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Hellblazer #193
writer: Mike Carey
artist: Marcelo Frusin

Early on in the adequately thrilling conclusion to the "Staring at the Wall" storyline, the Beast Who Would Not Be Named tells Constantine, "I think you're desperate trying to scare me with smoke and mirrors. Hoping I'll think you've got a plan, when all you've really got is an attitude."

Of course this is Constantine's usual modus operandi -- the Beast is clearly not the sharpest point on the pitchfork if he is only now figuring this out. But if you don't think carefully about the ending, you might assume the same applies to this story's author.

See, the action mostly consists of one desperate ploy after another.

Angie Spatchcock shows up and revives Swamp Thing. Swamp Thing gets a temporary costume makeover and throws his weight around in a pointless (though kinda cool if, like me, you figure Swamp Thing would still be cool in an apron baking sugar cookies) attack on the Beast's lair.

About a third of the way through this issue there's an ad for the new Swamp Thing series, which I guess explains why his role in the story seems mainly, as he bitterly puts it, to be robbed of "something which I did not need." The theft of that "something" is enough to make me want to check out his new series. But it's really just a diversion.

The "main idea" here, as we used to say in grade school, is that the collective unconscious of mankind may be the source of evil, but also of the shield against that evil. It's the thematic element this story needed to make it worthwhile, but it was nearly buried under the massive supporting cast, the occult mumbo-jumbo, and the red herrings.

It would have been nice to see more of a balance. Constantine and company saved the whole of humanity here, but those in distress usually appeared only in shadowy crowds. More specificity would have given us a better sense of what was at stake. Carey loves writing superheroes -- magicians, elementals, demons, fallen angels -- but the stories would have more emotional impact if we got personal with the ordinary human characters who don't have access to, say, tree branches from the Garden of Eden. Dangerous situations develop for our protagonists, but they don't feel dangerous so much as think dangerous.

There's room for more felt danger in the next storyline, maybe, foreshadowed by a dazed Constantine waking up on the last page to discover he's lost more than just blood over the course of this crisis.

It's a good setup for a more interior storyline, and if Carey has a good plan for it instead of just an attitude, he might finally bring back some dimension to Constantine's character that's been sorely missed.


Andrew Simchik


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