Monday, October 12, 2009

Dark Entries by Ian Rankin

Graphic crime stories have been around since the dawn of comics, yet they have always seemed to be just a step away from the tops of popularity lately. Some series (100 Bullets comes to mind, although I’ve never read it) are exceptions, but not the norm. However, Vertigo is working to change that. With their new Vertigo Crime line, they are putting into print original graphic novels in the crime/mystery genre by big names, such as Brian Azzarello (of 100 Bullets fame) and Ian Rankin, an internationally best-selling novelist. Rankin, a professed fan of John Constantine and his Vertigo series, took on this character in Dark Entries, subtitled “A John Constantine Novel.”

Occult detective John Constantine is near the top of his field, but when his field is paranormal mystery, there isn’t much in the way of a pay off. So when a strange man appears in his apartment offering him a stack of cash, he listens. This man is the head of a network that runs a number of highly popular reality TV shows, including one called Dark Entries, where six contestants are pushed to find the hidden room and grand prize, all while living in an environment meant to test their tolerance for fear, and then push past it. Constantine can tell from the get go that something is off, and the only suggestion that anyone can come up with is to enter Constantine himself into the house, as a mole, to try and ferret out the problem. From here, things go downhill, and Constantine and the six contestants are in a fight for their very souls.

Rankin, much more famous for his crime novels, takes his first stab at the graphic novel form with Dark Entries, and it isn’t a total success. Parts of the book move very slow, almost making it feel like this could have been a shorter story and been even better. Also seemingly out of place is that Constantine solves the mystery without fully explaining how he eliminated the other possibilities, which was dissatisfying. The second half of the book, which deals with the effects of the mystery’s solution, moves slow at times as well, and the conclusion just seemed a little too quick, the exact opposite of the problems that plagues the rest of the book.

Dark Entries isn’t all bad. At times it is a fun read, and Rankin does a solid job on the characterizations, even with the minor characters. The very odd reason behind the problems at the reality show’s house is deftly weaved into the plot, even if the characters might take the news a little better than would be expected.

Dark Entries definitely has its ups and downs. It is an okay, and short, read, one that is for fans of John Constantine and Rankin, but the casual graphic novel reader may not love this one.


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