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Hellblazer #190
writer: Mike Carey
artist: Marcelo Frusin

Well, now this is more like it. See, if there's one aspect of John Constantine's character Mike Carey demonstrates a thorough understanding and command of, it's the trickster. By the end of #190 you'll realize that the last issue was the bait and this one is the switch.

A lot of the shortcomings I complained about last time are redressed here. Some of the magicians Constantine has assembled get a chance to show us what they're made of, and I'll miss at least one of them if something horrible but inevitable happens to him by the story arc's
end. It's not surprising that Nathan Arcane pulls off the creepiest stunt this time around, by stirring up the psychic dust of an antique tragedy in order to hide the magicians in its interference. The one called Map is still cool as a cucumber and is the only one who behaves as if he actually cares about the people they're all trying to save from a rapidly spreading epidemic of homicidal psychosis. Constantine himself is still the least interesting part of his own story, but that may change rapidly as an old friend of his shows up at this issue's climax.

My only real criticism here is that Frusin's art looks a little hasty this time. There are a few stunning pages at the key moments and a lot of mud elsewhere, to the point where it's difficult to tell who's talking in a couple of cases. It's too bad, because a little more crispness about the lines and color would really help bring this slightly vague storyline into better focus. We have a lot of new faces to get to know, and we could learn more about them if there were at least a background in which they could be revealing character. But we have to assume everyone is here for a reason and will play their parts in time.

Things are looking very bad for John Constantine, which means they're looking very good for us. For the first time in too long, there's a reason to look forward to next month's Hellblazer.


Andrew Simchik


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