A Dangerous Existence
Tripwire continues its 100 Graphic Novels You Should Read While Stuck Inside with its sixty-sixth choice, John Constantine: Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits by Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis, Sean Phillips, Steve Pugh, Dave McKean, William Simpson and various, published by Vertigo/DC and reviewed by Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows…
John Constantine: Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits
Writers: Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis
Artists: Sean Phillips, Steve Pugh, Dave McKean, William Simpson and various
The second book featuring Jamie Delano in our 100 GNs list straddles the end of Delano’s period and the very beginning of Garth Ennis’ run on Hellblazer. The book opens with JC returning to his ex girlfriend Marj and her daughter Mercury who live in a mobile home. Constantine is in a very bad way and he has ended up back with her because he has painted himself into a corner. Here we get to find out a little more about the sardonic mage’s history and we even see him as a young boy, finding a mysterious object that he blames for his misfortune throughout his later life. Phillips is not quite as accomplished an artist here as he is now but he is the perfect match for Delano’s darkly British script. He is replaced by Steve Pugh in a tale that explores similar ground to the work Delano created for that other Vertigo title Animal Man, looking at animal rights and man’s sometimes unhealthy attitude to treating the source of his food. We also find out that Constantine had a twin brother who died in childbirth, which he sees as another source of his bad luck. Where Phillips was loose and moody, Pugh is visceral and in your face. But in a strange way they both work. Delano’s run concludes with The Magus, a story that wraps up the 40 issues or so he worked on. Here he is teamed up with former Hellblazer cover artist Dave McKean, who brings a more surreal touch to his increasingly bizarre script.
So drawing a line under that run, Garth Ennis comes on board with new artist William Simpson. Dangerous Habits wastes no time in setting out its stall. We find out that JC is dying of lung cancer and so we witness him at his classic slippery best to try and get his way out of this death sentence.
It is interesting to compare and contrast Ennis with Delano. Both very strong writers in their own right but the politics is replaced with a more intimate touch. Artist Simpson assisted by a number of different inkers including DC veteran Tom Sutton brings a classic British sensibility to his pages too. Of course Constantine does find a solution to his predicament but at a huge cost that has massive repercussions later on. Dangerous Habits also introduces us to Constantine’s on-off girlfriend Kit, one of Ennis’s best creations. Ennis manages to invest Constantine with a vulnerable humanity here too as a man who is normally in full control of his destiny but has seemingly run out of options. The story feels like a very personal tale for Ennis and this is probably why it connects so well with the reader. The last few pages are also among the most emotional in any comic of the past thirty years.
We could have chosen the trade that reprints Delano’s initial run on the book but this makes more sense. Moore may have created John Constantine but Delano was his wicked uncle who fleshed out his backstory and gave him real personality and that deeply mordant sense of humour. Then Ennis took the character in a totally different direction entirely. Dangerous Habits the trade showcases two writers who bring something distinctive to the work that they create. Recommended especially if readers have been picking up the current Si Spencer and Aaron Campbell title at DC’s Sandman Universe imprint.
Here’s links to the other graphic novels reviewed so far