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Dark Entries by Ian Rankin

Dark Entries (2009)

by Ian Rankin, Werther Dell'Edera (Illustrator)

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Paranormal Investigator John Constantine is approached by a reality tv producer to be an additional contestant in a haunted house show. The show has already begun airing with six contestants, but weird stuff is happening that the production crew has nothing to do with. Constantine is paid a hefty sum to go in as a mole and find out what is really going on, all in front of millions of viewers. ( )
  mstrust | Apr 21, 2016 |
Okay, not well drawn and the Big Brother pisstake plot is average. Not Ian Rankin's best book by a long way. ( )
  Superenigmatix | Jan 16, 2016 |
Paranormal investigator John Constantine is convinced - against his better judgment - to look into the case of a reality TV show about fear in which the set appears to actually be haunted. Stuck inside the house with six wannabe celebrities, Constantine finds out some unsettling truths and is haunted by his own past.

Written by crime novelist Ian Rankin, Dark Entries appealed to me because it's always interesting to me when a 'traditional' novelist tries his or her hand at a graphic novel. I've never actually read any of Rankin's works before, so I can't compare this entry (no pun intended) to his previous canon, but it was an entertaining, well-plotted read. Despite being a John Constantine book, this title pretty much stands alone. It references events from his past (although I have no idea if these actually took place in a previous Constantine book), which are explained fully enough here that the reader is never lost. With so many comics becoming increasingly integrated with each other as well as with movies and TV shows, it's refreshing to pick up something that needs no further explanation beyond itself.

The character relationships being built and the mystery at the beginning of this book were intriguing; the plot lost my attention grip a little bit as it delved into the more ridiculous once Constantine figured out what was going on behind the scenes at the TV show. Of course, with John Constantine being an occult investigator, this reveal was perhaps not that strange ...

The illustrations were the low point for me. They are relatively simple and basic - all black and white, not a lot of detail, sometimes not even a lot of distinction between the characters. All of the women wear skintight clothing out of which their busts or their bottoms pop out, and this tends to be a focal point in at least one panel per woman. Sad to see such blatant sexism in a book that is otherwise free of it. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Jun 6, 2015 |
[Yeah, spoilers. Boilerplate, polite version: I promise I don't "spoil" anything about this book that would have bothered me had I known about it in advance of reading this book. That said, I cannot think of anything I have read in my life that would have been spoiled had I known the plot-advancing facts. And this is not, I promise, a mini–Cliffs Notes–style detailed summary of the story. Perhaps the only real way to "spoil" a book is to detail any serious flaws in logic, to the extent that you then can't get them out of your head as you read the book. I can't promise that I don't to that -- but neither can anyone else.]

The mystery novelist Ian Rankin takes on his first graphic novel, focusing on the character John Constantine, of the ongoing monthly Vertigo/DC comic-book series Hellblazer. There was a movie based on Constantine starring Keanu Reeves, but the character in the comics is decidedly British. He was based on Sting back in the mid-1980s, when he was created -- the meaner-than-he-is-today Sting who once made sense in Dennis Potter's mind to play the devil.

Constantine, a supernatural P.I. with a bad habit of leaving damned loved ones in his wake, was created by Alan Moore of Watchmen fame during his pre-Watchmen run on the series Swamp Thing. In Rankin's standalone volume, Constantine joins the cast of a reality TV show, essentially a version of Big Brother. Ghost-busting ensues.

All in all, not fully satisfyingly. It is neat in how light the story is in tone, none of the straining-for-gravitas of much latter-day Hellblazer, but for all its fun with the architecture and entertainment of the underworld (Hell, not the mafia), it leaves open more loose ends than most serialized stories do, with less of a sense that anyone will ever tie them up. I most enjoy it for its format. It seems drawn (by Werther Dell'Edera, with whom I was not previously familiar) for the smaller page size, and works pretty well in that regard. And I like black and white comics, especially stark ones, which this is. Mine is a minority opinion, but I'd say that most color comics gain little from the color except a price bump.

Things about the comic that linger with me, and not in a positive way:

1. Constantine's TV is a portal to hell. That's a nifty concept, but the idea that throwing it out the window would break the spell doesn't fit -- certainly not in Constantine's story-world, in which de-demonizing objects and places (and people) is often the pretext for multi-issue story arcs. I just started re-reading the series from the start, so I'm especially sensitive to the way tiny objects linger in the storyline like houses with hidden mold carcinogen, waiting for an unsuspecting new tenant. In an actual Hellblazer storyline, that TV would end up in a Salvation Army, and its parts would then be reused by some unaware Internet start-up, which would then discover a demon is its most generous angel investor. And Constantine, at this stage, would foresee such an eventuality and work to avoid it.

2. If Hell's residents can tunnel so easily into Limbo, well, that's kind of a major mess of story that makes the plight of these few 20somethings seem kinda slight by comparison. And again, it's just left dangling.

3. As a friend noted, the main characters aren't particularly interesting. The mystery, which appears to really mean "puzzle" here, is what it's about. The characters are puzzle pieces, and it is neat to see how they fit together, and Rankin did a really good job of rationalizing all that into the Hellblazer mode (tying it to one character who is the fulcrum for it all). But, yeah, the characters have no development, aside from shifting from not knowing their fate to knowing it, and from us misinterpreting their dreams to being told flat-out what those dreams "symbolize" (a direct causality that is too clean-cut even for Freud, and utterly disinterested in the ambiguity inherent in the surreal). If anything, the characters change depending on what the story needs. At times, just in time for whatever the imminent joke needs.

4. And then there's the overarching issue, which isn't Rankin's fault. This is just the whole "how do the western underpinnings of Constantine's metaphysics reconcile themselves with non-western metaphysics." I really feel for the Japanese character, for example: not just because she was molested by salarymen on trains, and not just because the comic's editor let the artist let the reader ogle her (talk about adding insult to injury -- though I guess here it works, a little, because the panels mimic the reality-TV viewer's perspective), but mostly because she was raised in a non-western country yet finds herself, after dying, left to deal with an overlord who is, for all intents and purposes, the western conception of the devil. I mean, you can read as much Joseph Campbell as you want and assume all myths are just masks painted on the faces of shared myths, but for a self-consciously cynical comic, Hellblazer really is beholden to powers it is smart enough to, but too lazy to, wrestle with. (Again, this is an ongoing failure of Hellblazer, not just of Rankin's entry, though he does fail to even remotely explore it.)

5. A standalone story like this, based as it is on an ongoing series, runs the risk of turning a serial into a sitcom. And that happens here. When all is said and done, the events of this book seem to leave no mark on the character. He goes in and comes out the same person. Maybe that's a fun holiday, but for a series whose major tenet is the ongoing self-imposed degradation of its main character, it's a little out of character.
1 vote Disquiet | Mar 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
Rankin brings a new spin to the character, placing him in a far different setting than the usual seedy London streets where we would expect to find Constantine. But while Dark Entries proves to be effective as a new Hellblazer adventure, it also works as a telling commentary on the current state of popular culture without even a hint of a lecturing tone.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ian Rankinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dell'Edera, WertherIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Occult detective John Constantine has seem many strange things in his career, but the horrors of "reality television" are a new genre. When in the "Haunted Mansion", a hot new show on TV, the house itself starts attacking the contestants, Constantine must figure out who, or what, is pulling the strings in this macabre situation, before it becomes his last investigation.… (more)

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