Sifting Through the Ashes:

Analyzing Hellblazer, Part 44

It has come to my attention that I was mistaken last week in assuming that the person who may have been Prince Andrew, Duke of York had no real uncle whose ashes he could have accidentally snorted thinking they were cocaine. They were the ashes of  Admiral of the Fleet Louis Mountbatten, his great-uncle, who was assassinated by the IRA on August 27th 1979. Thanks for the catch Sequart readers.

Issue #54 “Royal Blood Part Three: The Good Old Days”

Writer: Garth Ennis;

Artist: Will Simpson;

Colors: Tom Ziuko;

Editor: Stuart Moore;

Cover: Glenn Fabry;

The phrase “the good old days” which this issue of Hellblazer shares its title with, is used poetically for some to reminisce on how things used to be in the past and how in their opinion were better times, when life was “how it should be” or “proper” and how things have ultimately gotten worse in comparison to today. However such nostalgia tends to only focus on the positive aspects of the times glazing over the ugliness that future generations will know it by. Victorian England is one such a time, idolized by some for it’s luxury, style, and romanticism. However many choose to glaze over the atrocious living and working conditions of the general populace of the time, and the years that gave birth to the modern age with its developments in manufacturing also gave birth to the obsession with serial killers, as evident by the legacy of Jack the Ripper.

Most likely the only way to surpass the reveal that a member of the British Royal Family has been possessed by a demon at the climax of “The Players” is the reveal that the demon Calibraxis also possessed Jack the Ripper. While western readers (specifically American in this case) are familiar with the British Royal Family, Jack the Ripper and his legacy is just as well known. Quite possibly the most infamous serial killer in history, Jack the Ripper is the name commonly used for the unidentified murderer of a number prostitutes who resided in London’s impoverished Whitechapel district. There were five “canonical” murders conducted between August 31st and November 9th, 1888 that are attributed to this figure due to the similar modes of brutality displayed toward the victims – namely, the removal of organs and disfigurement of their faces – but as the killer was never identified it is hypothesized that others may also have fell victim to the killer. While historically not the first serial killer, the frenzy that was stirred up by the Whitechapel murders by extensive newspaper coverage solidified the killer as a legend and a British Bogeyman to frighten children. The investigation and the analysis of the murders themselves has even spawned a term, “ripperology,” and the number of theories on the true identity of the killer are as numerous as their theorists.

Ennis1 uses Steven Knight’s theory from Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution that the killer was infact Sir William Withey Gull, one of the Physicians-in-Ordinary to Queen Victoria. A prominent Freemason, the theory suggests that Gull was part of a plot to cover up a secret marriage (and child) between the then second-in-line to the throne, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, and Annie Elizabeth Crook, a working class girl.  Annie Crook was not amongst those killed by Gull, instead she was supposedly lobotomized, but those that were killed: Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly were supposedly women who knew of the affair. Much of this information is purveyed to the reader and to “psychic Bolshie” Nigel by John Constantine. Ennis takes the theory a little further in that Gull didn’t have “the balls” for killing so a demon was forced upon him by his fellow Freemasons, and “then he has the balls for anything.” The killings in Royal Blood also mirror the historical killings, in that a total of five people are murdered, but this time not only women, and in a much shorter span of time. Ennis’ use of Knight’s theory also reinforces the overall theme/antagonist of his run, Authority, and what it does to the common man. Whereas Constantine only wants to stop the murder of innocent civilians, Nigel wants to use this information along with the current goings on in a smash the system sort of manner. John decries him wanting to let more innocents die while exposing the truth, to which Nigel remarks “if anyone knows about sacrificing their mates for the cause…it’s you!” Ultimately regretting this outburst, Constantine has the last laugh (again) thanks to a piece of graffiti that just happens to be in the bathroom stall Nigel occupies, as can be seen below.

Back on the streets of present day London, Calibraxis fights to maintain control over his vessel (Prince Charles) despite the various physical disfigurements he has done in an attempt to cow the will of the Royal, who is starting to remember who he was before the demon took control of him, thanks to the brief absence from the séance last issue. Replaying the scene in his head Calibraxis determines that it was the blonde man, whom he identifies as Constantine2 that is the cause of the interruption of his fun and sets off in his Prince Charles meat vessel back to the Caligula Club. Meanwhile, freshly “rested” from moving in with Kit, John and Nigel also head back to the Caligula Club, where they plan to banish the demon. John offhandedly remarks that the manuscript he possesses to do so has lost the part on how to bind the demon, but that they would not need it. Inside the club, Marston and Hezlet have come to the conclusion that everyone who has been involved with this shall have to be killed to prevent the story from ever being brought to the public, but they can not do so until after Constantine has banished the demon, as as much as he hates to admit it, Marston needs Constantine’s help. Marston and Hazlet are called away to handle a “disturbance”  which allows to Constantine snoop around and finds a full copy of the manuscript on how to summon, banish, and bind Calibraxis, suggesting that there is more going on here than Marston has let on. Hearing screams coming from the bar, Constantine exits to discover the demon possessed prince disemboweling and eating people before turning his rage Constantine himself, knocking him out as he feels teeth grind on his collarbone.

“The Good Old Days” accelerates the plot of Royal Blood and ultimately sets the stage for the conclusion next issue. William Simpsons art is amongst its strongest it has been the entire series of the issue, and Ennis manages to weave history, conspiracy, and his own inventions together that manages to both educate and entertain, ultimately leaving the reader on the edge as Constantine comes to physical blows with the villain of the story. It’s a method of confrontation that does not often happen in Hellblazer, so when it does occur it creates a lot of dramatic tension and is often an emphasis for just how dangerous of a game Constantine has chosen to play.

Notes:

  1. Of course it is also worth noting that Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell makes use of the same theory, and was also being published at the time. It’s a masterpiece and you should definitely read it. If you have, you can also read fellow Sequart writer Greg Carpenter’s analysis here.If you’ve read that…well I’m sure there’s other things you should be reading.
  2. I like to imagine all demons were issued a picture with the caption “do not deal with this mortal” after the incidents of Dangerous Habits.
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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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