Hellblazer: Rake at the Gates of Hell
It had to happen at some point, but in this graphic novel, which comes at the end of Ennis and Dillon's run on the series, Satan finally catches up with arch thorn in his side John Constantine. Along the way there's a good smattering of violence, swearing, blasphemy, race-related rioting and shagging. So all the stuff you should have come to expect from Ennis and Dillon during their creative partnership on the title.
Elements of the book are as harrowing as it comes - the extreme violence that sparks off the shocking race riot escalates rapidly into a war, with neither side coming out particularly well; while Satan methodically wades through the blood of practically everyone Constantine has ever met in order to catch his prey. But then, you'd hardly expect gentlemanly behaviour from him.
After the piling up of the bodies, the ending rang hollow for us, perhaps because the final showdown ends predictably, albeit via a twist or two. It's a clever piece of winding up for passing on the mantle to the next creative team to take over, but we felt the finalé could have been more cataclysmic.The last third of the book is a spin-off story about Kit (or Kathy if you're a member of her family), Constantine's long suffering girlfriend, during the time she spent trying to escape him in Belfast. It follows on from and relates directly to the Belfast chapter in Tainted Love that we mentioned in the review of that book, though it could really do with sitting before this book in terms of how it's situated in the series' continuity: seriously consider reading it before you move onto the main feature in this collection.
Dillon's art isn't riding its Hellblazer crest - that honour is probably reserved, in our humble opinion, to Tainted Love. But, as usual, nothing is too graphic for him to depict and the gore is probably where his light shines brightest.
Ennis and Dillon's run on Hellblazer is more than the sum of its parts and this collection is essential for anyone who's got the others. It isn't the highlight of their collaboration on the title, but it's certainly worthy of existing in this format and ties up all those loose ends.
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