John Constantine is a fictional character, an occult investigator and exorcist created by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette and John Totleben who appears in the monthly comic series “HellBlazer” by Vertigo/DC Comics. He also became the protagonist in the Hollywood film called “Constantine” played by Keanu Reeves. Ian Rankin is the best-selling writer of “Exit Music” and together with artist Werther Delle’edera has come up with a very dark tale about the occult in graphic novel format in “DARK ENTRIES”. Rankin’s tale features our favorite anti-hero Constantine in doing what he does best; with a cigarette and his favorite ‘hand gesture’.
John Constantine is an occult detective who has faced the many horrors of hell has to offer and he has always gained the upper hand. His career is full of strange happenings that have earned him a reputation among the living and the dead…but John may have bitten off more than he could chew in the horrors of reality television. A television producer named Matthew Keene had enticed Constantine to take part in a reality show called “Haunted House”. The hot show is supposed to be a fun house with tricks and gimmicks made to frighten its contestants, but somehow the house had gained a life of its own as something starts to attack the wannabe celebrities. John agrees to be the ultimate mole, as he is locked in with the other contestants. But things aren‘t what they seem, as a figure from Constantine‘s past have come back to haunt him. John must uncover the sinister secret of the reality show, and what he finds may prove to be the death of him….
“Dark Entries” boasts of the talents of Rankin (writer), Delle’edera (artist) and Clem Robins (letterer) to give us this dark tale of horror and suspense. I have to admit, I was taken aback when I saw the illustrations were rendered strictly in black and white, since I have gotten very used to the dark-deco, painting-like artwork of “HellBlazer”. The art is similar to that of a comic strip in your Sunday paper and I had my reservations as to how it could generate the grittiness of Constantine’s main book. Well, this is where the writing takes over, as Rankin brings the reader to the world of the occult and the unexplained--his way is quite effective and enthralling as he knew how to play on the reader’s curiosity.
All six characters (or contestants) are introduced one by one, obviously having a deep bleak secret as they exhibit some sort of connection with one another. These are your ordinary looking individuals, but they have a certain kind of characteristic in them. I liked the foreshadowing manner in which Rankin develops the storyline. It does have the stereotypical approaches to a key character that is the solution and the reliance to flashbacks to uncover the truth. But hey, I forgive Rankin, as this is a supposed tale of the occult. The 1st half of the book is actually shaded white while the other half is shaded black. It is to the artist’s attention to detail that it expressed the darkness and the light. It’s funny, as to how darkness this time around expressed knowledge of what is going on in the haunted set. I don’t really want to spoil the book’s main shock value but I will give you a hint; the contestants are in some sort of “Twilight Zone”-like mumbo-jumbo. Actually, I take that back, it is a lot worst than a “Twilight Zone mumbo-jumbo”.
Rankin also throws in some subtle commentary about our need to be entertained, our reliance to technology and that sometimes, some people relish the idea of other people’s suffering. Yes, this need may carry over even when we are dead. The idea is quite sinister if you ask me and the way it exercises its script is done in a way that even Stephen King would approve. The dialogue is sharp-tongued and edgy, and yes, Constantine gets to have sex with a woman who resembles a friend of his…there are hints of necrophilia along the film’s darker areas. The only complaint I have about the story is that I felt that the last few pages of the story resorted to what some may call a “slasher” menace, as well the demonic forces screwing each other to gain advantage. I was a little disappointed that it became somewhat predictable towards the end.
Overall, while “Dark Entries” may be a little mild compared to the early published works of “HellBlazer”, it is a worthwhile addition to the “John Constantine mythos“. The story is compressed enough to maintain a feeling of dread, that its small flaws may be forgiven (I still would‘ve preferred this graphic novel to be in full color). It is a good short story that expands on the saga of Constantine, although the absence of other major characters in his universe are curiously absent. I do commend the writer for treating this as a one-shot while fitting into “Dark Entries“ into “HellBlazer” continuity--there is no need to be familiar with the comic book to appreciate Rankin’s story.
Rankin just further cements the fact that “Demons should know better than to fuck with John Constantine”.