Issue #66 “Fear and Loathing Part Three: Down to Earth”
Writer: Garth Ennis;
Artist: Steve Dillon;
Colors: Tom Ziuko;
Letters: Gaspar Saladino;
Editor: Stuart Moore;
Cover: Glenn Fabry;
Fear and Loathing is very much the turning point in Garth Ennis’ run on Hellblazer. Up until this point John Constantine had been having a bit of a laugh, and other than losing a few friends in Dangerous Habits due to cancer and liver failure, hasn’t endured much personal suffering in comparison to the burnt out adrenaline junkie from Delano’s 40 issues. However as ongoing comics are cyclical in nature, it is only to be expected that the bad times will eventually return. Constantine will still remain victorious in most cases, but he returns to being more of the sly bastard that he’s commonly known for, and there is suffering abound when this happens.
“Down to Earth” happens shortly after the conclusion of “London Kills Me,” with John still strapped to the chair and Dez having died from his injuries sometime between the two issues. John laments on how he had to helplessly watch his friend die, and from his dream last issue realizes that Kit is in danger, and that he has let her down, as he always knew he would. The conclusion of the storyline features a predominantly cynical Constantine, and it is a trait that will be prominently featured in the upcoming issues after the conclusion of the current story arc. Patterson and his goons come to gloat over their captured conman, with Patterson monologuing on the nature of fear and hatred. Patterson argues that people are afraid of their own little place in the world taken from, or to put it more plainly changing. Patterson and his ilk instead rile up hatred in the form of racism to use people’s fear to further their own means, while also keeping people delusional about their own living conditions that has nothing to do with the color of another man’s skin. What’s odd about this exchange is Patterson’s monologue is being done in front of his regular working class goons, the “morons” he claims to keep occupied with fascist rhetoric of fear and hatred. While it can be argued that these men believe the ideology enough to abduct people off the street and beat them with baseball bats, it also shows the blind devotion followers of any ideology can possess, even when their leader is openly mocking them in front of them. Yet they smile with bats in hand thinking “that’s not me, I’m no moron.”
Elsewhere Gabriel and Julie arrive at her apartment, in which Julie asks if this is his first time, making it obvious that the pair are about to have sex, and bumbling like an awkward teenager, admits that it is. While Gabriel’s prior memoirs established the immaculate conception as more of an immaculate rape, in this instance the angel is indulging in sex for pleasure instead of procreation. The scene itself is heavily shadowed, with Gabriel lying upon his back with Julie riding atop him. The position the pair copulate in is significant based off some Jewish mythological tales of Lilith, the first wife of Adam who argued that she should have the dominant position during sex. Following this Lilith would go to become a promiscuous wanderer and would spawn demons such as succubae and the male equivalent incubae. As Gabriel is lost in the sensation and describes how “she feels like/heaven” he fails to notice Julie change into the succubus Ellie and that she has pulled his heart from his chest. Grasping his heart, Ellie mocks the angel with before Gabriel is called back to heaven, from which he is cast out back to Earth for his transgressions in a stunning splash page with the Angel disheveled with wings torn and and bloody. Although we know that Gabriel has done terrible things and thinks himself above mortals, over the past three issues we have seen the angel try to rise above his nature. While the entire interaction between Julie was a setup, it is still sad to see the angel fall, if only because it was just when he was starting to have a good time.
Back on Earth, John demands to know what the National front wanted with The Snob (Gabriel). Gabriel wanted the angel to fall so he could be used for “mystical clout in affairs of state” Constantine jests that he’s too late as he’s already gotten the angel to fall, and that if he Patterson let’s him go he’ll pass the angel over to him once he’s gotten what he wants. Of course Gabriel will be next to useless by the time John’s plan is played out, but Patterson is blinded by his desire for power, not guessing that Constantine wants to see him and his ilk suffer for their cruelty. It’s a standard Constantine bait and switch, promising you one thing only to make you regret that you ever wanted it in the first place. Before Constantine can cause any more trouble in the ranks of the National Front, Patterson is gunned down by Dez’s brother George, who has been following the trail of his late brother and John over the course of the issue, eventually seeing his brother’s corpse being loaded into a car. Constantine tries to explain his plan but George shoots Patterson again, before walking away, demanding that Constantine never judge him for what he just did. Plans ruined Constantine returns to a furious Kit Ryan, furious that their arrangement of leaving Kit out of his business has not been followed, who demands that he clean up the blood patch in the kitchen from the goons before Constantine “nip out for a bit.” However as with any argument this is only the tip of the iceberg with the worse yet to come. At a cemetery John encounters Ellie who is watching over the now fallen Gabriel. John explains how he shall use Gabriel as his mender to defend him against The First of the Fallen, and that the only thing that’s keeping him from falling all the way into Hell is that John had his heart removed, and that Gabriel shall remain on Earth as long as his heart remains safe. Gabriel laments over what he has lost, to which Ellie interjects that to her this is repayment for her lover Tali being killed, so now he knows what loss is. Gabriel inquires why “when people like you see something pure and good and beautiful…you kick it down and drag through the mud’ to which John coldly replies “If you have to ask, you’ll never know” after in which he pulls out a chainsaw to remove the angel’s wings with more than a little smile on his face. As for Gabriel’s question to John, it very well could be that the “pure and good and beautiful” think of themselves as such, and are often pompous about it, and no one likes a Snob.
Fear and Loathing starts off the second half of Ennis Hellblazer run (narrative wise, not specifically number of issue wise) with death, suffering, revenge, and betrayal abound. Ennis provides stark commentary on the nature of the ultra-conservative mindset, and in the politics of 2016 you can still see individuals stoking the fears of those that choose to listen to them. The levity of Gabriel and Julie’s scenes that broke up the workings of fascists turned to ash by the end of the third issue, and in the end everyone lost something. Except for Ellie perhaps, but of course things are going to only get worse before they can get better.