January 15, 2009

revelations-1Some day, in the future of Vertigo’s cranky timeline of what it considers classics to be collected, we will rediscover Paul Jenkins’s fine Hellblazer stories. Until then, Jenkins may have done good work at Marvel — The Inhumans comes to mind quickly — but books like Revelations are still the best places to realise how brilliant this writer’s writer can be. This story appears to follow in every way a simple murder mystery set deep in the underworld of political intrigue and conspiracy at the Vatican. It opens with the mysterious suicide of a cardinal who was slated to succeed an old and dying Pope. But the evidences don’t match up, eye-witnesses’ reports are suspicious, apparent enemies loom, and rumours of ambition and the occult tease.

So the scene is prepared for the entrance of Britain’s most famous detective, Charlie Northern, a compulsive smoker whose brazenly cynical outlook might make you see a John Constantine double. However, Northern doesn’t do magic, and this is actually his edge: he doesn’t do religion either and observes everything as it is, empirically and scientifically. But this case will have him confront the fact that there are places the mind just cannot go, and to take the next step will invert how all the clues are to be read and where evil truly is. Jenkins penetrates with remarkable precision the defence mechanisms of a lapsed Catholic and throws at us multiple meaning-making routes before we are given a hauntingly peerless conclusion (I mean it). Read this as a treatise on reason, an argument for spiritual faith, or a psychological profile: Revelations is memorable in real unexpected ways. Even artist Humberto Ramos’s kiddishly-drawn humans are part of the deception and make you dream darkness in the form of innocence.

Gweek sprinkles holy water on this volume 9 times.


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