Think of Dark Entries as a cross between House on Haunted Hill and film noir. If that sounds like your kind of comic series, then this graphic novel is absolutely for you.
John Constantine, cool, gruff, and collected paranormal investigator, has been commissioned to join a reality TV show where contestants are kept in a house and subjected to their fears. The house, however, has been conjuring up its own nightmares for the housemates, and it seems to be bugging the director, Keene. So John joins the show to get some info from the contestants, only to find out that they are all dead and the show is actually being broadcast to the inhabitants of Hell. This makes the house a sort of limbo for all of the dead, and John has to break the news to the contestants plus make it out of the house and back into his own life without being killed by the demons he put in the underworld.
Rankin’s story starts out like a haunted house story; we meet John and the contestants individually, experiencing their fears with a great use of backstory. Each character is connected to another in some way; they form a chain of events which led them to the game show. Along the way, John and company are terrorized by Keene, who had tricked John all along. With awesome plot developments and a truly compelling scary story, Rankin could have stopped right there and had a successful Constantine story.
But he goes further, adding Hell into the mix. This throws a whole new element into the plot, where a person from John’s past comes to kill him in the house. Rankin knows how to fully absorb the reader; there are no chapter stops, which insists that the reader keep moving with the plot – and we fully comply! The novel is so hard to put down, mostly because of Rankin’s characters and their motivations. We have an amalgam of a cast, and there’s great intensity when they clash. John is also a marvelous protagonist; he’s hardened, mostly emotionless, and allows for a leadership character that, when affected by the events around him, makes everything seem that much more serious.
The story moves quite fast, and Rankin’s use of show-not-tell allows the reader to participate rather than just sitting back and enjoying the art. Every element comes together quite smoothly, transitioning well from regular TV show to purgatory with a decisive use of black pages when we are in Hell. Dell’edera’s art meshes amazingly with the gritty feel of the plot. It is a sketchy, black-and-white drawing style which enunciates the film noir feel. The demons are intriguing; they are bit more grotesquely deformed than we are used to seeing, and the denizens of Hell have a nice assortment of physical maladies.
Rankin’s novel pulled me in; with a strong story, an enjoyable cast of characters, and elements of horror that I really love, I was hooked right after I heard there were people locked in a scary house. All of the other parts of the plot were just added greatness. John Constantine battles Hell in Dark Entries – but it’s no battle to read.