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Story: Mike Carey
Art: Marcelo Frusin

The final chapter in "Stations of the Cross" opens in proper Hellblazer form. John Constantine is stripped to the waist, gagged, hands behind his back, and a bloody great demon with spiraling ram's horns and a nose ring and a two-foot tongue is leering at his captive and intoning "John Constantine is MINE."

The last issue was the set, and here's the spike, a worthy payoff to what Carey's been setting up for the past six or seven installments. The moustache-twirling Ghant makes for kind of a cheap Snidely Whiplash two-dimensional villain, but his untrammelled sadism serves the story well as he challenges an assembly of demons and devils to invent the most horrible torture possible for our antihero.

If there's a weak spot in this issue, it's that the tortures are really not incredibly imaginative. Not that we necessarily would relish the descriptions with the ardor of Ghant, but it's disappointing that these sinister beings, though elegantly realized by Frusin's linework, can't make us squirm. There's no reason to get worried until their boss shows up.

Carey's First of the Fallen is a somber chap, displaying little of the diabolical sense of humor that made Garth Ennis's take on him so appealingly awful. But Carey infuses him with a deadly gravity, every word of dialogue falling like a guillotine blade.

The confrontation is terrific, and Constantine acquits himself once again in a way that suggests that even without his memory, he's the same trickster as always.

Unfortunately, it's out of the frying pan and into the fire for the predictable culmination. Speaking of typical Hellblazer, once again Constantine manages to screw over everyone he's on speaking terms with by this point, so the way is clear for what ought to be a spectacular 200th issue.

Carey has been speeding toward this with the subtlety and tease of a bullet train, so we can only assume he's got something killer in mind.


Andrew Simchik


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