Friday, April 17, 2009

Hellblazer - Fear and Loathing (Ennis Vol. 3)

Hellblazer - Fear and Loathing
By Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon

Garth Ennis' run on Hellblazer is respected for a reason. Because it's good. But it's no knock on Ennis to offer much of the credit to artist Steve Dillon, who jumps on board with this volume, and in doing so launches the book into the stratosphere. Ennis and Dillon would go on to have some great collaborations -- the beloved Preacher and Ennis' under-read Punisher run the two best -- but I'll always have a warm place in my heart for this one.

Dillon's entry into the Hellblazer fray is a Good Thing. Nay, this is a Great Thing, because his art is fantastic. Not fantastic in the big, bombastic way of glitzy comic artists and loud superhero books. His is a more controlled look. More focused. It's a bit busy and sketchy in these early issues (he loses the sketchy look partway through this run), but right out of the gate his main strength is apparent: He's a great, great storyteller.

And THAT, my friends, is a huge part of what makes him so great. Sure, his lines are attractive and he draws some of the most expressive faces in the business. A good thing, that, considering how talking Ennis-penned books can be. But the real key to his work is that he's a damn good storyteller, quite a rare thing these days. One can eliminate all the text from the page and yet still have a great sense for what's happening. His panels are clear. Never cluttered. Always direct.

Modern artists could learn a thing or two from Steve Dillon.

That artwork is attached to Ennis' best Hellblazer story to date. Here we've got Constantine making life very, very difficult for the angel Gabriel - and is there anything better than seeing this sour-pussed Englishman make like difficult for a snooty angel? I think not. Excellent stuff. Very well executed.

This volume also contains one of my favorite stories, John Constantine's 40th birthday party, which is warm and funny and features some fantastic guest appearances. Anyone up for smoking the Swamp Thing?

It's all being done with a purpose, too. One nice thing about Ennis' run is that everything seems to be built upon which came before, yet it rarely feels forced or as if Ennis is pushing around pawns for his plot. Instead, the overall tale builds in a very natural, character-driven way. I like that.

Great stuff.

An earlier version of this review was originally posted at and was also featured at

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