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Hellblazer, The Fear Machine

Hellblazer John Constantine, Hellblazer: The Fear Machine(Jamie Delano / Mark Buckingham): This early Hellblazer collection covers issues 14-22, originally published in 1988 and 1989. 

Although the collection is... ok (not bad, but certainly worthy of its mediocre rating), it mostly serves as a reminder of how the title - if not the entire industry - has progressed in the past 20 years. 

The art and colors feel dated, and the Thatcher's-Government-Is-Out-To-Get-You plotting by bureaucratic evil-doers has been replaced by much sleeker military-corporate conspiracy theories over the past two decades. 

A Freemason/Corporate/Government conspiracy (involving black wizards and corrupt cops) has built a 'fear machine' - raising a giant Freemasonic Lovecraftian beastie by using psychics to suck fear into a big Stonehengey box. Fighting for the good guys? John Constantine, of course. This time, he's aided by a group of travellers - gypsy renegades who live off the grid and practice oddball nature magic. 

There are a few tense moments, but mostly this is a plodding, slightly confusing, journey from start to finish. Except for a few brief moments of decisive action (most of which amount to nothing), Constantine is a frail and useless bystander. I don't mind Constantine not blasting away with eldritch bolts, but I do resent following someone that is, at best, ineffectual. He isn't being crushed by the baddies either - he's just not very good at anything, keeps making fumbling mistakes, and is eventually kicked into the corner by a pair of uninteresting ex-lovers, who solve everything on their own. 

This is a low point in Delano's otherwise solid run and general affirmation of my preference for the more sinister, more potent Constantine from the Ellis & Ennis eras.