Plot: With Constantine stuck in France, Chas must face a long imprisoned demon now set free on the streets of London, and only “The Knowledge” -- the exhaustive scholarship of London streets that all cabbies must undertake -- can save the day! But is Chas’ “Knowledge” good enough to beat the demon? And whatever will he do about that gorgeous new woman in his…erm…already married life? As Constantine says on page one, “Look, Chas…just don’t f*** this one up, okay?”
Eloquent Commentary: This series has entirely one-upped the regular ongoing. Andy Diguh-whathe-huh? Who? I dunno, but this Simon Oliver chap is a pint of all right. His storytelling in Chas is spot-on and absolutely character-centric. Oliver gets the honor-bound simplicity of Constantine’s longtime cohort, but even more importantly, Oliver understands where Chas is exceptional. This is a man who’s more observant than the infamous Constantine. He is more caring, more involved in the lives of others, whereas Constantine is involved only in his own (and so with those who happen to cross too close). Chas may not have the wit or the wiles, but he’s got the determination and the focus and the goddamn heart.
Most writers use Chas to show “mundane” Londoner life, to juxtapose the remarkable aspects of Constantine’s venue with the (usually showcased as) “lifeless” quality of an English cabbie’s. This has been, by and large, an indefensible injustice. Chas has always been a favorite of mine, and I think to a large fan base of others, and as The Knowledge comes to its close we’re at long last given a poignant glimpse as to why.
Chas versus a demon, mano-a-mano, using the streets of London to win the game. This is, frankly, a thrilling finale. It’s beautifully paced and the characterizations are so human…well, let’s just say this is one of those series that makes me realize how empty and vapid the characterizations in most comics are. I enjoy a widescreen crazy ride as much as anyone, but Simon Oliver gave me a story that gave me goosebumps, action, English cursing, and then touched the cockles of my cold, cold heart and warmed ‘em right up with an ending like hot cocoa to an eight-year-old on a dead of winter night. This story was substance, through and through. The style was its substance…a lesson a lot of writers could take a cue from.
Let’s get something else straight: artist Goran Sudzuka needs a hit Vertigo series. He’s the equal of Pia Guerra in offering up polished illustrations with clean layouts that nevertheless communicate rising tension and the whole range of dramatic emotion. In fact, I prefer Sudzuka’s figures and faces to Guerra’s. He offers a greater range, I think, of noir and horror, all rolled into one. Sadly, Outlaw Nation never caught on and neither has anything else the lad’s worked on. But his pages on The Knowldege only confirm the need to get this man noticed and noticed bloody now!
Final Word: What a beautiful freaking comic. And for once that doesn’t just mean the art’s incredible and nothing else. This is what Vertigo used to be known for, comics with stories that went above and beyond the literate expectations of the mainstream. Not just how extreme or counter-culture it could be. Chas has never been finer. This kicks Hellblazer’s ass.
Where to send hate mail: The Worst Writer in the World
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