Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Ward 24
An amnesiac John Constantine wanders into a hospital where treatment takes a back seat to torture.
Writer: Mike Carey
Art: Leonardo Manco
Colors: Lee Loughridge
Letters: Clem Robins
Editor: Will Dennis
Cover Art: Tim Bradstreet
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
As uneven and inaccessible as I’ve generally found Mike Carey’s work on Lucifer to be, I get the exact opposite reaction from his Hellblazer series. This is a book I’ve found very easy to jump in and out of, with a well-identified and defined protagonist and clever storytelling. After the cataclysmic events of last issue, Constantine is wandering around wounded and bereft of his memory. He encounters a young, injured girl trying to fish with gummy worms and, in an act of kindness, takes her to a hospital to get help. His own wounds and memory loss land him a bed as well, and he finds himself at the tender mercies of a man who seems to know every dark secret about everyone, and is upset that he can’t read the blank slate Constantine represents.
This issue really sums up what makes Hellblazer work – dark fantasy just this side of outright horror, some mystery elements and a dash of black comedy to keep everything from going completely off the deep end. Carey does a very good job with this character, and hopefully has plans to stick around for some time.
I’d like to say the same for our guest artist, Leonardo Manco. He draws a great Constantine and his entire issue had a good look to it – not totally grim and gritty, but not lighthearted superhero fare either. Drawing Hellblazer is as delicate a balancing act as writing it, and Manco does it better than most I have seen.
People already reading this title will enjoy this issue. People who haven’t been reading it may find it an odd place to jump on, but I think with a little effort and imagination even a non-reader who knows a little about Constantine will be able to fill in the blanks and enjoy this issue… even if our hero can’t.