"High On Life, Part 2 of 2"
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Steve Dillon (p), Jimmy Palmiotti (i)
Publisher: DC Vertigo
With BAD things happening to Angie last issue, she's rushed to hospital but appears to be in a coma. John Constantine needs to know what she knows, so takes the drastic step of injecting her with some of his blood (remember the Nergal connection to John's blood way back in Delano's run?), which kick-starts her into consciousness. She tells him what she'd deduced about the block of flats, and he sets off to kick arse...of the old woman on the top floor. He finds out what gruesome secret she keeps in her cupboard, but gets drugged for his troubles...but retains presence of mind to wipe out her protective sigils and let the ghosts in to finish her off.
Not quite as good as last issue, maybe because that raised the bar so high after Azzarello's run that the quality jump from #174 to #175 would be impossible to replicate between #175 and #176, but it's still a damn fine book and confirmation that John Constantine is in the right hands. There's a tricky moment to overcome in the story's resolution if you're not paying attention to the art (as I wasn't) - I read it through and thought: "er, what does that mean?". But a close rereading and checking the art out showed exactly what was going on...yes, it's a comic book that you need to pay attention to both words and art to get full benefit from.
Speaking of art, Steve Dillon turns in another fine piece of work - the full page menacing shot of JC climbing the stairs on page 12 is an excellent piece of work - the character has more presence, more power, more potential in that one piece of art than in virtually the entire run of he-who-shall-not-be-named-again.
So finally we turn to the sparkling dialogue and future plot threads dangled in this story - Carey really has JC down pat, the speech is spot-on, the humour in his lines feels real, and there are one or two exchanges that make you laugh for joy that the real JC is back. A nice hook leads into the next four-part story, seeing John return to London and attempt to sort out some of the mess that has arisen during his stint in the US...very metaphorical.
Still back on top of his game, if only DC would change the logo back to the 'classic' Hellblazer to match.
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