Hope Mallory is a tormented noir detective operating in a seedy 1950s Los Angeles, his downbeat demeanour reflecting his location and circumstances. His first outing in Hope… For the Future was compromised, with the idea of Hope dabbling in magic seemingly glued on so the character fitted the 2000AD SF/horror/fantasy aesthetic. Hope… Under Fire is an improvement.

That’s because this time Guy Adams gives the magic more context and integrates it better. We’re taken back to what could be World War II or the Korean War and shown how Mallory survived what would have otherwise been certain death by accepting an obligation. Years later the favour is called in by someone who’s now a major gangster.

As before there’s some great art from Jimmy Broxton, whose sensibilities also stretch back to the 1950s and the likes of Al Williamson’s effortless style in black, white and grey. He’s more expansive as the inclusion of war, hallucinations and a switch of location to New York offer new environments besides those already conquered by Broxton. Not that he doesn’t have his own sordid side as seen in the discovery of a secret room including an illustration of what’s surely a first for British comics of any kind.

Hope Under Fire is a study of contrasts, of what Mallory might have become if he’d let his demons loose, and perhaps what he may yet become. This time round, although it may not always seem that way, there’s a greater control about Mallory, and the comparison with John Constantine is pretty difficult to avoid. Like Constantine, Mallory is often a step away from disaster, and he seems to be winging it in a very dangerous world. Despite that, this is a more successful visit to Mallory’s world in every respect, and those who enjoy their gangster crime mixed with horror can’t go wrong.