By Mike Carey, Marcelo Frusin, Steve Dillon & Jimmy Palmiotti
The first post-movie Hellblazer collection should take the bad taste out of fans’ mouths as Mike (Lucifer) Carey takes over the writing and immediately re-establishes the essential post-punk Englishness and milieu of the character.
Arriving illegally back in Liverpool after his American adventures, the coolest sod in comics visits his sister to discover a necromantic blight affecting the block of flats she lives in. After tackling that particular evil (High on Life from Hellblazer # 175-176, illustrated by veteran Vertigoer Steve Dillon), he returns to London to track down his missing niece Gemma, who has become an unwitting pawn in a vicious bidding war for The Red Sepulchre, a mystical artefact of legendary and unquantifiable power (issues # 177-180).
This is a welcome return to vintage form for John Constantine. Rife with double-cross and manipulation, the magician inveigles and connives his way through all sorts of Hells, with his customary Game-Face grin and plot-within-plot strategy, seemingly taking hit after hit but always most assuredly in absolute control of the field.
Marcelo Frusin’s sparse storytelling and his fearfully disciplined drawing whips the reader from page to page like fat kids down a water-slide for a completely unvarnished thrill-ride, and Carey’s essential grasp of Constantine makes for some of the best urban horror since Garth Ennis’s run on the title. Long-time fans should also appreciate the wonderfully subtle foreshadowings hidden herein when later issues are collected. Here is quality stuff that starts strong and gets better, and new readers can safely jump on for a truly spooky time.
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