Science fiction and fantasy
John Constantine, Hellblazer: Stations of the Cross
by Mike Carey
Like the main character, the reader is left disoriented by events. Stations of the Cross is best read in the context of the previous Hellblazer episodes (it's episodes 194-200 of the serialised magazine version), although since the plot deals with memory loss it can also be enjoyed as a stand-alone work.
Constantine tends to attract demons, and he finds that people around him are likely to die all too often. This graphic novel is full of a gritty oddness, and it's somewhat reminiscent of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series (Mike Carey has written some comic strips set in the Sandman universe), although it has less in the way of familiar mythological references. This work mixes dark magic with modern times.
Constantine blunders, or is pushed, into the premises of a cultish church led by a charismatic "saviour". The chain-smoking occult antihero is faced with enemies from this world and the netherworld, and he's without his usual abilities. He's in the dark, unable to do much more than act like a victim. But his battle is about much more than mere physical threats. John also has to deal with temptation when he's offered a way out, although the price could well be higher than he can imagine.
It's drawn by a number of different artists, so it doesn't have the consistent look of a single artist's work, which is a shame. The mood is macabre, with the reddish tint of Hell predominant. The visual aspect is reasonably well done and always clear, although this is probably not something you would read purely for its artwork.
Constantine is a cynical character who manages to maintain a black sense of humour in the face of demons, adversity, and the threat of death or worse. But of all his enemies his worst one is usually himself, which is one thing that makes Constantine so likeable. His misadventures in Stations of the Cross should hit the right note for fans of dark and edgy occult horror.
Artists: Leonardo Marco, Chris Brunner, Marcelo Frusin, Steve Dillon