Issue #60 “Guys & Dolls Part Two: Nativity Infernal”
Writer: Garth Ennis;
Pencils: William Simpson;
Inks: Mike Barreiro & Kim DeMulder;
Colors: Tom Zuiko;
Letters: Gaspar Saladino;
Editor: Stuart Moore;
Cover: Glenn Fabry;
In “Guys & Dolls Part One: Fallen Women” Ennis weaves DC’s occult based continuity seamlessly into the current happenings of John Constantine. Along with a sound history lesson, Ennis also sets the stage for the rest of his run in Hellblazer with a reinforcement of just how pissed off The First of the Fallen is at Constantine and the reintroduction of the succubus Ellie, the first instance of a “good” demon in the series. With Hellblazer not usually following the typical viewpoint of the forces of Heaven being portrayed as kind, wholesome and with the betterment of mankind being their utmost goal, and the forces of hell being the complete opposite, Ellie is an unexplored type of character for the series thus far. While “Fallen Women” hinted at Ellie’s past encounter with Constantine that has put her in his debt, “Nativity Infernal” tells the tale which ultimately plays a part in Ennis’ career post-Hellblazer.
Rewinding the clock by 8 years to the middle of Margaret Thatcher’s England in 1984, John Constantine finds a pregnant couple on his doorstep a few days before Christmas. The reveal of the issue’s title and the pregnant couple is simultaneous, and from there Constantine’s pleasant jabs about the parallels between the couple and Mary and Joseph of The Bible begin. Only aided by this fact is that a particularly bright star is seen in the sky above, mirroring the star of Bethlehem. Constantine is irked by these youngs lovers until it is revealed that the couple are a Ellie, a very pregnant succubus, and Tali, an angel. The reveal of the pairs opposing allegiances also gives the luminous star an additional meaning, making the pair “star-crossed lovers,” a term referring to lovers in which the forces of the world are set to prevent them from being together, famously coined in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in reference to the main characters but has also been applied to countless other characters . However the term also tends to refer to relationships that end either tragically, as can be seen in this issue.
Ellie and Tali share the story on how they unexpectedly fell in love, as star-crossed lovers tend to do, and how now they must hide their pregnancy. Ellie appeals to John via flattery, which John’s narration confirms “flattery will get you everywhere” so he agrees to help the pair hide the birth of the child. John of course has multiple reasons behind lending aid to the pair, first and foremost being his devilish curiosity which tends to always get him in trouble, and the fact that he could get spies in both Heaven and Hell out of this. Dropped off by a mulleted Chas Chandler at an abandoned house (of which has been recently cleared by Joe Hollis of “The Pub Where I Was Born”) and draws a number of masking sigils that will hide the pair from the forces of Hell. Leaving the pair, Constantine pays a visit to Ravenscar, the asylum which he was committed at after the events of Newcastle in 1978 in an attempt to find out just what he could be dealing with now that he has become involved. Ennis dutifully explains just why Constantine has free reign of the place and it’s patients by a short scene with a Doctor Hindley of the asylum in which it is revealed that Constantine has records showing the doctor prescribing thalidomide to expectant mothers after it was outlawed in England in 1961. Prescribed as a “wonder drug” to suppress morning sickness in expecting mothers, the drug was ultimately linked to causing birth defects and in some cases death to unborn children. While the pregnancy related drug thematically links with the story being told, it also provides a solid explanation to John’s access to Ravenscar and is ultimately better than to why Batman is allowed to wander about Arkham Asylum at his apparent leisure. Visiting an inmate named Clive who houses a demon named Gout, Constantine tries pumping the demon about what Hell knows about the romance, before ultimately finding out that Hell doesn’t know anything about the situation at all. It’s a good tension building scene and William Simpson uses just a change in Clive’s facial expression to show who is in charge of the body, effectively conveying how Gout is a “shit-demon” without every actually seeing the demon’s actual form.
Upon returning to the house, Constantine discover who actually does know about the romance and impending birth: the forces of heaven. As Ellie is giving birth to the child seven angels appear, faceless and white robed, and mercilessly incinerate Tali without a word. Powerless, and cowering in a combination of terror, helplessness, and awe, Constantine can only sit and listen to the sound of the child being born as the angels silently watch before taking “whatever it was” away, it’s fate ultimately unknown. While we never do find out what happened to the child in Hellblazer the offspring of an angel and a demon is the cornerstone of Preacher the series which Ennis would work on with Steve Dillon following the conclusion of the Hellblazer run, which would ultimately become the pairs best known work1. The sigils ultimately prevent Ellie from being found by Hell and she was able to return safely and unnoticed, and Ellie is in Constantine’s debt for at least that, but not something John is ultimately proud of. Returning to present day and to Hell we see the First of the Fallen hanging the demon Nergal, last seen destroyed by angels at the conclusion of Original Sins. The First has turned Nergal back to a mortal after getting word that Nergal cares not for The First of the Fallen’s claim on John. As we’ve seen The First cares not for other claims and declares that Constantine is “[his] enemy…[his] adversary/[His] devil.” A powerful yet amusing statement given who it is coming from.
“Guys & Dolls” succeeds in everything the two part story sets out to do: A brief but suffice DC occult recent history lesson, reintroducing Ellie and The First of the Fallen and fleshing out their motivations and backgrounds, and starting the slow slow fuse for the ultimate confrontation between Constantine and The Devil, which is obviously coming. While Ellie and Tali are relatively new and unknown characters their loss is no less sad, as two figures were able to overcome what was thought to be deep seeded animosity and find love. It is a tale told throughout the world and will keep being told as long as people fall in love with those whom the Authority deems they shouldn’t. And we will keep reading those stories for the slim chance of a happy ending, even if it isn’t found here.
1. If you don’t believe me try finding a website or article that doesn’t mention the upcoming series on AMC. I really don’t know how they are going to make that one work. But hey who knows.