic Novel One Hell of a Bore

Ian Rankin and Werther Dell'Edera's Dark Entries is the first piece of John Constantine fiction I have ever read. Maybe that might have something to do with how unimpressed with it I was, I don't know. I'm sure previous Constantine stuff would have to be much better, or else there would never have been a whole franchise built around the character. All I know is that DC Vertigo's latest hardcover release is nothing to write home about whatsoever.

It started out with a promising premise, about Constantine being recruited to investigate a reality series set in a supposedly haunted house. See, the producers are upset because it looks like the place may actually be haunted, and they can no longer control the show. Of course, it turns out to be far worse than that, and Constantine finds himself once again contending face-to-face with the minions of Satan.

It's all told in a very hard-boiled crime fiction style, courtesy of Rankin, a Scottish mystery novelist best known for his Inspector Rebus series. However, whereas it should have been taut and crisp, it fell completely flat for me--a series of boring interactions amongs the decidedly uninteresting contestants on the show, leading up to a tacked-on climax involving one of Constantine's previously damned adversaries returning for revenge.

Rankin has been writing for almost 25 years, but this is his first graphic novel, and I think that may be the whole problem. Whereas other crime novelists like Brad Meltzer have been known to take to the medium like fish to water, I don't think Rankin is one of them. Perhaps down the road he will learn the nuances of style and pacing in this very different format, but for now, Dark Entries stands as an initial, less-than-successful experiment.

Speaking of less than successful, I wish that I could say that the art of Italian penciler/inker Werther Dell'Edera saves the day, but it really doesn't. Though competent, Dell'Edera's work is far from engaging, and he comes off as just another Klaus Janson wannabe. If only the interior work could've been handled by the excellent Lee Bermejo, the long-time Hellblazer cover artist who also did the excellent cover here.

To be perfectly honest, Dark Entries was a bit of a chore to get through, but I soldiered through it in order to bring you this review. Aren't you grateful? Anyway, I would suggest avoiding it, unless you're a die-hard Constantine fan who must have some kind of insight that I apparently don't have.

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