John Constantine, Hellblazer: The Devil’s Trench Coat (2012)

“Welcome to Hell, John …”

With this latest collection (#283-291), the regular creative team since #250 – Peter Milligan, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini – are just one issue away from matching the previous longest run on the series. This was the peerless run in the early 1990s by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon.

The book contains two related stories from the long running series -The Devil’s Trench Coat and Another Season in Hell. In the first, Constantine’s niece has stolen his old trench coat and sold it. But the coat being exposed to years of magic has a will of its own that it exerts on a series of new owners leaving death in its wake. Meanwhile John finds that he is more susceptible to wild magic and not as finessed in the spells he casts. All of which results in a Mafia hit man trying to gun him down while possessed by the coat. In the second story Constantine agrees to go to Hell to speak to his sister so that his niece, Gemma, can find out why she found her mother crying one day and free her soul from Hell. While John thinks he has out-smarted the First of the Fallen, the demon comes to Earth to enlist Epiphany’s consent to bind her father’s soul to him.

During his run, Milligan has done a good job of taking Constantine back to the basics of the character and gradually introducing a darker tone to the storyline. This book contains some of the darkest material yet with the dark magic radiated from his old trench coat to Constantine’s return to Hell and his revenge on his evil twin for raping his niece. Not comfortable viewing or reading at times but a must for long time Constantine fans and horror lovers.

Vertigo Resurrected: Hellblazer (February 2011)

 

Quote:
“… if I go home without you, your lovely wife’s gonna cut my bollocks off …”

“Thank Christ. How do we get out then?”

“Out? How the bloody hell do I know?”

 

This comic is one of a series from Vertigo collecting material that has never otherwise been reprinted. This one features 2 two-part stories from John Constantine, Hellblazer.

The first comes from the middle of the Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon run of the early nineties and consists of issues 57 and 58. When Chas and John stumble across some modern day grave robbers at Chas’ uncle’s funeral, John agrees to help Chas get to the bottom of the matter. They soon find themselves in a fortified industrial unit in the middle of nowhere where the stolen bodies are being used as test subjects for needless ballistic tests.

This is Ennis at his prime and the humour is dark matter black even for him. The art is typical Steve Dillon and I love it. Reading this just makes me want to do that Hellblazer re-read that I have been promising myself for some time – along with the Sandman, Zenith, The Shadow and a host of others I don’t have time for just now. Excellent stuff.

The second story is by writer Jason Aaron (currently writing Scalped) and artist Sean Murphy (who also drew the Hellblazer: City of Demons mini-series) and collects issues 245 and 246 from near the end of the Andy Diggle run. The story sees a bunch of documentary makers come to Newcastle to make a film about Constantine’s old punk band, Mucous Membrane. However, the site they visit is the scene of demonic ritual that put Constantine in the Ravenscar Asylum. Unfortunately for the film makers, the shade of the demon is still lingering on the site and once disturbed messes with their heads.

I bought this comic for this story as it the only one I don’t have between my comics and book collections. It is quite a good story encapsulating as it does a piece of iconic Constantine back story for readers that may not be familiar the character’s full history. I like Murphy’s art and would be happy to see him have an extended spell with the book and character.

Wolverine Origins: Born in Blood (2007)

 

Quote:
I’ve got one secretary of state, fried to a crisp. I’ve got one cruise missile, origins unknown, sticking out of the White House lawn. I’ve got one robot samurai – origins also unknown – lying in two pieces in the hall outside the Oval Office. And in the center of this whole mess, I’ve got Wolverine running around, completely off the chain …

 

This book collects the first five issues of the Wolverine spin-off series, Wolverine Origins and follows on from the last book I read, Wolverine: Origins & Endings. It was again written by Daniel Way. The art this time was by the fabulous Steve Dillon – another artist who put in a shift on the British weekly 2000AD before moving to the American market most notably with his collaborations with Garth Ennis on Hellblazer, Preacher and Punisher.

Wolverine continues to try and hunt down the people responsible for making him the way he is but when he starts to get close to anyone who can help move further up the chain of responsibility, they are quickly taken out in a hasty scorched earth policy. After an attack on the White House, the President authorises the deployment of Nuke – a failed super-soldier experiment or an all too successful attempt to create the berserker temperament of Wolverine – to draw Wolverine out into the open. Flashbacks recall Wolverine’s involvement in the recruitment of Nuke as a child and later in his conditioning as a killing machine in the Vietnam War. In a battle with Captain America, broken up by Cyclops, Hellion and Emma Frost, Wolverine is told, by Emma, that his son still lives and comes to realise that the sins of the father are to be passed to the son.

A pretty good read that reveals some tragic and unsavoury events in Wolverine’s past as well as his role in the creation of Nuke. The art is terrific, as usual from Dillon – I particular like his version of a hard-nosed Captain America. The first five issues also featured some fabulous covers from Joe Quesada and Richard Isanove. This is the first volume in a continuing series so while the story can be read on its own quite satisfactorily, it does set up Wolverine’s continued quest for answers, revenge and now the redemption of his son that he did not know had lived.

Punisher: The Resurrection of Ma Gnucci (2009)

 

Quote:
“Funny thing is I should be in bed with a supermodel now.”

“Shouldn’t we all?”

 

This book collects issues 1 – 6 of Punisher: War Zone. It was created by the fantastic team of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon – responsible for arguably the best run on Hellblazer, the fantastic Preacher and other Punisher stories.

When the Punisher hears rumours of the return of crime boss Ma Gnucci – a woman who had her limbs bitten off by polar bears and who was last seen being kicked into a raging fire by the Punisher (in the excellent Welcome Back, Frank) – he tracks down her only remaining ex-gang member and enlists his help to track down the truth of the rumours. Castle soon finds that the truth is more mysterious than the rumours and that they lead to a new incarnation of a criminal called Elite – the original was also killed in Welcome Back, Frank – who is seeking revenge on the Punisher.

I am a big fan of both Ennis and Dillon – as I said in the introduction they are responsible for two of the best storylines from Vertigo, outside of Sandman, a run on Hellblazer and the series Preacher. In this book he revisits some of the characters he used in Welcome Back, Frank – including Lieutenant von Richtofen from the Punisher Task Force. The book features the usual Ennis excesses – a Punisher who takes no prisoners and uses violence to excess with impunity, bizarre animal related mutilations, people having sex with vegetables. While not quite as good as Welcome Back, Frank it is still a worthwhile read for fans of Ennis’ humour and over the top story telling.