[13 July 2009]
PopMatters Comics Editor
It was good to get out be out in the cold again.
The confines of a snowed-in diner somewhere in the Midwest were getting just a little too claustrophobic. Nerves were being frayed, tensions were mounting and tempers were just about to flare. Thrown into the mix, a stickup gang narrowly escaped from a bad robbery, one of them shot in the stomach, and a dead man found in the parking lot, his chest impaled by an icicle.
After 160 issues though, readers know that Constantine, the titular Hellblazer never walks into a place he can’t walk back out of. Writer Brian Azzarello, with artist Marcelo Frusin, capably provide the panoramic vistas of the Great Outdoors. Here are the open spaces readers have been longing for. Here is that sense of freedom from the dangers awaiting Constantine back in the diner. It wouldn’t be hard for Constantine to just walk away, leaving the diner behind him. In his hitherto 13 years of publication, Constantine has simply walked away on numerous occasions, usually leaving a trail of dead friends.
Constantine’s story is often about taking the gap and finding the better part of valor. But equally his story is often about conning the smug and the powerful. The stickup men in the diner ultimately prove too seductive a target. Before Constantine heads back for the final confrontation, he convinces a supporting character of the existence of an urban legend.
In doing so, Frusin offers a pithy rendering of Constantine’s psychology. Constantine does nothing but speak. Like a stage magician, Constantine’s charm and self-assuredness soon allow the luckless Pete to convince himself of the existence of the serial killer known as the Ice-Man. In doing so, Constantine’s inner world comes to life in the Great Outdoors. The confined, paranoid spaces of diner are shown to be nothing other than Constantine’s mind at play. In talking to Pete, that same confined comics reappears. And at the very moment readers begin to sympathize with Pete, Frusin switches view. Looking at Pete’s frown of uncertainty, readers share a metaphorical wink with Constantine.