NY: DC Comics, 2008.
I read a fair number of graphic novels — not usually the mere collections of previously published comic books (especially the superhero stuff) but the stories written at much greater length for original publication in book form. And while this is technically one of the former (I think), it’s presented strongly as one of the latter.
Anyway, my most common problem with graphic novels is that the art usually is superior to the writing. But this time, the author is Ian Rankin, creator of Detective Inspector John Rebus, one of whose crime novels won an Edgar. Here Rankin takes on John Constantine, part private detective, part occult investigator (and who has been around awhile in stories produced by a variety of authors), and gives him an assignment in reality television. A group of young people are locked up in a big old house, searching for a hidden treasure, while the show’s director on the outside tries to scare them with special effects for the delectation of the audience and the advancement of the ratings — but phantoms and other frightening phenomena seem to be taking place in the house without studio assistance. So Constantine is added to the mix, . . . and discovers (naturally) that all is not as he was led to believe. Are the actors/contestants — who can’t seem to remember how they got there — actually alive? Or are they in Hell? And who exactly is the audience? It’s a pretty good story and the writing is, as I say, much better than in most graphic novels. But the black-and-white artwork, by an Italian I’ve never heard of, seldom rises above the ordinary. This is especially true in his rendering of the damned souls, where he strains for effect, not always successfully. However, this is the first volume I’ve seen in DC’s new Vertigo crime graphic series, and I’ll be hunting for more of them.