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Hellblazer vol 7: Tainted Love


Hellblazer vol 7: Tainted Love Hellblazer vol 7: Tainted Love

Hellblazer vol 7: Tainted Love back

Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon

Price: 
17.98

Page 45 Review by Stephen

“Friend of yours?”
“Must be. He’s dead.”

Please don’t judge this book by its hideous cover: Dillon’s art looks nothing like that. You have to be a wilfully stupid art director not to ask Steve Dillon for a new piece of art or at least reuse the original Glenn Fabry paintings which, as you’ll see within, were glorious.

HELLBLAZER was always at its best when occult horror took second stage to real-life horror in the form of racism and the BNP, homophobia, poverty, homelessness, sickness and death; of hopelessness under crushingly callous governments and helplessness under intransigent authority. This is HELLBLAZER at its very best.

When Alan Moore created John Constantine and introduced him in SWAMP THING, it became immediately clear that he was a very dangerous man: he was already pursued by the ghosts of friends who’d paid the price for even knowing him. So it is here, and one of Garth Ennis’ strengths was bringing friendship to the fore, thereby making the violence wrought against them all the more personal and so horrific. Dillon was no slacker in that department, either: there is a facial close-up here which is as abhorrent and as repulsive as it should be. Man’s inhumanity to man. So it is at the top of this review, with a rent boy John got to share a mattress with, and if you think John’s being glib then that’s a mask he wears or swiftly pulls back on whenever threatened, and a knee-jerk reaction to power: he cannot resist flipping the figurative bird.

It is friendship too which proves his undoing here – or actually fully fledged love. For the first time ever John drops his guard and lets someone in, and Kit was definitely worth waiting for. Over from Belfast, Kit was tender, tough and took no shit, giving as good as she got. But remember that occupational hazard? Remember John’s occupation: he’s a rake, he’s a rogue, he’s a trickster, and his victims come from both Heaven and Hell. In that line of work you make powerful enemies.

Constantine isn’t in the habit of losing: not to sexual, predatory priests; not to racists, vampires, demons or even archangels, all of which feature here. But just as he achieves one of his slickest, sickest and most vicious victories (which may yet prove his salvation in the dangerous long-game he is playing) Garth Ennis pulls the rug from right under him.

“There’s always somewhere lower you can go.”

My favourite chapter is ‘Heartland’. Set in Belfast in 1993 it’s essentially one long conversation between Kit and her wee sister with a big chunk in the middle down an Irish boozer with some mates reminiscing about the past and discussing the Provisional IRA. All of which was rather brave, but Ennis’ Irish accent and speech patterns had a lovely lilt and I can think of few comicbook artists other than Steve’s brother Glyn (THE NAO OF BROWN) who could have done such talking heads justice. Sean Phillips, Dave Sim, Fiona Staples perhaps. And you just wait for the visual punchline, as underplayed and heart-rending as anything else you will see in comics.

There aren’t many horror comics which can actually make you cry.

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