One of two books to colaunch the Vertigo Crime line (the other being Brian Azzarello’s Filthy Rich), Dark Entries takes readers into the world of occult detective John Constantine. But the version of John Constantine’s world created by Scottish crime author Ian Rankin features, among all things, reality television.
Haunted Mansion is the hottest show on television. Contestants are tasked with living in a spooky house designed to frighten them off the show until only one is left standing with a prize found in a secret room. The scares are supposed to be manipulated by the show’s producers, but the house seems to have a mind of its own, as in taking things upon itself to attack the wannabe television stars.
It would be easiest to just cancel the show, but with all the strange things happening, the ratings are through the roof. A producer has never been known to turn down good ratings, no matter what is bringing them in. So they come up with a different solution—John Constantine. He is inserted into the house under the guise of a new contestant, a music producer, but his real job is to investigate the happenings. At least that’s the way it appears, but with John Constantine, things are never only what we see at face value.
Constantine’s methods come under the microscope this time around, as every move of his investigation is monitored by the captive audience. Constantine also has to face the contention of his fellow stars, as they think he’s little more than another person trying to find the secret room and win the prize on the show.
Rankin does a great job of bringing forth the stereotypical characters of reality television, and ultimately his hatred for such programming is ever-present. In many senses, Dark Entries has a simple plot, with lapses in quality. Its metaphor is always a bit overstated. The book has more of the serial feel than a standalone graphic novel. It has an overly pulp feel, but not necessarily in the same sense of Azzarello’s counterpart. It is a little loose, a little cheesy, and always a bit too obvious. That said, it can be a fun read if one doesn’t come into it with the kind of expectations set by Filthy Rich.
The art by Werther Dell’Edera is traditional noir black and white, heavy with shadows. But it is also a bit inconsistent. The wide panels and close-ups look like two different styles at times, while the closeups are preferred to the sketch-like wide shots. It generally fits the loose feel of the book, though.
Of the two, Filthy Rich is a much more impressive debut for the Vertigo Crime line, but Dark Entries is an interesting read. Rather than simply dish out another traditional crime fiction story, Rankin tries something different. Occasionally it hits. Other times it misses. But it is nice to see something so unexpected early in the timeline of Vertigo Crime. If the premise sounds a bit flimsy, know that the book matches that feeling, but suspend a bit of disbelief and it can be a fun read.
Reviewed by William Jones on July 10, 2012