Issue #20 “Betrayal”
Writer: Jamie Delano
Art: Mark Buckingham, Alfredo Alcala
Colors: Lovern Kindzierski
Letters: Elitta Fell
Cover: Dave McKean
From the seaside to Stonehenge, before taking a doomed train back to rain soaked London, over the past 6 issues of the series Constantine has found himself in numerous situations in a variety of settings. “Betrayal” begins the third and final act of The Fear Machine, starting the process of converging the numerous characters of the story and wrapping up a few of the many subplots of the story as Webster’s true and terrifying intentions are finally revealed to the reader.
Being first set up in issue #15, the relationship between Mercury and Doctor Fulton comes to a tragic end. Starting first as an admiration for her psychic abilities, which led to her capture, Doctor Fulton grew to develop romantic feelings for Mercury. After escaping from Geotronik’s Mercury turns him into the police on what can be assumed to be pedophilic allegations in a short scene that brings to mind Constantine’s first reaction to seeing the girl in which he was terrified of even speaking to. Fulton’s narration while in prison states his feelings are not of a sexual nature, he loves Mercury for her mind and the power it has to bring peace to others. He has truly grown to love her platonically, and while knowing he has betrayed Geotroniks in doing so, “a traitor to a cause can be still be loyal to love. Treachery has its price but love is its own reward” has accepted to side with love over fear, knowing full well that it is his death sentence in doing so. As prophesied by Mercury’s dream in “Rough Justice” Fulton’s end comes at the hands of Webster and his rope.
Constantine has slowly been gaining allies and attempting to piece things together since his return to London. This comes to a culmination with the reintroduction of the Russian agent from the train in issue #16, Sergei Antonov, who has appeared on Detective Talbot’s doorstep after hearing that his investigation into police corruption was blocked by Masons. As Webster’s plan shall bring about a dark god to rule over all of humanity, it is only fitting that Constantine’s allies should come from all walks of life, individuals on both sides of the political spectrum, of various national backgrounds and sexual orientations, it is a threat beyond any one set of people. With this assembly ready to the tackle Geotroniks, the rug is pulled from beneath their (and the reader’s) feet with the apprehension of the group (sans Constantine) by Davis, who reveals that he was the one sending the hate mail that made Talbot’s wife kill herself. It gives a sense of helplessness to Constantine’s actions, given that he has spent the previous 4 issues gathering these allies, saving all of them in some way, only to have all be snatched away from him in one swift stroke. Prior to Constantine’s efforts coming to ruin, he is seen smirking behind his black sunglasses as his motley crew travel the streets of London. He is enjoying the thrill and the danger that he has been put back into now that he is back home amongst familiar streets, touching on his addictive personality purely through Mark Buckingham and Alfredo Alcala’s pencils.
The Fear Machine has been several different genres over the past 6 issues: counter-culture commentary, detective yarn, political thriller, all with Geotroniks set as the adversary in some form or fashion in these tales. With “Betrayal,” all of these genres come together and transform into a clear cut example of Lovecraftian horror.
Some of the main features of Lovecraftian horror is a presence of an evil far beyond mortal understanding just at the cusp of reality, an utter feeling of hopelessness and helplessness, and more subtle implied cosmic terror than violence or gore used to shock the reader. More often than not, malignant forces can be detected by those who possess mental abilities and characters are often driven mad while trying to understand what this force is. Many of these themes have been touched upon in the previous issue but most noteworthy is the existence of Jallakuntilliokan, proclaimed by Webster as The God of All Gods, or more simply the G.O.A.G., and the forbidden knowledge pursued by Geotroniks with their Fear Machine, clearly fitting into the horror subgenre that was popularized by H.P. Lovecraft. Never restricting itself to one type of storytelling throughout the series the writing style of Hellblazer would change based off what the current writer found most appropriate for the tale they are telling. For The Fear Machine, Jamie Delano’s decision to evoke Lovecraft’s style for his sprawling storyline is fitting, effectively conveying the themes of the story he is trying to convey.