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Story: Mike Carey
Art: Marcelo Frusin

You have the best idea for the 200th issue of Hellblazer. It's going to be so awesome. There are going to be demons, and old friends, and old enemies; some people we thought were dead, some people who really are dead but still get to walk around and talk because this is that kind of comic, and some really unbelievable surprises. And of course, Constantine will get his memory back and he'll flash that grin right at the end, flip a silk cut into his mouth, and disappear into the fog.

All the fanboys are going to love it. All the Keanu Reeves fans (well, there must be some out there) and all the popcorn blockbuster set are going to come into the comic store after seeing the movie (well, you can dream - especially since the movie won't make it out in 2004) and the changes you will have wrought with this climax will thrill them into forgetting that the protagonist isn't Ted "Theodore" Logan after all but some old English blond guy in a tan trenchcoat.

Yeah. It's going to rule. There's just one problem: the big event is two issues away, and you only have enough buildup story planned out for one.

Well, what do you do? Well, on Doctor Who they used to solve this kind of problem with time-honored padding techniques like having the Doctor captured, possibly tortured, and then letting him escape only to be recaptured just in time for a cliffhanger. The result was an episode you could really just skip; it would take only a minute or two of recap to go straight into the next episode with barely any story lost.

That's what we've got here, minus the police box and the trippy long scarf. There's a page or two of exposition, wherein we learn that this is a villain rejoining us from an earlier Carey story arc (and not from the distant past, as one always hopes until one remembers that there are probably laws against that sort of thing), and a page or two in which Constantine makes an apparently deus ex machina ally, and some really cool drawings of demons 'n' devils that put your heavy-metal-phase school notebook doodles to shame, and pretty much the rest of it is meaningless torture and the old running-around-only-to-be-recaptured shtick.

It wouldn't be so bad except that the old villain (Ghant, he of the bone abacus and the holiday on vampire island) spends the whole issue promising some exquisite revenge on our hero, but when the big reveal happens, it ends up not being all that subtle or exquisite after all.

Not to spoil it with speculation, but my guess is that Constantine is being set up into a position where he is forced to call upon Rosacarnis and accept her bargain: the return of his self-knowledge (and attendant occult and fast-thinking faculties), in exchange for a short stint of servitude. So we have #199 to accept the bargain, and #200 to carry it out, with what we can only hope will be genuinely horrific and long-reaching consequences.

In the meantime, here are Carey and Frusin short a verse and grinning wildly as they vamp their way to the next chorus. The vamping is great, with some terrific layouts by Frusin and some good one-liners from Carey, but this would be a good time to head into the lobby for some refreshments before you scurry back to your seat for #199 and #200.


Andrew Simchik


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