Hellblazer: War Lord by John Shirley
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
War Lord manages to be shockingly dark and laugh out loud funny in various parts. John Constantine is an amusing and fascinating fellow in this book. He gives out this vibe of the bumbling ineffectual, who could give a flip about anything. However his ability with magics and the arcane is inestimable. A drunk, chain-smoker, and a bit of a lecher. His sense of morality doesn't seem to fit into the boxes that you might usually ascribe characters. However, he does have a sense of honor, just believes in doing things his own way. All in all, hard to pin down and not one to be taken for granted.
The storyline itself is very harsh. It's about war, and the fact that many use war to profit. That's no secret, but seeing it written down on paper emphasizes the wrongness of glorifying in human suffering, causing it for one's own ends. In this case, a dark cabal is stirring up violence to awake an ancient War Lord to bring about the apocalypse, so they can rule. However, that's not going to go over well, not with Constantine on the opposite side (even if he dislikes the fact that he has to choose sides).
I found myself laughing at some of the admittedly coarse humor. But it was very funny. I loved the side joke in which Constantine remarks about the parallel worlds that exist, one in which he has black hair and wears a black coat, and lives in Los Angeles. That might sound familiar to some folks.
Some parts are off-putting, even repulsive. The dark magics are rather disturbing (in the fact that some folks might choose to go down those roads). However, those who like reading fiction about the arcane and esoteric might appreciate this book. There's even a cameo by a descendant of Aleister Crowley. Some stuff went over my head as far as the Hidden World, but I'm okay with that.
I can't give it a high rating because it has a very slow start and the pace was too uneven in parts. Not to mention the fact that the atrocities committed to see the dark purposes of the cabal to fruition didn't sit right with me (even though they make sense for this book). However, it was a good read and I enjoyed it. So it's easily 3.5/5.0 stars.
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