Review by Ian Keogh
It might be the case that Peter Milligan and Hellblazer was a match waiting to occur, and Vertigo permitting others to toy with the character for two decades a form of extended foreplay, but for all that Scab was a disappointment. Hooked is the real deal. Milligan’s laid out his plotting chessboard and now he’s moving the pieces around. As with the previous book, the title has a dual meaning.
Scab introduced the two primary supporting characters for the title story. Phoebe Clifton-Avery, ordinary bespectacled GP, is the woman with whom Constantine has fallen in love, although he can’t bring himself to consider his attraction in those terms. Julian is the ancient Babylonian magician now masquerading as a school girl for his own depraved purposes. He sold Constantine a cure, but neglected to mention it was addictive. If he wants any more he’ll have to perform a little favour…
Of course, when it comes to devious and manipulative while lacking a conscience, Constantine is the king of the realm, and it just so happens he’s scored a potion of his own.
‘Hooked’ is a really nasty story with few redeeming characters, which is just as well since redemption is far from Milligan’s agenda. He doesn’t just twist the plot, he scrunches it, and we learn that addictions have consequences. It’s with matters of the heart that Constantine’s at his most vulnerable, as he’s able to fight off any other emotion and is always revealed to be on top of the situation, no matter what it may look like. It may be he hates to admit to love because he knows it exposes this vulnerability.
Giuseppe Camuncoli continues to supply layouts for Stefano Landini, and familiarity breeds a softening toward their angular world. The storytelling’s fine, but the designs still occasionally poke you in the eye. This is contrasted by Simon Bisley on ‘The Cottage’ and ‘The Long Crap Friday’, which will be a revelation to those who’ve not seen his work since his ever escalating Frazettaesque excesses of the 1990s. He may not be able to draw a convincing black taxi cab, but ask him for a crazed techno-demon and you’ll not sleep easy for a week after seeing the result, and that’s what Hellblazer’s all about. Who’d have thought Bisley would fit so well? He also needs to supply several pages of more traditional human interaction, and that’s also surprisingly good as per the sample page. Bisley could always draw, he just needed to remind us.
By the end of the book we’re the ones hooked by Milligan’s clever plotting. Constantine’s personal circumstances have taken a considerable shift for the worse as he’s wanted by the authorities, but a more pressing concern is gangster Terry Greaves. Where to go? India sounds nice.