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VERTIGO SECRET FILES: HELLBLAZER

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Story Time Mike Oliveri Review by
Mike Oliveri
Hellblazer: Hard Time
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VERTIGO SECRET FILES: HELLBLAZER - August 2000
Various contributors
Cover by Phil Hale
Vertigo

DC's SECRET FILES were created as a breed of guidebooks to each of their characters. Origins, histories, friends and enemies, and so forth. Vertigo has decided to follow suit and present VERTIGO SECRET FILES on their major characters. Up first: HELLBLAZER.

The book is essentially "Everything You Wanted to Know About John Constantine But Were Afraid to Ask". John's history is presented in a synopsis format as well as in a brief timeline. The London presented in the series is also outlined in detail, with a map showing the various locations of his activities. The major players of the series' supporting cast are showcased, and there is even a section on Constantine's interesting and rather complicated ancestral bloodline.

The highlight of the book is the opening piece of fiction "The Gangster, The Whore and The Magician." Written in prose format by original series writer Jamie Delano (ANIMAL MAN, BAD BLOOD) and illustrated by Tim Bradstreet (UNKNOWN SOLDIER, illustrations for White Wolf publications). Told from the perspective of the whore in the title, Delano gives us insight into how Constantine manages to find himself in trouble, yet he nevertheless always knows what is happening. He's a subtle manipulator, yet he has a soft spot for victims of others' evils.

Also of interest is the short story "The First Time", presented in standard comic format. Written by current series writer Brian Azzarello (100 BULLETS) and illustrated by Dave Taylor (SHADOW OF THE BAT, TONGUE*LASH), we get a glimpse of a young John Constantine and his first encounter with cigarettes. Yet it's so much more than that, as the story is told from the point of view of Nergal, a fallen angel posing as a young boy, who Constantine will encounter again later in life.

The book wraps with "Straight to Hell", a piece showcasing the origin of the Constantine character, with quotes and insight from creator Alan Moore (WATCHMEN, THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN) and the various writers that have contributed to Constantine's history over the years. It explores in some detail the way the writers have handled and developed Constantine, and why they feel he's such an interesting character.

Aside from the fiction, the book is largely a handy reference for readers new to the series, or a way to wax nostalgic for Constantine's hardcore followers. Not all of it is presented in a very interesting manner (let's not forget that you've got several issues condensed into a single page in many instances), but if nothing else it is thorough.

In terms of entertainment, I give the book three rabid fanboys. As reference material, however, I recommend even the casual reader of HELLBLAZER pick this up

Rabid FanboyRabid FanboyRabid Fanboy
This review copyright 2000 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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