Issue #53 “Royal Blood Part Two: Revelations”
Writer: Garth Ennis;
Artist: Will Simpson
Colors: Tom Ziuko;
Editor: Stuart Moore;
Cover: Glenn Fabry;
Picking up minutes after the conclusion of the previous issue “Revelations” covers the aftermath of John discovering that a demon has possessed a member of the Royal Family, fleshes out the players of the story, and the beginning of the plans to stop the possessed Prince. As stated last issue, this is a storyline that could only occur in the United Kingdom, as while Great Britain is by no means the only monarchy in the world with a Royal Family, none are nearly as well known (or loved) as the residents of Buckingham Palace. Considering how America fought in numerous wars to secure and maintain its independence from The Crown this can seem counter intuitive, but the fact remains that the Royals are cultural icons in the United States and around the world despite the fact that the Queen (or King) does not possess the extensive political power that ultimately comes to mind when considering monarchs from fantasy stories. The most recent example of this cultural clout began in 2011 when Prince William, Duke of Cambridge was married to Catherine Middleton and the event was covered extensively, as was the birth of both of their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.1 While possessing more ceremonial powers than actual judicial ones, the pedestal that the Royal Family would sits upon should be reason enough to why the demonically possessed Prince must be stopped. For further proof of the cultural clout of the Royals please regard the following Tweet I saved earlier from this year specifically for this storyline:
Throughout the arc the actual identity of the Prince is never explicitly referred to, for obvious editorial reasons, but there are clues throughout the issue that along with consulting the Line of Succession the identity of the murderer can be discovered. First and foremost the Royal is referred to as “the Gentleman,” identifying his gender, and from the art is depicted as a younger man, while the shadows obscure his face not revealing his actual age his compatriots of the issue, David Hezlet and incestuous The Elliot Twins, appear to be of a similar age as to Constantine, who turned 39 in 1992. While the focus of today’s cultural spotlight is on Prince William and family, in the early ‘90s William and his brother Henry were seen accompanying their parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana. While Prince Charles is not the only son of Queen Elizabeth II, there is one pivotal scene that solidifies his identity as the killer.
Upon returning to The Caligula Club to discuss his plans with Sir Marston, Constantine encounters The Brother who wants Constantine to botch whatever exorcism he is planning to put him one step closer to the throne. Again the facial features of the figure are obscured by shadows cast from venetian blinds, but Constantine’s accusation of “I bet that fat-arsed wife of yours put you up to this,” marks this as Prince Andrew, Duke of York, as the youngest of Elizabeth II’s sons Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex was unmarried until 1999. Constantine rebuffs the offers of The Brother, and after listening to him insult the Irish he just returned from visiting, Constantine employs some sort of legerdemain to switch the cocaine he is doing with the ashes of his “uncle” who was killed by Irish terrorists. Unless this was some sort of secret illegitimate child of King George VI this is a fabrication as neither Elizabeth II nor her husband Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh had any male siblings. Given that the arc focuses on the secrets lives of those with power, it is not an unreasonable assumption.
Breaking up Constantine’s pranking of a prince and the start of his plans, the reader is treated to three two-page scenes to give the reader a respite from dark dealings at the Caligula Club. First is a return to the The Gentleman who has killed again, the narration indicating that he has been feasting on the corpses of his victims, but also vaguely starting to remember who he is. The demon realizes the Royals attempts to fight back and we are treated to a gruesome scene of a woman discovering the Royal pulling his fingernails off with a pair of pliers. Following this is a short back and forth between Kit and John back at her apartment where Kit again reinforces how she wants John to keep his weirdness away. What’s significant about this brief scene is that John drops the pages of the book he is holding to give Kit his full attention, showing in a brief panel how he really wants to keep the weirdness away as he truly cares about this woman. Lastly we meet Constantine’s friend Nigel Archer a psychic and “radical journalist” who talks like he knows the Communist Manifesto by heart. Constantine needs Nigel to help him perform a séance, of which he initially refuses citing The Newcastle Incident as a reason why, but after getting the details with the promise to expose the scandal when it’s all done, he agrees.
Returning yet again to the Caligula club with Nigel in tow, Constantine prepares for a séance comprising of himself, Nigel, David Hezlet, the Elliot Twins, and the corpses of the first three murder victims that Sir Marston has been able to obtain. A séance is an attempt to communicate with the spirits through the aid of a medium or a talking board (i.e. an Ouija board) to name but a few of the methods. The method in use here is the sitting around a table with hands grasped and an attempt to ask the spirits questions with Nigel as the medium.2 The souls are drawn back into the bodies of the demon’s victims and Constantine tries to question the corpses, but rather unsuccessfully. Eventually the demon itself gets drawn to the scene, amused and Constantine demands it tell the corpses it’s name, as per the rules. It obliges but the horror of direct contact causes the corpses to explode as the souls try to escape the proximity of the demon. Revealing the demon as Calibraxis, Lord of Blades, Butcher to the Devil’s Court (a long lengthy title mirroring/mocking the future monarch it possess) the souls also reveal that Calibraxis told them he was the one who possessed Jack the Ripper.
The reveal at the end of “The Players” ranks amongst some of the most memorable moments in Hellblazer thus far, and is a perfect cliffhanger to suck readers into the story. That being said, the reveal at the climax of “Revelations” of the involvement of the world’s most famous serial killer may possibly top the one from the prior issue. It’s a prime example of Ennis’ skill as a storyteller and why you want to read the entire arc in one sitting.
1. As I ate dinner before writing this article pictures of Prince George’s first day of school had a brief segment on the Nightly News.
2. For examples not involving flayed eyeless corpses see the movies Ghost (1990) or The Addams Family (1993)