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Hellblazer #195
Story: Mike Carey
Art: Leonardo Manco

Even though the main character still has amnesia, we can tell the old Hellblazer is back. Halfway through the issue, a guy Constantine's just met gives him a friendly hug, and right away we know the guy's going to die, horribly.

Showing affection, however transitory, for John Constantine has always been a blank check for bad luck in this comic, sort of like a reverse Judas kiss. Or, for a more fanboyish analogy, it's like wearing a red Ensign's uniform while beaming down to an alien planet with the Enterprise crew.

However you look at it, the theme is the heart and soul of this book, and Mike Carey's been leading up to its reinstatement as a central theme for a number of issues now. This issue has a lot more diversity in it than the flashy setup arcs, starting and ending with Chas's family arguing as they prepare for a post-near-apocalyptic vacation, and showing us glimpses of the forces working to either save or damn the wandering, wondering John Constantine.

Everyone's intentions seem pretty clear -- Gemma, Angie, and a surprise guest from the Trenchcoat Brigade on John's side, and a demoness with a crib to die for working against him -- except those of the homicidal maniac we met last issue, one Peter Gill. He's puzzled by Constantine, and wants to know why there's one mind closed to him when all others are suddenly open, but he has a strange way of researching this topic.

Carey's finally hit his stride here, and while he rushed the last storyline a bit, the setup has paid off. Leonardo Manco's art continues to impress as well, combining the real and the phantasmagorical with equal clarity and excitement.

This is a two-parter, which is slightly troubling, because at most one of these plot threads could really be resolved in one more issue. But #200 is just around the corner, and there's enough windup here to result in one hell of a pitch by that point. Let's hope Carey -- and Constantine -- can hit it out of the park.



Andrew Simchik


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