(2006) Mike Carey, Marcelo Frusin and Leonardo Manco, Titan Books, £8.99, trdpbk, 192pp, ISBN 1-84576-329-7
This is a collection of issues 194-200 of the ongoing title (originally published in 2004). Following on from the events of the previous apocalyptic volume, Staring at the Wall, John Constantine has been left with no memory of who he is, leaving him vulnerable to all sorts of people (and demons). The book opens with Constantine falling into the care of a psychiatric institution (not for the first time, long time readers will know) where his path crosses with that of a madman who retains details of the collective unconcious utilised in the previous plotline. This psychopath kidnaps Constantine's friend Chas and his family, who just wanted a holiday at the seaside, in order to force a confrontation. More fool him since, even amnesiac, Constantine is still a tricky bastard. John has also been targeted by the daughter of the demon Nergal, out for revenge for her father's humiliation at Constantine's hands. She promises to restore his memory if he will spend one day in her service, which offer John initially refuses. However, John is taken in by a religious cult with a charismatic prophet who tries to auction him to the dark powers. Though Constantine gets out of this pickle too he is to be burned to death by the cult, only for Nergal's daughter to renew her offer, and this time John must accept - which is what sets up the 'anniversary issue' 200's climax. Time being relative, "one day" in her service turns out to be three lifetimes, in each of which Constantine lives out a life with a former lover (each drawn by a previous Hellblazer artist) and fathering a child by each. These 'children' have been brought up by John and know him and his ways better than he knows himself, and each of them is now in the service of Nergal's daughter. Joining Frusin and Manco are Chris Brunner (at the climax of the first story) and Steve Dillon (in the last). Manco's work is excellent (in the first and last stories), Frusin's has grown on me a little over time, Brunner's is (I feel) poor, and Dillon is great to see anytime. The original series' covers by Tim Bradstreet are, as always, wonderful. One can't help but wonder how long Mike Carey will stay with the title, but if anyone was going to guide Constantine through a 200th issue of Hellblazer I'm glad it was Carey. This is still, after some considerable time now, a highly recommended title (at least, for those who like this kind of thing!).
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