The Roots of Coincidence brings together issues 243-244 and 247-249 of the long-running Vertigo title Hellblazer. These issues were penned by Andy Diggle, who helmed the series for 15 issues (as well as the Lady Constantine spin-off). He’s joined on the first storyline, “The Mortification of the Flesh,” by artists Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefan Landini, while Leonardo Manco provides art for the latter story, “The Roots of Coincidence.” The two stories are parts of a larger arc, a continuation of Diggle’s The Laughing Magician, that draw to a conclusion in the second set of issues. Although this graphic novel should probably be read after the preceding volumes, it works well enough on its own merits if read alone.
In “The Mortification of the Flesh,” Constantine teams up with an old friend to manipulate a very wayward priest into giving him a very old and powerful book in the Church’s possession, a lost Gospel. A very interesting lost Gospel at that! Constantine is on top of his game in these few pages: charming, cunning and utterly devilish. Short but very satisfying, “The Mortification of the Flesh” is a deft mix of impropriety, darkness and humor, all hallmarks of this series.
“The Roots of Coincidence” finds Constantine getting to the heart of all the coincidences in his life. The Gospel he picked up in the previous story sends him to Italy on a hunt for Santa Claus — or at least the body of the saint upon whom Old Saint Nick is based. Back in London, St. Nick’s mortal remains in hand, Constantine continues his search, and the narrative begins alternating between John’s efforts and the story of a British nobleman so desirous of immortality he forges a deal with Mako, a murderous mage who followed John back to London (and is now working his bloodthirsty way through the magic users there). John resorts to ritualistic magic to deal with Mako and then to travel inward, to his own psyche, where he makes a rather interesting discovery as to the source of all those coincidences.
Although darker — and bloodier — than the first story, the title story still manages to weave in humor through Constantine’s dry wit. The outcome is definitely intriguing, and John handles the resolution in true Constantine form, taking matters into his own hands to control his own destiny.
The art in this volume is excellent: dark and brooding or sharply vivid just where it needs to be. All in all, The Roots of Coincidence is an entertaining experience for Hellblazer fans.