john constantine hellblazer: all his engines by mike carey & leonardo manco

Posted on November 8, 2010


When a mysterious worldwide plague starts putting millions of people into deadly comas, Earth’s foremost expert on the bizarre, John Constantine, steps in with the “cure.” After traveling from the dreary alleys of London to the glittering boulevards of L.A., Constantine realizes that a cadre of wicked demons and hellish monsters is behind the outbreak, and he’ll have to sacrifice more than himself to put an end to the nightmare.

John Constantine Hellblazer All His Engines by Mike CareyBut will the cure be worse than the disease? Thus am I reintroduced to John Constantine, trench coat-clad antihero, magic junkie, and master manipulator. I first saw him in the film version starring Keanu Reeves. I rather enjoyed the movie never mind the critical lambasting. I guess, as usual, a movie failed to live up to the graphic novels. I had never seen the books so I only had my own enjoyment of other movies as basis for comparison.

I acquired the All His Engines through Bookmooch, a site where you can trade books like a book barter using points sending to other members as currency. Thinking it was an urban fantasy novel I mooched it, very surprised at receiving a glossy hardbound of a sallow, poisonous world in graphic details, a world where Constantine pits demon against demon.

I may understand a little now why the movie received such flak. Hollywood requires more than a few redeeming qualities in its heroes. The movie character was too noble when the graphic novel character was a conman, thief, and hero-as-a-side-effect more than anything else. From the background essays at the back of the book, I learned that Constantine is addicted to magic and would do anything to be able to practice it, even sell his soul and endanger his friends.

With over 200 volumes under his belt, Constantine has gone through changes. I saw from the information at the back that five writers have taken turns telling his story. This particular volume is a standalone, while the 14 other titles I saw were collections of comics issues. His long-time friend Chance is a grandfather here, which makes Constantine pushing, what?, 60? But still at the game of high-stakes poker with Hell, where if he loses Hell-on-Earth will enjoy enough souls to finance franchises worldwide, starting in Hollywood.

Whatever his motivations were, Constantine did succeed to save the world again and again. If a few innocents were sacrificed, maybe that’s just collateral damage. Because the world I got a glimpse of through this volume would certainly lose more than a few souls if there was no self-serving antihero using his smarts for a magic fix from Hell’s denizens. Am I sympathizing with him? Maybe, but not enough to want to be his friend; I’ll welcome chances to read his previous con-jobs with the Devil though.

Face off. The demon Beroul wants to set up a Hell franchise on Earth. His best work on display here. Remind me never to have a facial.
Constantine always smoking. Lung cancer didn’t faze him.    Caught between two demons. A deal is brokered.

Posted in: graphic, scary