Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Review: Dark Entries by Ian Rankin

There had been talk for awhile about Tartan Noir crime novelist Ian Rankin taking on the character of
Dark Entries (comics)Image via Wikipedia
Constantine for Vertigo, the prospect of which had a lot of Rankin and Constantine fans alike excited. Now that the waiting is over, the final product has turned out to be somewhat underwhelming. Rankin knows how to write, and his take on paranormal detective John Constantine is well within line with what regular fans would expect. But when it comes to the actual story, there is a lot in Dark Entries to leave the reader wanting.

Preaching the inherent evils behind the culture of reality television is nothing new, and has been almost as popular as the shows themselves since Survivor started taking over broadcast television back in 2000. Countless authors have used that type of setting as a springboard for mystery, thriller and horror novels /short stories since then. While this doesn’t mean there still isn’t fresh material to be found there, Rankin’s approach can’t help but feel a little stale. The fake shows mentioned throughout are meant to be exaggerated examples of the inanity of reality programming, but their similarity to actual shows takes the bite out of these quick swipes at social satire.

The disappointment is even greater when Rankin seems to completely ignore the existence of actual ghost-
hunting and supernatural based reality shows, and instead chooses to involve Constantine in a rather mild fear-based version of Big Brother. Things turn demonic and spiritual, of course, but in a far more contrived and roundabout way than if he had merely been tagging along on an episode of Ghost Hunters or during the filming of Paranormal Activity 2. This doesn’t seem like an unfortunate oversight as much as it does a tragically missed opportunity.

The midway twist regarding the true nature of the show would be impressive in another comic series, but unfortunately for Hellblazer fans, the reveal (not to give anything away) doesn’t take them or John Constantine anywhere they haven’t been dozens of times before. Again, it is admittedly hard to take a character from such a long-running series in a completely new direction, but when it comes to the Hellblazer franchise, the oft-visited destination of Dark Entries tends to feel more like a fallback than a plot twist.

Add to all of this Vertigo’s release of the comic in a minimalist black-and-white manga-style paperback, which feels more like a cost-savig gimmick more than an esthetic choice, and despite the talents of the author behind the book, Dark Entries ends up feeling like a rather unsatisfying light entry into the Hellblazer series.

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