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Hellblazer #240

A comic review article by: Martijn Form
I thought that issue #239 was starting a new story arc, but this issue clearly states "Part One of The Laughing Magician." This took me by suprise, because issue #239 contains a strong story with some excellent art by Manco. Maybe Andy Diggle just likes very, very open endings.

But luckily for you, I read my comics before reviewing them, and this issue continues that story. Why this issue is labeled "Part One" is a mystery to me because the last issue is essential for this arc. But everyone makes a mistake now and then, and at worst this is a small editorial error.

So what do you know about wood? They say it's got a memory. I don't know where this knowledge comes from because I'm a concrete and glass kind of guy. In other words, I'm a cityslicker. Maybe my colleague Thom Young can answer this particular question for me, because he seems to be a walking Wikipedia here at ComicsBulletin.

So John Constatine gets this piece of wood shoved into his hands, which seems to be more than meets the eye. The little piece of flotsam has been carried around the world by an African. Unfortunately for the African, the English police has become more like their American colleagues: shoot first, ask questions later. Twenty bullets will do the trick.

But John has got a feeling that this could be a nice case for him. He has to cut through some red tape and some strange characters to finally get to an expert who can tell him more about the twig. The story of getting to this so-called expert is taking too long and isn't particularly fascinating. And when the expert also remarks that John can "read" the twig by himself just by concentrating, I have to ask, why did Diggle waste all those pages getting to this point? I’m just expecting more from Diggle because he surely can come up with a nice plot and matching pace, so let’s get a move on.

But anyway. The branch really seems to have a strong memory or, to phrase it more accurately, a whole world with dreams and visions. Of course, when John enters into this dream-like state, evil lurks on the horizon. Duh, of course there is evil, otherwise we'd be reading an Archie comic. The cliffhanger shows us that we can expect lots of blood in issues to come. Lovely. I'm gonna make me some coffee with a bisquette to go with it.

I still believe Andy Diggle can make this book one of Vertigo's best selling series again, but the reason why I'm always buying Hellblazer is artist Leonardo Manco. This guy could make The Little Mermaid into a dark horror story. Manco is a tremendous artist and certainly my favourite Vertigo artist. He does his own inking, and I have great admiration for artists who can pencil and ink their own work.

His style is edgy, dark with a severe bite, but without lacking in details. That’s precisely why Manco is a master. His background and surroundings are all a big part of the Hellblazer flavour. Every panel that would make a small child cry out for his mother. This is mature reading! But the best part of his art are the faces he provides on his characters. Oh man, those faces are so devious, lonely and sad, all captured in one drawing. You can feel the character’s emotions, and when Leonardo Manco uses his petit ink brush for detail on Constantine, I know that it will be a sleepless night for me again.

Hellblazer still is the best horror book out there, especially with Leonardo Manco on board. He knows what makes John Constantine tick.

For more information about this reviewer, go to www.martijnform.com

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