Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits (1991) by Garth Ennis & Will Simpson

My horror-themed month continues with one of the best John Constantine, Hellblazer stories: Dangerous Habits. For this, we have to go back in time to 1991 when Garth Ennis became the regular writer of DC Comics’ horror title Hellblazer. This was in the days before the Vertigo imprint existed. (Alas, it is no more!) Hellblazer was “suggested for mature readers,” and was one of a group of “mature” titles being published at that time. These included Swamp Thing, Sandman, Animal Man, Doom Patrol, and Shade the Changing Man.

Cover Art by Glenn Fabry

My Synopsis

John Constantine has faced all manner of ghosts, demons, and even serial killers before. But this time it’s serious! Years of smoking 30 cigarettes a day has left John with terminal lung cancer. That’s right, he’s going to die, and there aren’t any magic spells he knows to make it go away. In fact, he’s even contemplating giving up and ending it all. Who would’ve thought it? “Conjob” Constantine not even trying to talk or trick his way out of something? Unbelievable! But hang on a minute. Perhaps there are a couple of possibilities still open to him. Now you think about it, if anyone can actually pull this off, it has to be John Constantine, right?

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Christopher Priest’s “Black Panther”

Like many, I was shocked and saddened by the news of Chadwick Boseman’s passing last month. I enjoyed his performances as Black Panther in the Marvel movies, especially his first appearance in Captain America: Civil War. It got me thinking about the Black Panther comic book, a title I’ve never read. I’ve only read Fantastic Four issue #52 (July 1966) in which the character made his debut, penned by the legendary creative combo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

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Sandman Mystery Theatre, Vol.1: The Tarantula (1995) by Matt Wagner & Guy Davis

‘It has been little over a year since my return to New York. What had been the greatest city on Earth is now a facade of corruption and denial. Fashionable fund-raisers abound while poverty endures and the threat of war lingers stagnant in the air.’

Publisher’s Synopsis

‘In this noir detective tale of intrigue, bigotry and incest, millionaire Wesley Dodds takes on the costumed persona of the Sandman to catch a sadistic killer in 1930s New York. Donning a gas mask, fedora, business suit and cape, Dodds goes after the Tarantula, a brutal kidnapper who is mercilessly preying upon the women of high society. But as the Sandman walks through a world of corruption and deceit, he uncovers the true secret of the murders and their implausible connection to the city’s most prominent family.’

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Dark Force Rising (1992) by Timothy Zahn

‘It was, Leia judged, the right moment. Glancing down at her belt, she reached out through the Force with all the power and control she could manage–‘

 

After reviewing Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire at the end of October, I was left hungry for more. I quickly followed it with the next book in the Thrawn Trilogy, Dark Force Rising. It’s taken me a while to get this review up and out there, but here it is. This could be the review you are looking for…

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My Thoughts
Is this the book you’re looking for? Well, I guess that depends on what you are seeking. It’s Star Wars, not high literature. In other words, you pretty much know what you are going to get. Does it succeed as a Star Wars novel? Yes, very much so. Like its predecessor, Heir to the Empire, it’s entertaining space fantasy. What really makes it work for me is the characters. Spending time with Luke, Leia, Han and Lando as they continue their adventures in a galaxy far, far away is rewarding as well as fun. I’m happy to admit that I’ve become invested in the new characters, particularly Mara Jade and the villainous Thrawn. I wonder how their narratives will unfold. Bring on the final book in the trilogy, The Last Command. Continue reading

Heir to the Empire (1991) by Timothy Zahn

“You happened to me,” she told him, her voice more fatigued than embittered. “You came out of a grubby sixth-rate farm on a tenth-rate planet, and destroyed my life.”

 

I used to be a Star Wars fan. I was only four years old in 1977 when Star Wars was released. I didn’t see it in a movie theatre unfortunately, but I can quote it line for line. I missed out on seeing The Empire Strikes Back at the theatre, too. I watched it every time it was on TV before the advent of VHS, and then wore out my taped-off-the-TV copy when my family finally bought a VCR. Third time lucky, I did see Return of the Jedi at the flicks and because of this it will always have a special place in my heart, ewoks and all! I still love the original trilogy but I’d rather have the original theatrical releases on Blu-ray than those so-called Special Editions. Why did you have to tamper with them, George?.. Anyway, onto the book.

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Witches Abroad (1991) by Terry Pratchett

‘Forever didn’t seem to last as long these days as once it did.’

My recent re-read of Pratchett & Gaiman’s sublime Good Omens (1990) led me to seek out the Discworld books that were published around the same time, (give or take a couple of years). Witches Abroad is the twelfth Discworld novel and the third featuring the Witches, preceded by Equal Rites (1987) and Wyrd Sisters (1988). It stars Pratchett’s holy trinity of Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlik.

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Witches Abroad opens with a death. Desiderata Hollow, witch and fairy godmother, bequeaths her magic wand to Magrat Garlik before she passes on to the undiscovered country. This leads to Magrat becoming fairy godmother to Emberella, a young woman who lives in the land of Genua, far across the Disc. Now responsible for young Emberella, Magrat must journey to Genua and help her get out of an impending, unwanted wedding. Not trusting Magrat with the responsibility of her new role or her new wand, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg insist on accompanying her abroad. Continue reading

Good Omens (1990) by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

“Anyway, if you stop tellin’ people it’s all sorted out after they’re dead, they might try sorting it all out while they’re alive. ”

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Cover Artwork by Graham Ward

“She was beautiful, but she was beautiful in the way a forest fire was beautiful: something to be admired from a distance, not up close.”


 

Wow! Is this book already almost thirty years old? I remember buying the first paperback edition back in the days of Gaiman’s Sandman comic book series. In fact, the author used the Sandman’s letters page to announce Good Omens’ release. I remember that, too. So, this is what getting old feels like.

Good Omens is a black-comedy about Armageddon set at the end of the 1980s. Its main characters are an angel, a demon, a witch, a witch-finder, the antichrist and his friends. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse also feature. It was written by Neil Gaiman, (Sandman, American Gods, Coraline, The Graveyard Book) and Terry Pratchett, (The Discworld series). Continue reading

Tor.com’s ‘Good Omens’ Reread

“People couldn’t become truly holy, he said, unless they also had the opportunity to be definitively wicked.”

What’s that? You haven’t read Good Omens?!?.. Ah, you’re joking, right?..

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The 1991 Corgi edition with cover art by Graham Ward.

 

Tor.com is starting a Good Omens reread. Here’s the link to the post by Meghan Ball.

‘The reread will be split up into ten parts, with the final part being a wrap-up of the entire novel. In each installment, we’ll go over a summary of the story thus far, my commentary on what’s going on, and a special trip to what I like to call “Pun Corner.” It’s going to be an awesome time and I can not wait to discuss this bonkers book with all of you!’ – Meghan Ball

 

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The 2007 Harper edition with cover art by Haydn Cornner.

 

The first I heard of this now famous book was in the letter column of the original Sandman comic book by Neil Gaiman. This is going back a long time. I can’t remember which issue it was. I could go and look but that would feel too much like hard work as my collection is currently housed in a box in a cupboard in an upstairs room in a house in Japan:) Well, at least it was the last time I checked. Continue reading

Hellboy: Wake the Devil (1996) by Mike Mignola

“I sought the dark behind the stars.”


Wake the Devil
follows on from the first Hellboy mini-series, Seed of Destruction. Written and drawn by Mike Mignola, this five-part story takes Hellboy from a wax museum in New York to an ancient Romanian castle. He is on the trail of the missing corpse of a nobleman who was rumored to have worked with Hitler during WWII. Assisted by BPRD agents Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman, Hellboy must uncover the conspiracy behind the theft of the body and shed light on his own mysterious beginnings.

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The Nazis from Seed of Destruction are back. This time they are planning to resurrect a Romanian vampire in the hope of creating an army of bloodsuckers. The Bureau for Paranormal Research & Defense gets wind of the plan and sends Hellboy with a couple of agents to investigate. Their journey will take them across the world to Eastern Europe where powerful and deadly forces lie in wait. Continue reading

A Different Kingdom (1993) by Paul Kearney

After enjoying Paul Kearney’s 2016 Oxford-based tale ‘The Wolf in the Attic’, I sought out this earlier work by him. ‘A Different Kingdom’ was first published in 1993, and republished by Solaris in 2014. It tells the story of Michael, a young boy growing up on a rural farm in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. In the woods near the farm, Michael begins to witness things he can’t explain. Are there strange creatures living in the woods, or does Michael just have an overactive imagination?

‘It is a last breathing space, a final look around at the soon-to-be-felled woods, the rush-choked bottom meadows, the fields with the wild flowers that have seeded for a thousand years and which knew the feet of the Druids.’ (Loc 118)

 

This is a fairly dark fairy tale which includes some of the standard tropes found in many fantasy stories: a young “hero” sets out on a quest to find a lost family member, he travels through a strange land, and is both helped and hindered by the characters he meets on his journey. He must stay ahead of the dark forces pursuing him, leading to a final confrontation with the “villain” of the book. What separates ‘A Different Kingdom’ from other, similar stories is Paul Kearney’s writing.

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