Story: Mike Carey
Art: Marcelo Frusin
a moment, the Tim Bradstreet cover this month might make
you think you're looking at a different book.
giant Hellblazer logo kind of gives it away, but
the rest is strikingly Gothic, in the Old World sense of
the word. Tall columns and arches in deep despairing blue,
a stone staircase leading up to a warm door glowing orange,
saying "sanctuary" but also "inferno,"
a reading intensified by the shadowy hooded figure lurking
on the stoop next to a sign reading YOU HAVE BEEN JUDGED.
always a pleasure, but this cover is unusually lucid, remarkably
expressive of the content within. That content being that
Mike Carey seems determined to put the Hell back in Hellblazer.
is no surprise, given recent storylines and of course Carey's
involvement with Lucifer -- it's just the latest
trend in the winning streak this book has been on. In more
fallout from the psychic earthquake visited on the world
by the Beast Who Would Not Be Named, we find a cult set
up in an abandoned church, taking in the homeless, giving
them food, shelter, a sunny disposition, and an unusual
type of communion.
amnesiac John Constantine, himself basically homeless now,
is taken in by two lovely smiling acolytes and, unbeknownst
to anyone involved, is about to run into yet another old
acquaintance he can't recognize -- but who certainly recognizes
in more familiar narrative territory here than with the
last few issues. Carey opens with a doomed stranger who
goes where Constantine is about to go and meets an unpleasant
we get another visit from Rosacarnis to remind viewers just
tuning in that she's offered our hero a literal devil's
bargain; there's a scene where Constantine's tendency to
hurt everyone around him flares up again (beginning to smack
of self-parody); then there's the "old friend/enemy"
scene at the end. It's pretty predictable stuff, but it's
effective, baffling at every turn Constantine's efforts
to escape his past.
sign on Bradstreet's cover raises an interesting point.
success in riding the line between hero and anti-hero hinges
on the fact that we are rarely called upon to judge him
by his actions. It's not as though his friends always drop
dead by sheer accident; flip all the way back to the very
first storyline of the series, written by Jamie Delano.
Sure, Constantine is only trying to save the world, but
he seems awfully quick to sacrifice his ostensible friends.
The current plot thread seems poised to bring his cavalier
past to judgment, asking, for perhaps the first time with
any serious doubt, whether those who hate the man don't
have a pretty good reason to condemn him.
can see him as the clever badass who always wins -- the
way Brian Azzarello always presented him, for instance --
or you can see him as the reckless selfish bastard who makes
everyone else lose. Just a few issues away from #200, it's
a good time to revisit this obvious but central question.
art seems more vivid and expressive this time around, the
beatific smiles on the girls who find Constantine and take
him in being the most memorable example.