(2005) Mike Carey, Steve Dillon and Marcelo Frusin, Titan Books, £8.99, trdpbk, 142pp, ISBN 1-84576-068-9
Following the excellent All His Engines, this is the first collection of Mike Carey's run on the ongoing Hellblazer title, collecting issues 175-180. John Constantine returns to England from America to find his neice, Gemma, missing and a supernatural game afoot. John needs to get up to speed as quickly as possible and, following a clue from his sister's block of flats, makes contact with some old associates, little knowing that they are one of two groups competing for the Red Sepulchre. Gemma is used as leverage to get Constantine to co-operate, but his reluctant investigations could uncover more than any of the players have bargained for...
I've been looking forward to this - one of my favourite writers, Mike (Lucifer) Carey, coupled with one of my favourite characters - and it doesn't disappoint. Not that there was anything wrong with Brian Azzarello's, quite long, run on the title - in fact it was very good - but there's no doubting that Carey is the better writer. His lines are more Constantine-esque, more inkeeping with Moore and Delano and Ennis, and his plots are more labyrinthine, more of a tease than Azzarello's. You get the consistant impression with Carey that he has thought through his plots thoroughly, and anywhere up to a dozen issues ahead, yet he never rushes things. I just love the simple dramatic touches: like the fact that at the beginning of the collection John is in a leather jacket, but you know he's "going to work" when he puts on his old trenchcoat, with a lovely reaction shot from his sister, followed by a simple splash page... And it was nice to see a couple of issues drawn by Steve Dillon, no stranger to Hellblazer - I've nothing against Frusin's art, but I'd prefer to see Dillon, or Will Simpson, or better still Leonardo Manco (artist of All His Engines) on the title. Another big plus for the series, as far as I'm concerned, are Tim Bradstreet's covers. How about having him on interior art? I think the fans would go for it. Anyway, consider all previous recommendations to be in effect and re-iterated again - this is one of the best comics titles around these days (hope it isn't hurt too much by the extremely poor movie!) and an ongoing delight.
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