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Hellblazer #191
writer: Mike Carey
artist: Marcelo Frusin

Well, what do you know: this is shaping up to be a proper Hellblazer story arc after all.

If I talked you out of buying the first two issues of "Staring at the Wall," go ahead and buy or borrow them now. I'll be here when you get back....

...okay. So now we all know that the shadow dog that seemed like a rather tame manifestation for a world-threatening evil wasn't the real threat after all. Good. The real threat turns out not to be someone from John Constantine's past after all, at least not someone I remember reading about. Even better. John Constantine gets his ass handed to him and then goes to visit a huge freakin' scary demon in what might as well be Hell, and we can't really be sure if he has a plan or not.

Top. Bloody. Marks.

So much of what works about this issue is highly reminiscent of what worked about Delano's and Ennis's runs. It almost feels as though Delano conceived and storyboarded the first third or so and then had Ennis take over for the rest.

But I finally have to give Carey his due, because the lucid mania of the possessed characters and the theological basis of the story (however apocryphal) are all his, and they're key. Constantine is still mostly just a blond guy in a trenchcoat, as opaque as he was under Azzarello's term, but at least he's doing recognizable Constantine poses, and...okay, there's a two-page spread by Frusin that makes this issue.

Unfortunately, Frusin's artwork in this issue is unusually uneven, and perhaps tellingly the title character suffers the worst. His facial hair changes from scene to scene and sometimes panel to panel. Maybe he shaves at one point, but it really seems like he has more important things to worry about. Also, Angie's -- how can I put this tastefully -- formerly generous hourglass figure has dwindled to an Aguilera-esque pair of crossed shrinkwrapped knitting needles. Maybe it's Not Really Her! Or maybe she's taken up Atkins, but again, more important things to worry about.

Oh, and by the way, it looks like Gemma may be set up to save the day. That's the role she's been deserving since the beginning.

Nevertheless, if you read Hellblazer, this is the stuff you're reading for. Let's hope the episode doesn't end with everything back to normal and a hearty chuckle over pints. For the story to be memorable in the long run, the inevitable victory must come with consequences.


Andrew Simchik


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