Issue #59 “Guys & Dolls Part One: Fallen Women”
Writer: Garth Ennis;
Pencils: William Simpson;
Inks: Mike Barreiro & Kim DeMulder;
Colors: Tom Zuiko;
Letters: Gaspar Saladino;
Editor: Stuart Moore;
Cover: Glenn Fabry;
Shared universes and continuity can be some of the most appealing yet also daunting aspects of comics. On the one hand the existence of multiple characters within a singular setting allows for interesting story dynamics in which events and characters from one book can have drastic effects on a completely different book, and one story honoring is what have helped create comics as the modern mythology in the Western world. While to some this can be seen as an appealing factor as one character, superhero or occult figure, can’t watch over a single world, or stop every crime (and several characters can’t either), it can be intimidating to break into comics because of these very same reasons, particularly in the 1990s when crossovers started becoming all the rage. As series progress, and more and more stories have been told it can be increasingly difficult to keep track of just where the book stands from a narrative standpoint. Question such as “Who is dead?” “Who is injured and has to be replaced by their sidekick?” “Why is this character in jail?” were all common in the 1980s and 1990s in comics (and still are today). While rather isolary titles such as Hellblazer were able to dodge enquiries such as these, the title did have a role in other series, and a continuity all of it’s own documented in Guys & Dolls.
Overall, Ennis’ run on Hellblazer is full of foreshadowing, setting up events years before they play are played out on the page. While this can thankfully be done because of continuity, what makes it memorable is Ennis’ pacing. Events aren’t just oft mentioned and then thrust upon the reader when they are important again to the overall narrative, they are instead slowly eased into which is aided by Ennis character driven narrative as opposed to monster-of-the-month stories1. Fallen Women opens with the succubus Chantinelle, more commonly known as Ellie picking flowers in a garden when The First of the Fallen comes calling upon the demoness. Succubae are most commonly known for being demons that seduce men and steal their souls through sexual activity. The modern interpretation of succubae have them appearing as attractive women who physically engage with their victims while some folklore tales have them appearing as more hideous figures2 that invade the dreams of men. As the notion of an evil being or spirit that seduces lustful men exists beyond Judeo-Christians demonology there are many similar creatures in folklore worldwide. Last seen (and debuting) in issue #43, “Friends in High Places” the reader knows that she and Constantine have some prior history together, but it is not until now, 16 issues later do we start to find out what that history actually is, although “Fallen Women” hints at it.3 Even absent for over a year from the series, the fact that this is a figure that the First of the Fallen is trying to capture and use for some nefarious deeds is enough to make the reader empathize with Ellie and cheer for her as she escapes his clutches jumping from one Hell to the Material flame, clumsily, landing in the Thames as a ball of flame.
After a brief scene in which a restless Constantine goes for one of his famous night walks, which by now should be a clear indicator that he will encounter the supernatural at some point on this walk, as John Constantine isn’t allowed the privilege of an uneventful midnight stroll, the scene returns to Hell and an enraged First of the Fallen seeking out the demon Triskele. Triskele was the monster-of-the-month for issue #56 “The Diary of Danny Drake” but here Ennis shows that the demon that was shown only in shadow and woodcut was more than just a one time encounter. Here we see Triskele full frame and resplendent, William Simpson’s portrayal of the flayed face of the angel Dariel giving her a beautiful although feminine appearance, whereas Glenn Fabry’s cover has the facial features much more masculine in comparison. It’s artistic liberty in how the face is drawn, and with how beautiful archangels are reportedly described does not make that much of a difference. The fact that the face we see is beautiful and hides the ugliness beneath is only what matters. Triskele tries to calm The First by denoting how Lucifer Morningstar is absent and it is ripe time for celebration despite the presence of his two brothers (again a throwaway line that is more foreshadowing), and that wasting time on “a paltry mortal trickster” is a waste of time. This remark causes The First to rip off the face of the archangel from Triskele who goes into an immediate panic as the reader is treated to the demon’s actual face. The scene is an effective display of the rage embodied within The Fallen, but quickly leads to reflection and cunning on how Hell has come to it’s current state, showing that The Devil is very much The Devil, always plotting along. Additionally the continuity of Hellblazer and DC’s occult series is brought to light in The Fallen’s reflection, with mention of “The War Against Shadow” from Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing run, Morpheus visiting Hell during the opening arc of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman as well Lucifer resigning from Hell and the angels Duma and Remiel being appointed the caretakers of Hell during Seasons of the Mists. All of these events were major events within the occult realms of DC, but are presented in such a way that the reader need not have read them to appreciate the political maneuverings of the game The First of the Fallen and Constantine are playing.
Back on Earth, Constantine discovers the sewer pipe in which he discovers and disheveled Ellie, mud splattered and dressed in the remnants of her clothes that caught fire, far from the image a demonic seductress. Simpson’s art casts her as someone in need of aid, not a damsel in distress, but someone who could just use a helping hand. Ellie remarks how if she’s caught by The First, he’ll find out about her connection to Constantine and she’ll be “like a scrap of meat” and like Constantine, she just wants to live, making this demon rather human, as mortality is something not often associated with the demons in Hellblazer. John takes pity on Ellie as that too is what he wants, but with Constantine there will always be a price eventually as John’s narration of “Here we go Kit, sorry” foretells. At a hotel, Constantine and Ellie discuss the changed power structure of Hell, with Lucifer Morningstar sitting on a beach in Perth (He has yet to open the nightclub Lux in The Sandman). Ellie provides a quick comparison between Lucifer and The First of the Fallen, who up until now have filled the same roll within the series, but until Ennis “The Devil” was never the direct antagonist of the series. Lucifer Morningstar being more temperamental, who would likely get bored with each of them, and left Hell as he grew tired of the game of and the War Against Heaven. The First of the Fallen is portrayed as the complete opposite, a relentless force who will not forget how he has been wronged that enjoys the pain and suffering and exchanging of souls. It strives to just how much of a threat The First of the Fallen is as this is his first appearance since the conclusion of Deadly Habits, aided by the factoid from Ellie that when Lucifer fell from Heaven into Darkness, The First of the Fallen was already there waiting.
“Fallen Women” is part DC (soon to be Vertigo) history lesson, part character reintroduction, and part stage setting, and is utterly effective at all three of these roles. With 59 issues into the series it could be difficult to attract a new reader to the series, and if a copy of Deadly Habits was not on hand to steer a reader in the right direction, on why The First of the Fallen is so pissed at John Constantine this issue (and the following) could work just fine. Few issues within comics can deliver a fully fleshed out world so seamlessly in 22 pages, while also hinting at a larger story to come drawing in the reader to wonder what Ellie owes Constantine for, what Constantine is going to do now to hide Ellie, and what Constantine will do to save himself.
- Not that there is anything wrong with those kind of stories, I do enjoy a good one shot and Hellblazer has several.
- Ellie will appear as both over the course of the series
- The reveal isn’t until next issue but we aren’t there yet. Be patient.