Sunday, March 13, 2011

John Constantine: Hellblazer – Empathy is the Enemy

Title: John Constantine: Hellblazer – Empathy is the Enemy

ISBN: 140121066x
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2006
Artist: Leonardo Manco
Writer: Denise Mina
Collects: Hellblazer #216-222

Rating: 4/5

John Constantine may be giving up on magic, but that doesn't mean he can resist a magical challenge when it falls in his lap.

There are two theories at work in Empathy is the Enemy: one, that widespread empathy for one's fellow humans would put an end to cruelty, murder and other nasty bits of work; or two, that widespread empathy would cause depression, despair and a good kick in the nuts for all of humanity. So, read the title again and have a guess which one author Denise Mina favors in this Hellblazer tale.

Constantine makes a new friend in a London pub, and the man's sorry tale of empathy run wild lures the former mage to Glasgow to sort it out. But things aren't quite as straightforward as Constantine believes, particularly when a renegade sect of monks raises its head with plans to save the world -- at the cost of Constantine's life, of course.

Thing is, given John's current state of mind, he might not mind all that much.

British crime writer Denise Mina has a knack for atmosphere, easily matched in the sullen, washed-out art produced by illustrator Leonardo Manco and colorist Lee Loughridge. The plot wanders a bit, but that probably suits John's mood just fine.

This trade is a dark piece of work, but no one opens a Hellblazer book looking for rainbows and sunshine. And the cliffhanger ending leaves you wondering just how Constantine will fix things in the next book. I only wish that Vertigo would have numbered the Hellblazer trades so that I could read them in sequence. Other than that minor annoyance, this is a trade well worth adding to your collection.

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