Hellblazer #200 Review

Reviewed by: Mathan “Keanu?” Erhardt
Story title: Happy Families

Written by: Mike Carey
Penciled and Inked by: Steve Dillon, Marcelo Frusin & Leonardo Manco
Colored by: Lee Loughridge
Lettered by: Clem Robins & Jon Paden
Cover by: Tim Bradstreet
Editor: Will Dennis
Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics

Last issue John Constantine was between a rock and a hard place. With no memory of his past John was about to be burned at the stake. So he pledged one day of his life in service to a devil, and in return he got his memory back and escaped his cruel death.

This issue opens with domestic bliss. John is married to Katherine “Kit” Ryan, and they have a young son, Adam. It’s Kit and John’s anniversary and they want to spend some quality time together. John’s life isn’t perfect, he’s in debt with a bookie and people around Adam start dying. But when John finally figures out what’s going on it’s too late, his son overwhelms him as reality blinks out for a moment.

John wakes up disoriented and is again married, but this time to Zed, another woman from his past. Their college-aged son Saul is a agricultural wiz. John finds that his son is actually torturing those connected to The Green, most notably Swamp Thing. But his son overwhelms again just when John has it figured out he. Again reality blinks out.

When it comes back John and Angie, his most recent girl, are working at a restaurant. They have a teen-aged daughter, Maria, who is a disciplinary problem at school. This time around John thinks that he knows things aren’t as they seem. When he finally comes face to face with his daughter he sees a rebellious image of himself. But when he follows her he finds her and her friends brutally killing a vagrant. Once again his child overwhelms him. But this time the illusion vanishes.

Saul and Adam join Maria, and they are joined by Rosacaris the devil that John made a deal with. It turns out that she just wanted to breed with him. She’s the daughter of one of John’s oldest adversaries, Nergal. This was all part of a plan to get revenge on John. John is returned to the normal reality, but with the memories of three lifetimes, as well has his real memories. He also has the knowledge that his three offspring are out there somewhere, plotting against him.

I do love what Carey’s been doing on this title. This issue is really well written. He manages to make every reality feel very real. They seem like scenes out of an established reality. And Carey gets points just for dreaming up such a sadistic way to strike back at John. I can’t wait for next month. Robins and Paden’s lettering is crisp as always. The sound effects are present but unobtrusive. And the little details like the news story about Abby Cable are excellent touches. Sadly this is Robins and Paden’s last issue lettering the book.

Artists from Constantine’s history handle the art. Dillon handles the story with Kit, and he’s got his usual flair. It’s crisp and clean. Frusin does the art for the Zed story. He handles it with his usual darkness and shadows, and it looks at a good as ever. Finally Manco finishes the issue with Angie’s segment. He shows some great potential, and I look forward to seeing his work on these pages. The cover by Bradstreet is a haunting images of a tribute, in a uniquely Constantine way.