Sifting Through the Ashes:

Analyzing Hellblazer, Part 19

Issue #21 “The God of All Gods”

Writer: Jamie Delano
Art: Mark Buckingham, Alfredo Alcala
Colors: Lovern Kindzierski
Letters: Elitta Fell
Cover: Dave McKean

Continuing directly from the previous issue, “The God of All Gods” mainly focuses on the scope of how bad things in the United Kingdom are becoming due to the actions of Webster. Opening with a confrontation between Webster and The Director, we learn that Webster is acting on his own at this point. Despite the Grandmaster of the Masonic Lodge in London ordering that operations at Geotroniks be shut down due to the attention the corporation has been attracting, Webster still intends to summon The God of All Gods with the ritualistic sacrifice of “scum,” bathing the god in their fear and blood. Having already sacrificed all of the patients that Mercury was treating, Webster begins sacrificing John’s allies that were captured in the previous issue.

On the streets of London John tracks down Parliamentary Under-Secretary Bartholomew Carter-Browne, whom he has leverage on, and begins pumping him for information. Carter-Browne proclaims that Masonic influence is what resulted in many of the policies enacted during the 1980s that historically have been deemed oppressive to minorities, LGBT, and other “weak links of society” as he refers to them and that the Masons intended to use The Fear Machine to help them maintain a New World Order over the country. While starting with a heap of cultural commentary on the Peace Convoy and their relation to the British Government, political commentary and satire in The Fear Machine has taken more of a backseat as the story arc has progressed. Only now at the conclusion does it return to exemplify the extremity of Webster’s actions, making it too extreme for a group that has connections with the Royal Family. Interestingly enough, bringing the Royal Family into the story and tying them in with Masonic conspiracy and Lovecraftian forces marks an instance that would become common amongst British Invasion writers. The Royal Family’s connection with Masons is plainly shown in Alan Moore’s From Hell, Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman had the Royal Family consorting with Lovecraftian Horrors in The Invisibles and A Study in Emerald, and after Jamie Delano’s departure from Hellblazer, Garth Ennis’ Royal Blood would deal with the attempted coronation of a demon to the British Throne. These works, many (if not all) well received both critically and by fans, show that Margaret Thatcher wasn’t the only figure in the sights of British writers.

Feeling rather hopeless and out of his depth, Constantine decides to head back to Scotland and encounters Mercury at a diner in a rather touching moment that stands out from the rest of the issue. The reunion briefly brings back the nurturing, parental side of Constantine that was otherwise absent since the conclusion of issue #16. Reaching Scotland, and observing the general weirdness that has the area look like a nightmarish reflection of the idyllic landscape for Marj’s letter, Constantine astral projects across the leyline to satisfy his curiosity to observe what exactly this otherworldly force is and expand his worldview beyond what he already knows. This scene is a clear cut example of both Constantine’s addictive nature and cynicism. He has already experienced more horror and fantastic elements in his life than many other comic characters, but it still is not enough for him; Constantine needs that new stronger high and willingly succumbs to it. Drawn to Webster’s ritualistic sacrifices Constantine sees Simon Hughes, the journalist he saved from being hanged, now beheaded. The ritualistic sacrifice of Constantine’s friends and associates that he gathered over the course of the second act of the storyline both symbolize the oppression that various demographics faced under the British Government during the 1980s as well as conveying a sense of hopelessness to Constantine’s actions in the face of a threat larger than man.

Issue #22 “Balance”

Writer: Jamie Delano
Art: Mark Buckingham, Alfredo Alcala
Colors: Lovern Kindzierski
Letters: Elitta Fell
Cover: Dave McKean

Over the past 9 issues of the series, Jamie Delano has written a sprawling horror themed story arc that has touched people from many different walks of life, showing just how universal fear is. The arc has shown sides of Constantine that are otherwise contradictory to his usual characterization. Constantine’s actions throughout The Fear Machine are done purely out of the kindness of his heart and throughout the storyline Constantine has no ulterior motive. Other than hiding the accusations of the murders he didn’t commit, and impersonating a police officer once or twice, he is nowhere near as duplicitous as we have seen prior to this. “Balance” brings The Fear Machine to a close, tying all of the themes and storylines of the arc together and ready to send Constantine off to face his next demon, personal or otherwise.

As the title suggests, the issue is all about restoring the balance that has gone increasingly askew as the story arc has progressed. In “Face of Evil,” the arc begins with a rather positive tone in relation to other Hellblazer stories (i.e. no one dies), while slowly becoming darker and drearier as the arc progresses. Awakening from his encounter with the Terror-Thing, Constantine has a reunion with Zed in which he tries to apologize for using her against the Resurrection Crusade in “Sex and Death” and attempts to tell her that despite all of this he still loves her. Cutting him off,  Zed proclaims how it was in the past in a different world in which she let others control her, showing that although she went through much and bears little resemblance to her former self, she maintained her strong will through all of this. After the events of the previous issue, Constantine takes up a cynical, hopeless demeanor which Zed serves as a counter-balance to until he gets out of his stupor. Explaining to the rest of the camp that a rogue Mason is sacrificing people to Jallakuntilliokan and using leyline energy to bring the god into fruition, the Freedom Mob and Constantine devise a plan to isolate the Geotroniks facility from the ley line system cutting off the ritual. Zed instead has John remain at camp as he is needed by Zed and Marj for their own ritual, once again to balance the actions of Webster.

At Geotroniks, only Talbot and Sergei remain alive, having watched Webster and Davis execute all of their friends and many other people. With their cultural backgrounds and mental states, Sergei and Talbot mirror each other just  as John and Zed were previously shown to. Whereas Talbot can think of nothing but the death that is assuredly coming for him, Sergei remains hopeful, even until he is killed, asking Talbot to say goodbye to his wife should he somehow survive.  Davis, who has previously been shown to relish in his cruelty, has become an emotionless automaton dragging the headless corpses of sacrifices away. Blank faced, he is startled by the psychic presence of Mercury, allowing Talbot to strangle him as Webster watches with sadistic glee, relishing that Talbot has given in to his basic instincts and provided another sacrifice to the God of All Gods. Talbot’s sacrifice of Davis proves to be the final one required to bring forth Jallakuntilliokan, as a great red serpentine dragon, who draws power from devouring the concentrated fear that the Terror-Thing is comprised of. The final fates of Talbot and Webster are left ambiguous (there is a corpse that may be the headless remains of Talbot) and the facility around Webster crumbles as the God comes forth. Unfortunately, the scene lacks sufficient detail.

As night approaches back in Scotland, Constantine, Zed, and Marj prepare for their own ritual. Whereas Webster is sacrificing lives to bring about “the male principle” more commonly known in Carl Jung’s school of analytical psychology as the animus,  they need to bring about the anima, the inner female principle, to achieve balance.  The anima and animus are both part of Carl Jung’s theory on the collective unconscious, “a part of the unconscious mind, expressed in humanity and all life forms with nervous systems, and describes how the structure of the psyche autonomously organizes experience.”[1] Webster brings about the Animus by death and terror, so to evoke the Anima with life and love, the three engage in sex with Constantine bound to a rock on a seaside cliff much like the archetypical maiden to be sacrificed to appease the gods. The result of the “ritual” is an egg “birthed” by Zed.  Taking the egg to Mercury who is guiding the Animus towards her, the egg hatches into a serpentine blue dragon. Constantine has been used by Zed just as he had used her previously, with the same end goal, to save the world. Unable to reach the trio and partake in the final part of the ritual, the Anima and Animus Dragons intertwine in the sky, the art evoking images of both male and female genatalia before crashing downwards back into the sea. Constantine loses the three woman as he is washed out to sea only to be rescued by a trawler, alone once again, and the world brought back into balance.

While The Fear Machine may suffer at times from its length it nevertheless tells an interesting story about human nature and the many different walks of life that people choose to take. The ever shifting focus and increasing large number of supporting characters can make reading the arc overwhelming at times, and unresolved or ambiguous subplots can leave the reader at a loss in some cases, but the tone and environmental focus is reminiscent of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run, and manages to evoke some of Moore’s magic. Other than the final story arc of the series no other story arc would be as long as The Fear Machine, which is perfectly alright, Constantine doesn’t always have to help save the world over the course of 9 issues, sometimes it’s much more interesting when he just has to save himself.

Notes:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collective_unconscious
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Max Nestorowich is a Michigan Technological University graduate with a degree in Chemical Engineering. To keep his sanity in the perpetual winter of Houghton, in his free time he dove head first into exploring all that comics had to offer, which worked to a certain extent. He eventually started writing about them at every opportunity, settling on a blog at some point. When not reading, watching, or writing something, Max can be found in the Analytical Chemistry Lab in which he finds employment, doing science.

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Also by Max Nestorowich:

The Mignolaverse: Hellboy and the Comics Art of Mike Mignola

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