Review: Hellblazer – The Roots of Coincidence by Andy Diggle

Since I am writing comics, I may as well add reviews of the comics I’m reading and re-reading here. Originally I wasn’t going to, worrying that it might come across somehow as less literary, less serious. Those fears, that the reading and writing of sequential art, that’s comics to you and me, might be seen as childish and frivolous, are a matter deserving of a fuller post.

Today, instead, I want to talk about Andy Diggle‘s Hellblazer: Roots of Coincidence graphic novel. The Hellblazer series has a long and respected history in comics, mature storylines of horror, fantasy, mystery and urban grit, and it’s protagonist, John Constantine the sardonic English street mage. Andy Diggle does a good job, as he so often does, writing the character and the setting and ‘The Roots of Coincidence’ finishes off along-running story arc. Sadly, that it also my issue with the book. Diggle is very good at writing the longer arc and has written some brain-bending short tales within that longer narrative; what I have issue with is the packaging in the graphic novel format, which is outside of the control of the writer.

The story that the graphic novel completes tells of the Laughing Magician, who he is, what he means, whether or not he and Constantine are one and the same, etc. This is all fine, but the story is split into several graphic novels. Each one will contain 4-5 individual monthly comic issues, two of which are often an adjunct to the storyline while the rest is part of the main narrative. This is frustrating and I would have preferred a collection of either the main story only, or the full story. ‘The Roots of Coincidence’ contains Hellblazer issues 243-244 and 247-249, resulting in about 112 pages of story. I know why the publisher does this, making readers buy many individual books increases revenue in a declining market, though sometimes I do wonder if it’s declining due to little things like this.

Again, to reiterate, I liked the story and  think Andy Diggle writes a difficult character well. The overall story arc is good, but reading it piecemeal in thin graphic novels is a shame and doesn’t do justice to the well-plotted story.