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Hellblazer vol 3: The Fear Machine

Hellblazer vol 3: The Fear Machine back

Jamie Delano & Mark Buckingham, Richard Piers Rayner, Mike Hoffman, Alfredo Alcala

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Page 45 Review by Stephen

Bless Delano: he electrified these pages with political storms, raging all around us as they were back in 1989. Here a group of travellers, constantly under threat of harassment from the police and falling foul of new laws contrived to make their lives as difficult as possible, welcomes a wary Constantine in, clothes him, feeds him and builds him a bender to sleep in.

"I always thought a bender was suspended jail sentence or a gentleman of the homosexual proclivity -- neither of which I feel in need of just now!” Marj nearly wets herself.

They do so in the full knowledge that he's on the run, framed for a couple of murders he didn't commit, because Marj's precocious daughter Mercury can see the true aspect of people – she's gifted that way.

It's unusual and entertaining to see a Constantine so out of his element here: he doesn't like the countryside much for a start, and he really should have remembered to dig that drainage gully round his tent. He tries too hard to begin with as well, but they're a forgiving bunch for the most part. Unfortunately that's when it begins. One bad day kicked off by one wrong decision which plays itself out like dominoes via a run-in with a fenced-off stone circle patrolled by trigger-happy guards and culminating in a very bad magic-mushroom trip, which Rayner and colourist Kindzierski play to nauseous perfection. This is a Constantine who doesn't know everything – how to handle psychedelics or the exact nature of ley lines – and again that's refreshing. But he'd better learn fast because someone's messing with those energy conduits – someone corporate and quasi-military – and there's far more fear on the way...

Fantastic set-up I relished as much as when it first appeared, Delano taking the time for reminiscence about childhood dens and teenage squats because any life led is always related to its past and we're always making connections. Unfortunately it's a game of two halves with a time-out in the middle during which I can only imagine the writer was given the most depressing pep talk in history – or stumbled upon the disastrous twenty-four pages handed in by Hoffman. After that not even Buckingham can inspire Delano to get himself back on the right foot. The mystery sprawls, complicates itself, takes on way too much hippy nonsense in the form of Zed and her earth-mother antics and beggars belief. Hey, I think Freemasons are a bunch of insidious power mongers as well, but honestly... Dr. Gull's antics in FROM HELL were completely credible given that he was acting on his own obsessions and was quite clinically insane. But this proves too silly, it's twice as long as it should be, and by the end all timing has been shot to hell with a bunch of travellers embarking on an eight-hour train journey from Scotland in the same time it takes a mason to make a single last human sacrifice.

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