Issue #19 “The Broken Man”
Writer: Jamie Delano
Art: Mark Buckingham, Alfredo Alcala
Colors: Lovern Kindzierski
Letters: Elitta Fell
Cover: Dave McKean
Due to the length of The Fear Machine, 9 consecutive issues, much of the storyline is plot driven as opposed to the more character driven storylines as seen previously in Original Sins and future story arcs. While there are moments that touch on facets of Constantine’s character that have otherwise only been briefly explored at this point, the story arc is very much a series of events that brings together different genres of storytelling under the all-encompassing dread that builds with the storyline.
Picking up immediately after the conclusion of the previous issue, “The Broken Man” opens with Constantine saving the bound and gagged Simon Hughes from being hung in his closet. Hughes remarks that his political writing has earned him threats in the past, but an actual attempt on his life is new to him, which delivers him into a laughing maniacal fit. Calming down he provides exposition to Constantine on Geotroniks and the suicides involved with the company, Constantine surmising that whatever the company is up to has to be a weapon of some sorts. Staying with Hughes for the rest of the evening and holding his hand long after he has fallen asleep, Constantine remarks on how comforting it is to have someone, anyone, to hold on to when dealing with fear and terror, even if they only provide a simple gesture of kindness to ease their fears. Given how fear has the power to shake the staunchest individual and demoralize the strongest army, the idea of wanting support in such a time is a completely reasonable. But as society has shown, admitting to, or asking that you are are in need of such support, can be seen as a sign of weakness that requires just as much courage as facing the fear itself.
Back at Geotroniks, Mercury has grown uncooperative with Doctor Fulton, further refusing to aid him under suspicion of what the organization is really up to. Astral projecting in The Fear Machine, as she does when she aids the “scardies,” she looks into the Fear Trap to discover a Lovecraftian Horror entity that is the amalgamation of the fears she has locked away in there and the consciousness of another psychic, Siskin. Siskin tells Mercury of a threat that is being brought back to the world that is growing off the exorcised terrors called Jallakuntilliokan. The name has been seen once before in “Fellow Travelers” but lacked context as it was amongst the murmurings of terrified train passengers. Siskin’s revelations are motivation enough for Mercury to attempt to flee the facility with the cajoling of Doctor Fulton, who has developed feelings of platonic love for her over the course on her capture. Also, his growing uneasiness he feels from the proximity of the Fear Trap motivates him.
There is a brief three panel interlude of Constantine returning from aiding The Sandman in the third issue of Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece “Dream a Little Dream of Me.” While moving away from the more horror oriented storylines as the series progressed, the tone of The Sandman was very much in line with Hellblazer initially. Given that the first comic script Neil Gaiman ever wrote was about John Constantine, the inclusion of the character early on in The Sandman and the reference to the existence of Morpheus in Hellblazer helps set the foundation for the modern-fantasy shared universe that some of the most popular Vertigo series would be set in. The imprint of course was founded after the success of both Hellblazer and The Sandman, featuring more creator owned content than the main DC line, which dealt with more “mature” subject matter.
After attending the funeral of Geoffrey Talbot’s wife, Constantine, Hughes, and Talbot have an encounter with a homeless person in the subway who stuffs a piece of paper in John’s mouth before jumping in front of a train while screaming “Jallakuntilliokan!” The paper containing the phrase “Tremble for the G.O.A.G. is coming” which leaves the trio scratching their heads over, but a logo on the paper causes Hughes to go into a fit as it matches that of the man who attempted to hang him, who is revealed to have been Webster of Geotroniks. Even now at the conclusion of the second act the reveal of the “real” threat behind the mysterious organization leaves more questions and only a few answers. The reveal of Webster as the one who hung Simon comes off a bit awkwardly, given that the shadowy face of Webster was first seen back in issue #16 and that the art team had changed twice (at least partially) since then. This initially left the reader scratching their head on who this figure is. The changing art team of the arc is one of its weaknesses. Simon Hughes and Webster never seem to be drawn the same way twice. Who the homeless man that committed suicide was, how he obtained the G.O.A.G. paper, or why he killed himself, is never explained in the following issues, and is left for the reader to decide. With a story so sprawling as this one, it is only natural that some things are left unexplained.
1. The Sandman Companion By: Bender, Hy., and Neil Gaiman. Vertigo/DC Comics 1999