writer: Mike Carey
artist: Marcelo Frusin
Here's a quiz to evaluate whether you are
new enough to Hellblazer that everything
Derek says about #189 applies to you:
ME: "Hey, did you hear
they're making the movie with Keanu Reeves as Constantine?"
(shrugging): "Well, he's doing okay in The Matrix."
b.) YOU: "You have got to be kidding me. Couldn't they
at least have gotten a Brit?"
c.) YOU: "I heard the news months ago, child. The circles
are drawn and the sigils inscribed. That film will never see
the inside of a theater."
#189 and don't bother backtracking and you might actually
like the movie, assuming the freakshows who answered (c) are
just harmless geeks and not, y'know, for real. Because if
this were all you knew of Hellblazer, it wouldn't be
half bad. It would be like thinking David Bowie debuted in
1983 with Let's Dance.
didn't answer (a), you probably have some idea of what used
to keep John Constantine interesting as a character and not
the increasingly abstracted archetype he has become in recent
years. "He dabbles at the edge of magic, and everybody
around him gets screwed" is
accurate enough, but it never used to be the whole story.
Over the years he's become rootless, opaque, wandering the
globe, goofing off in America, losing touch with the old friends
who used to meet genuinely gut-wrenching ends, dwindling to
a smile and a cigarette and an exasperating bravado.
Reeves could play that role. Ed Norton could play it
better; at least he'd have a hope of convincing you
he could tie his own shoe, let alone learn anything about
black magic. But neither of them could tap what made the original
the problem with the new-school Hellblazer so far:
nothing bad happens to John Constantine anymore and no one
we care about gets in real trouble. Nothing is at stake and
the man never loses his cool, so we're never really scared.
It's that simple.
starting up an old-school plot -- an ancient demon will plunge
the world into unspeakable evil unless it's stopped -- but
the character dynamics are strictly new-school. It's true
that Carey's story is kind to the new reader, and to be honest
Hellblazer continuity is long enough that I confess
I don't even remember whether Constantine has a soul anymore.
(At one point he distilled his more human qualities and divorced
them from himself, and I can't recall offhand what he did
with them. If he never got them back, that would help
explain his present vacuousness.)
kind of hoping that the ancient evil would be a little more
along the lines of Nyarlathotep or old Cthulhu hisself than
a big wispy wolf, but I could forgive that if the good guys
were more sympathetic. When the random murder happens, it
has near-zero impact, because we barely know these characters,
let alone like them.
the craft is still adequate. Carey matches the line he cribbed
from Douglas Adams last issue with another riff that only
a total Monty Python geek like me would even notice, and there
are some lame meta-references that pulled me out of the story
at times, but in general the writing works well enough for
an expository issue. There's a whiff of Gaiman about the proceedings,
particularly in the opening montage and the introduction of
our eccentric Magnificent Seven, understandable in a guy who
ran with the Lucifer baton.
Marcelo Frusin back on board is the best thing about this
issue, because in addition to providing terrific, expressive
art in general he also draws one hell of an hourglass figure.
So I can't
say there's anything catastrophically wrong with the Mike
Carey Hellblazer in general and this issue in particular.
It's just that there isn't enough right yet. Carey's getting
the dark fantasy rolling and that's cool, but if he wants
to make it horror he needs to stop pulling his punches and
give Constantine something to lose.