For those playing catch-up, here’s
PART ONE, PART TWO, PART THREE, PART FOUR and PART FIVE.
And once again, here’s all the things we’ll keep track of as we go along. Just for laughs, eh?
Plot - What happens in the story worth noting, without giving away too much. Our job isn’t to tell you the story. It’s to help those who read the story keep track of the details. Go buy the comics and read them yourself, you lazy, cheap wankers!
Prominent People - Characters whom we see more than once. First appearances, mentions of reoccurring characters, anything on the hierarchy of Hell and real life figures drawn into the story and anyone else who deserves noting.
Deaths - Any deaths of prominent people or any particularly gory and interesting ways of dying. This is a horror book, after all. Also, a running tally of all the times John has directly been involved in a friend or family member’s death. Deaths of enemies, except where John directly murdered the person in question, are not counted. Instances where it is unclear if the person died (Talbot in Issue #22) or where they probably would have died with our without John showing up (i.e. Una in Issue #25) are not counted.
John Screws Up - This happens quite a bit, but anytime John is directly or indirectly responsible for some bad thing or another happening, we note it. We advise not making a drinking game of this for two reasons – first, you’ll get pissed very quickly and be unable to keep reading and second, because you might spill lager on your comics!
Pub Trivia - Anything else worth noting that doesn’t fit one of the other categories.
Simple enough, right? And now to the last, and most recent, of the extended 40-issue Hellblazer runs...
The Mike Carey Run
It was a time of rebirth for Vertigo Comics in late 2002. Sales were down across the board and many of the flagship titles that started the line were floundering or dead. Brian Vaughn, not yet the darling of fanboys everywhere, had ended a two-year run on Swamp Thing that was a critical disappointment. Hellblazer was in similarly dire straits, both with fans and critics. And even Sandman continued on only in a series of specials of varying quality and in a spin-off series staring Neil Gaiman’s Lucifer. This later book, easily the finest quality book Vertigo had at the time, was written by man named Mike Carey.
Perhaps Vertigo placed Carey on Hellblazer because of his success in creating a Sandman spin-off that was accepted by fans (who were notoriously harsh about anyone trying to follow up Neil Gaiman) and beloved by critics and hoped he could do the same to Hellblazer following the much-loathed Azzarello run. Perhaps it was because of his background in British comics, having created original series for 2000AD - which had proved to be a common factor in the background of the all the “great” writers of John Constantine. Or perhaps it was because Carey was, like John, a man of middle-years born-in-Liverpool and living in London.
Whatever the case, Carey’s first story on Hellblazer was a literal and figurative homecoming for the character after three years of being dragged around The States. It even featured artwork by Steve Dillon, considered by most to be the definitive Hellblazer artist. But would this prove to be enough to win back the fans? Only time would tell that tale...
Hellblazer #175 – High On Life (Part One of Two)
Plot - Newly returned to England, John sets about making contact with his family only to get dragged into a magical mystery involving the aura of evil that envelopes his sister’s new flat and a series of murdered young women.
Prominent People - First appearances of Angie Spatchcock (a waitress and amateur magician), Gladys Wren (a witch), Nigel Wren (Gladys’ skinhead son) and another unnamed man, who calls Gladys “mom” in the next issue. Appearances by Cheryl Masters (John’s older sister) and Tony Masters (Cheryl’s husband).
Pub Trivia - We find out that Cheryl and Gemma did receive word of John’s apparent death in an American prison (Hard Time). Gemma also apparently left home and become a teaching assistant in France and she sends postcards home though she never calls.
Hellblazer #176 – High On Life (Part Two of Two)
Plot - After seeing Angie to the hospital (and giving her a healing dose of his demonic blood), John sets about getting some answers from Mrs. Gladys Wren.
Prominent People - Cameo appearance by Watford, a policeman colleague of John’s from the Warren Ellis run.
Deaths - 38 on the death tally. Gladys dies of shock after being attacked by the ghost of one of the girls she was indirectly responsible for killing. It is possible, but unclear, that John may have killed the hood that attacked him with a broken bottle and that Angie may have killed Nigel with her attack on him. While such attacks aren’t usually lethal, it looks like the two murderers may have been left for dead and nothing is said about taking them to the police. The resolution here is somewhat unclear.
John Screws Up - John injects some of his demonic blood into Angie’s IV tube in the hospital in order to speed her recovery time so he can question her about her attackers and what she found out about Gladys’ apartment. He notes later that this was a mistake as Angie is just a dabbler and may not be ready to pursue the life a magus.
Pub Trivia - A hint of trouble to come – despite using an alias when talking to her, Gladys Wren calls John “Constantine” at one point, tipping off John that someone is messing with him. She also gives John a name – “Scrape”
Hellblazer #177 – Red Sepulchre (Part One of Four)
Plot - Returned to London and looking for Scrape, John finds himself stuck in the middle of a magical turf war with old friends and old enemies urging him to join their side.
Prominent People - First appearance of Domine Fredricks (a major player in the London magic community), Nicholas “Scrape” Gillis (a dealer in magical artifacts) Misha (a Russian sailor and Scrape’s lover) and Parker (owner of the Tate Club, last seen in Haunted). Cameos by Chas (who seems to be the only person not shocked to see John alive and well), Clarice, Albert and Map (all three John’s allies from the Warren Ellis story Haunted) Joshua Wright (the villain of Haunted, now a thug in Fredricks’ employ) and Gemma Masters (John’s missing niece).
Deaths - Scrape is killed, along with his Russian sailor lover, some six months before John comes looking for him.
Hellblazer #178 – Red Sepulchre (Part Two of Four)
Plot - Finding that Fredricks has the means to kill Gemma anytime he wishes, John is forced into aiding his search for The Red Sepulchre – a magical item apparently possessed by Scrape’s sailor lover that has a connection to John’s bloodline. Meanwhile, Fredricks’ thugs attack The Tate Club, forcing Clarice and Albert into hiding.
Prominent People - First appearance of Ghant (an elderly magician in the employ of Fredricks)
John Screws Up - John calls Angie asking for her to come to London to help him. Because of his smart-ass treatment of her two issues previous, she turns him down.
Pub Trivia - It is revealed in this issue that Clarice is responsible for having handed Gemma over to Fredricks and putting her in danger.
Hellblazer #179 – Red Sepulchre (Part Three of Four)
Plot - As John sets about digging through a warehouse full of artifacts looking for the Red Sepulchre, Clarice and Albert ready an attack against Wright and Fredricks.
Prominent People = Cameo in flashback of Aloysius Quinn – a relative of John’s on his mother’s side of the family, whose soul was apparently taken by The Red Sepulchre in the 1840s.
Hellblazer #180 – Red Sepulchre (Part Four of Four)
Plot - With Clarice and Albert in his debt thanks to a masterful con and some aide from Map, John has managed to get away from his captors. But it’s going to take a lot more magic and conning to rescue Gemma away from Fredricks.
Deaths - 39. 40 and 41 on the death tally. Thanks to John’s actions here, one of Fredrick’s thugs (Godall) becomes possessed by the spirit of Kali. He then goes on to kill Joshua Wright, another thug (Peake) and Fredricks himself. John then uses a spell on Godall that banishes the spirit and leaves him alive in the wreckage of Fredrick’s mansion before leaving with Gemma.
Pub Trivia - Gemma is reportedly angry and John for butting in and trying to get her out of his world. Also, we find out from Clarice at the end of the issue that Fredricks wanted the Red Sepulchre for a ritual to open a door between the living and the dead and that he had reoccurring nightmares about a very big dog.
Hellblazer #181 – The Game of Cat And Mouse
Plot - Warned of a magical assassination attempt by the ghost of an old friend, John is forced into a merry chase around London as he is perused by three of the most dangerous hunters in Hell.
Prominent People - Cameos by Watford, the ghost of Gary Lester, Clarice, Chas, Chas’s wife Rene and Chas’ granddaughter Trish. First appearance of The Lukhavim, demons specializing in hunting down souls.
John Screws Up - John sacrifices the ghosts of several mental patients in order to buy him time to spring a trap on the two Lukhavim that are chasing him.
Hellblazer #182 – Black Flowers (Part One of Two)
Plot - Angie and John are both separately pulled into investigating a magical disturbance in a Bedfordshire mental hospital.
Prominent People - First appearance of Angie’s brother Jason Spatchcock and Kev, a friend of Chas’ who works at the same garage who offers John a lift on his bike when Chas is forbidden to so much as light a cig for John. Also, first reference to King Arawn Pen Annuvin – The Celtic King of the Dead
Hellblazer #183 – Black Flowers (Part Two of Two)
Plot - With a doorway to the realm of the dead opened and his guards, the Gironnved, hunting down the spirits of old Celts seeking the pleasures of the flesh once more, it falls to John and Angie to close the door.
Deaths - 42 on the dead tally. John stabs one of the Gironnved to death as a sacrifice in order to close the portal to the realm of the dead.
Pub Trivia - There are dual flashback to #180 and #181 here, where John remembers Clarice’s words about what Fredrick’s hoped to do and the Lukhavim’s message about a dog pushing against the first door and Fredrick’s nightmares about some form of dog.
Hellblazer #184 – The Wild Card (Third Worlds: Part One)
Plot - John and Angie go on the road to find out more about the mysterious dog that threatens the world. But for John to get information from an old friend, he’ll have to risk his soul in a very dangerous game of Poker.
Prominent People - First appearances of Paho Bokhari (a magician) and Senor Gotereez (another magician). Cameo by Swamp Thing.
Deaths - 43 on the dead tally. John and Paho’s con results in Senor Gotereez’s getting stabbed to death to settle his bet.
Hellblazer #185 – Ordeal (Third Worlds: Part Two)
Plot - Traveling to Iran and a portal to Eden in search of answers about the mysterious dog, John is forced to stand trial for his theft of a sacred scroll.
Prominent People - First appearance of Salmi (an Iranian cab-driver with some form of magical tattoo), Ghursoon (leader of the Children of Cain) and Beriti (one of the Children of Cain, whom John seduced to steal a scroll) Cameo by Swamp Thing.
Hellblazer #186 –The Pit (Third Worlds: Part Three)
Plot - In Tasmania, John goes dream-walking to find a native Tasmanian to talk to about the mysterious dog. But it is Angie who will have a close encounter with the spirits of some very hostile natives.
John Screws Up - In making his dream-walk into the concentration camp, John forgets that the ghosts of the Tasmania natives are not likely to hang about someplace they were unhappy in the afterlife.
Pub Trivia - This issue marks John and Angie’s “first time” together. We also learn a bit more about Angie’s brother Jason, and his time in jail and apparent mental disorder.
Hellblazer #187 – Bred In The Bone: Part One
Plot - Sought out by Ghant, who has gone independent in the wake of Fredricks’ death, Gemma Constantine is recruited to take John’s place on a journey of some sort to a place where John and Ghant once fought something evil.
Prominent People - First appearances of Delilah (a prostitute), Paul (leader of a community of children), Beth (one of the girls in said community) and Bantham (a retired detective, with ties to Ghant and John).
Pub Trivia - We find out that Gemma has taken to using the surname Constantine. This is another of the rare issues without John as the main character. Indeed, he doesn’t appear at all except in flashback.
Hellblazer #188 – Bred In The Bone: Part Two
Plot - On Gruinard Island, Gemma finds herself trapped between some monstrous children and some diabolic humans as she tries to put right one of Uncle John’s past wrongs.
Prominent People - First appearance of Jinx, a bum.
Deaths - Bantham is ripped apart by The Demon Children in a rather gory display.
Pub Trivia - This is the issue where Gemma decides she really doesn’t want to follow in John’s footsteps. This is another of the rare issues without John as the main character. Indeed, he doesn’t appear at all except in flashback and at the very end.
Hellblazer #189 – Staring At The Wall: Part One
Plot - Back in London, John begins gathering allies to prepare for the arrival of The Shadow Dog. Meanwhile, Angie pays a visit to her brother to find that he is quite sane and having visions of The Dog himself.
Prominent People - First appearances of Nat Kuhn (aka Nathan Arcane – “the sane member of the family”), Alba Suria (a sorceress) and Donatus Chalice of the Closed Order of The Alexins (a man of God). Appearances by Map, Clarice, Angie’s brother Jason and, from The Sandman – The Ravi. Cameo by Swamp Thing.
Deaths - Chalice is killed by Alba’s magic after she is possessed by the Shadow Dog’s aura of madness. Thankfully, Map is able to subdue her before she kills anyone else.
John Screws Up - Chalice wouldn’t have died if not for John’s gathering of magicians – a fact that John will blame himself for out-loud next issue.
Pub Trivia - We find out Map’s real name – Ken Ondaatie.
Hellblazer #190 – Staring At The Wall: Part Two
Plot - An alliance is made as the magicians separate to do their respective duties. But is their course of action the right one?
Prominent People - First appearances of The Shadow Dog (a guardian of Man) and The Beast With No Name (the one creature that Adam did not name in the Garden of Eden and as such, the only one not limited to a single form).
Deaths - Though he has apparently been dead and possessed for a while now, we only just learn in this issue that Jason Spatchcock was possessed by The Beast With No Name.
John Screws Up - Without giving too much story away, it is made apparent that John has been tricked beautifully into destroying the means of his salvation.
Hellblazer #191 – Staring At The Wall: Part Three
Plot - With the partnership of magicians broken and The Beast With No Name feeding upon the minds and souls of humanity, John is forced to bring Gemma back into his life to create another plan.
Prominent People - Cameo by The Phantom Stranger. Gemma Masters returns.
Hellblazer #192 – Staring At The Wall: Part Four
Plot - With a little help from Chas and Swamp Thing, Gemma begins putting a comatose John’s plan into place.
Prominent People - Appearances by Chas Chandler, Gemma Masters and Swamp Thing. Cameos by Lucifer and Mazikeen (from Vertigo’s Lucifer book, also written by Mike Carey) and Tim Hunter (from Vertigo’s Books of Magic)
Hellblazer #193 – Staring At The Wall: Part Five
Plot - With all of his allies incapacitated, it falls to John to save the world. But can he save himself in the bargain and at what cost?
Prominent People - Appearances by Angie Spatchcock, Chas Chandler, Gemma Masters and Swamp Thing
Deaths - The Beast is devoured by the new Shadow Dog that Gemma conjures up.
John Screws Up - John’s plan, while saving humanity, costs Swamp Thing his soul and leaves John with amnesia.
Pub Trivia - The loss of Swamp Thing’s soul would be the centerpiece of the first six issues of a new Swamp Thing series that started shortly after this issue came out. These first six Swamp Thing issues were written by Andy Diggle, who would later go on to write Hellblazer.
Hellblazer #194 – Ward 24
Plot - Wandering the streets of London, an amnesiac John tries to help a burned little girl to the hospital. But though he is freed of his memories, John is hardly free of his fate as a psychic killer and a strange new enemy make themselves known to him.
Prominent People - First appearance of Peter Gill (a psycho killer, who someone learned the details of everyone in the world’s lives through The Beast With No Name) and Rosacarnis (a demon and daughter of Nergal), in the form of the girl Rose.
Hellblazer #195 – Out of Season, Part One
Plot - As Angie and Gemma get to work on tracking John down, Chas and family go on holiday and John blunders into an encounter with a new friend and a new enemy.
Prominent People First appearance of Rosacarnis in her demonic form and her butler Druoth. Appearances by Angie, Gemma, Chas, Chas’ wife Rene, Chas’ daughter Geraldine, Chas’ granddaughter Trish, Jinx (the bum John helped back in #188) and Peter Gill. Cameos by The Phantom Stranger, The First of The Fallen, The Demon Constantine and Triskelle, Queen of the Succubi.
Deaths - 44 on the death tally. Jinx dies because of his friendship with John.
Hellblazer #196 – Out of Season, Part Two
Plot - Things go from hot to hotter, with Peter Gill holding Chas and family hostage and Rosacarnis offering John the return of his memories in return for his allegiance to her.
Prominent People - First appearance of Agilieth, sworn brother of Nergal.
Deaths - 45 on the death tally. John shoots Peter Gill at point-blank range to save Chas and his family.
Hellblazer #197 – Stations of the Cross, Part One
Plot - Still suffering from amnesia and taunted by Rosacarnis, John stumbles into the machinations of another old associate in a most unusual church.
Prominent People - Cameo by Ghant. First appearance of Suzie, Terry and Margaret (disciples of Ghant’s cult)
Hellblazer #198 – Stations of the Cross, Part Two
Plot - Completely at Ghant’s mercy, John find an unexpected ally. But with his memories and his usual cunning still unavailable it may prove to be too little, too late.
Hellblazer #199 – Stations of the Cross, Part Three
Plot - With a horde of demons bidding on his soul, John faces a tough choice regarding Rosacarnis’ offer.
Prominent People - The First of The Fallen and Agony and Ecstasy are among the demons who show up to bid on John.
Deaths - 46 on the death tally. Suzie is killed for her attempts to help John by the other cultists.
John Screws Up - By agreeing to Rosacarnis’ offer here, John sets into motion the tragic events that will lead us throughout the rest of Mike Carey’s run on Hellblazer.
Pub Trivia - Agony and Ecstasy, presumed dead since the Garth Ennis run, are seen alive and well. Presumably The First of the Fallen revived them having felt he made his point. Also, it would seem that John’s request for God’s intervention at the end of The Paul Jenkins run took since The First of The Fallen’ made no mention of already owning John’s soul after having handily claimed it during “How To Play With Fire”.
Hellblazer #200 – Happy Families
Plot - Trapped into one day’s service under Rosacarnis, John lives several years in three alternate lives in one day and sires three demonic children.
Prominent People - First appearances of Adam Constantine (a young boy), Saul Constantine (an older male teenager) and Maria Constantine (a younger female teenager). There are cameos in the dreamed-up alternate lives of Kit Ryan (John’s lost love from the Garth Ennis days), Zed (John’s lover and accomplice from the Jamie Delano run), Angie Spatchcock, Gemma Masters, Abby Cable (Swamp Thing’s wife) and Swamp Thing.
Pub Trivia - John gets his memories back at the end of this issue.
Hellblazer #201 – Event Horizon
Plot - Three thugs break into John’s lock-up of magical artifacts and come into contact with a cursed bracelet.
Pub Trivia - This is one of the few stand-alone stories during Mike Carey’s run on the book and the only one that is not directly tied into another story.
Hellblazer #202 – Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part One
Plot - John’s demonic children are set loose on the world and begin to tear his life apart, friend by friend.
Prominent People - Cameos by Alba Suria, Albert, Clarice and Map.
Deaths - 47, 48, 49, 50 and 51 on the death Tally. Maria Constantine kills Alba Suria with her own power. Albert is killed during Adam’s attack on the Tate Club protecting Clarice. And thanks to Maria’s seduction of a truck-driver while on the road, everyone in Chas’ family is burnt to death in a fiery explosion, though Chas himself is somehow spared.
Hellblazer #203 – Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part Two
Plot - John’s children continue to work against all of his friends and allies as John finds a mysterious ally in Hell, who now possesses Chas Chandler’s body.
Prominent People - Nergal, though we won’t know it’s him for a while yet, makes his first appearance in a long while through first a rat and then Chas Chandler’s body. Cameos by Straff and Straff’s Mother (from the Jenkins run) and the ghost of Sir Francis Dashwood (from Eddie Campbell’s brief run). We also get an update on the whereabouts of Angie and Gemma. First appearance of Simon, a boy dating Gemma who is approached by Saul Constantine about killing her.
Deaths - 52, 53 and 54 on the death tally. Straff and his mother are both cut apart by telekinetically manipulated flatware. And the ghost of Sir Dashwood is dashed out by Adam Constantine.
Pub Trivia - Nergal drops a hint to his identity here, saying that he has known John for even longer than Chas has known him.
Hellblazer #204 – Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part Three
Plot - As John and his uneasy ally begin to try and rescue some of John’s loved ones, Angie is tormented by the nightmares from her childhood and Gemma prepares for what could be a very deadly date.
Prominent People - Cameos by Tony Masters (Gemma’s father), Helen (an old girlfriend of John’s), Mange (the magician trapped in a rabbit’s body from Hellblazer #63), Robbie Brooks (the amateur magician who John pretended to curse in Hellblazer #62) and Uncle Fred, Cousin Terrell and Brother Kyle (from Dani’s family in ‘Up The Down Staircase’)
Deaths - We are told that a hecatomb of people who loved, mistrusted or had even met John Constantine are killed behind the scenes in this issue. The only confirmed deaths we get for the tally are 55, 56, 57, 58, 59 and 60 for Helen, Mange, Robbie Brooks, Uncle Fred, Cousin Terrell and Kyle.
Pub Trivia - Nergal drops another hint to his identity here, knowing about John’s time in Ravenscar and also noting that Angie’s blood tastes like John’s – as John’s original demonic blood downer, he would presumably know. It is interesting to note that nothing is said specifically about any of the women in John’s life in all this cleansing, though you’d think Kit or even Marj or Zed would be among the first targets John’s children would go after.
Hellblazer #205 – Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part Four
Plot - With Angie safe, John and his mysterious new ally burn pavement to save Gemma from John’s children, little knowing they already have a new target in mind.
Prominent People - Cameos by Tony and Cheryl Masters (Gemma’s parents)
John Screws Up - John makes a major error in judgment here, going after Gemma before Cheryl – not trusting Gemma to take care of herself against a relatively mundane threat when Cheryl was in just as much, if not worse, danger.
Pub Trivia - Nergal reveals himself to John in this issue, raising the question of how he escaped the torments we saw him enduring back in Hellblazer #60.
Hellblazer #206 – Cross Purpose
Plot - Free from Negral’s possession but not from his influence, Chas Chandler wanders the streets with Maria Constantine close behind.
Pub Trivia - This is another of the rare issues where John is not the focus of the action.
Hellblazer #207 – Down In The Ground Where The Dead Men Go, Part One
Plot - With Cheryl technically dead and her soul dragged into Hell, John and Nergal form an uneasy alliance to storm Hell’s gates together.
Pub Trivia - Reference is made to Gladys, the soul-stealing serial killer from “High On Life”.
Hellblazer #208 – Down In The Ground Where The Dead Men Go, Part Two
Plot - As Angie and Gemma come to terms while waiting with Cheryl’s body, John is confronted by his old friend and his Demonic “better” half.
Prominent People - First appearance of Stercorax, brother of Nergal. Cameos by most of The Ghostly Horde, which now includes everyone killed in the last few issues, including Alba, Straff, Straff’s mom, Helen and Albert. Gary Lester appears, now in the service of The Demon Constantine.
John Screws Up - In order to win a fight with the Demonic version of himself, John allows Nergal to possess him.
Hellblazer #209 – Down In The Ground Where The Dead Men Go, Part Three
Plot - Nergal relates to John the story of how he had come to know John and how Rosacarnis had come to rule his House.
Prominent People - Cameo by The First of The Fallen, in flashback.
Pub Trivia - Most of this issue is a flashback that relates the events of the first year of Hellblazer from Nergal’s perspective. This is another of the rare (but increasingly common during the Carey run) issues where John is not the focus of the action.
Hellblazer #210 – Down In The Ground Where The Dead Men Go, Part Four
Plot - As John and Nergal continue their journey to Rosacarnis’ estates, Nergal tells John of how he came to be reborn in Hell. But is there something Nergal is not telling John?
Prominent People - Chantinelle The Succubus, last seen being tortured in “How To Play With Fire”, makes an appearance apparently having served her time for betraying The First of The Fallen.
Pub Trivia - It is revealed, although not made apparent, that Cheryl’s soul is in Nergal’s possession.
Hellblazer #211 – Down In The Ground Where The Dead Men Go, Part Five
Plot - Having reached the keep, Nergal and John part ways to launch a two-pronged strike against Rosacarnis. But Nergal has something up his sleeve for everyone. Luckily, so does John.
Prominent People - Cameo by The First of the Fallen.
Pub Trivia - It becomes obvious that Nergal’s whole goal has been to get revenge on his daughter and he uses both John and Cheryl as tools (literally in the later case) to get himself into the invincible body of his brother Stercorax.
Hellblazer #212 – Down In The Ground Where The Dead Men Go, Part Six
Plot - With an angry and invincible Nergal at the door, it falls to John, to save the demonic family that exists only to destroy him if only to save his sister Cheryl’s soul.
Deaths - 61, 62, 63, 64, 65 and 66 on the death tally. The First of the Fallen, in order to deny John a noble and heroic death, kills Rosacarnis, Adam and Saul Constantine. He rips apart Nergal to get Cheryl’s soul free and then, already possessing the soul of the damned Tony Masters (suicide + his wife’s murder), convinces Cheryl to stay in Hell so that Tony’s punishment will be halved.
John Screws Up - All of John’s planning here, and he still loses. Cheryl is damned to hell and Gemma’s trust/love for her cunning uncle is completely shattered.
Hellblazer #213 – The Gift
Plot - A flashback tale, John tells Angie of the first time he conned somebody into thinking he was a more powerful magician than he really is.
Prominent People - First appearances of Kenny Nelson and Anita Nelson.
Hellblazer #214 – R.S.V.P. , Part One
Plot - John tries to get his life back into some semblance of order and patch things up with his best friend. But it won’t be nearly as easy to get back into routine as he hopes and indeed John is spurred to make a very big decision about his life.
Prominent People - Appearances by Chas and Chas’ cousin Norma. Cameos by Map and Clarice.
John Screws Up - We find out that thanks to John’s involvement with Nergal and what Chas did while he was still under the influence, Rene has left Chas and his own daughter refuses to speak to him anymore, having cost Chas his family as sure as if John had killed them himself.
Hellblazer #215 – R.S.V.P. , Part Two
Plot - John readies himself to end his magical career with style, giving a speech at The Tate Club that will turn every magician in London against him.
Prominent People - Cameos by Clarice and Swamp Thing. We briefly see Angie and Gemma at Cheryl’s funeral. The Ghostly Horde of John’s dead friends also make an appearance.
Quite honestly, if you’re going to read any of Mike Carey’s Hellblazer you’d best be prepared to read all of it. More than any writer, even including Garth Ennis, Carey’s entire run is one big story that demands to be read in order. Indeed, while one does not have to have read the entirety of Hellblazer before reading any of Mike Carey’s stories, it does make the experience all the richer.
Thankfully, more and more of Carey’s run is becoming available in Trade Paperback format and the single issues are still relatively easy to track down on-line or at a decent comic book shop. Even more thankfully, there is not a single bad issue in the lot, by my reckoning and only two stories in the whole run that do not relate or tie into another part of the overall arch.
The Final Analysis
Mike Carey was precisely the shot-in-the-arm the Hellblazer franchise needed to guide it after some very, very dark days. Unlike Warren Ellis and Brian Azzarello, who completely ignored John’s past and the rich creations of the writers who came before them, Carey picked up and built upon the mythology of the series just as Garth Ennis and Paul Jenkins did before him.
But Carey was no slouch when it came to his own creations and he created the ideal mate for John Constantine in Angie Spatchcock. Angie was, in all honesty, the first equal John had ever had romantically. Not to disparage the great Kit Ryan but while she was capable of handling herself, she was never truly capable of handling all of John’s life. Angie, for better or worse, was able to stand by John’s side in the midst of all the supernatural weirdness and be more than just a girlfriend.
To put it simply, I do believe that Mike Carey is my favorite writer to tackle John Constantine. Ennis was the funniest. Delano was the most hearfelt. Ellis’ was the most dangerous. And Jenkins was the most fun. But Carey managed to take the essence of all four takes on John Constantine and distill it into something different and yet wholly familiar.
I think Neil Gaiman said it best when he said that Mike Carey wrote “the quintessential Constantine.” For what it is worth, I agree with Mr. Gaiman.
Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.