Issue #80 “Rake at the Gates of Hell: Part Three”
Writer: Garth Ennis;
Artist: Steve Dillon;
Colors: Tom Ziuko;
Letters: Clem Robins;
Editor: Stuart Moore;
Assistant Editor: Julie Rottenberg;
Cover: Glenn Fabry;
As we’ve seen over the past two issues of Hellblazer, Ennis’ concluding steadily arc has steadily increased the moving pieces of the story arc to the point where Constantine’s life feels like it’s about to come tumbling down as Constantine tries to juggle more and more things and deal with more and more threats. However not matter how sharp and clever a man that Constantine is, one person can only handle so much before everything takes a turn for the worse, as they do in part three of Rake at the Gates of Hell.
Opening with a fiery Sunday from Rick the Vic, we see the proverbial reverend actually acting as a man of the cloth, aided by lines of cocaine upon his lectern as his negligee clad companion Betsy giggles from the sidelines. Rick reads from the Book of Revelation, in which the supposed author St. John the Divine, of the disciples of Jesus Christ, describes a series of apocalyptic visions documenting the end of the world before the second coming of Jesus Christ. The Book of Revelation is the only apocalyptic text in the New Testament1 and can be interpreted in numerous ways, the most widely accepted being that it is an allegory for the ongoing struggle between good and evil. Like the story at hand the world experiences a dark and dismal time before the eventual triumph of good over evil. While “good” may be an overly generous descriptor for Constantine, the comparison stands. After completing his sermon and indulging in what Betsy refers to as “sacrilege” the pair are set upon by The First of the Fallen. In a moment that is as surprising as it is entertaining Rick pulls a machine gun from his lectern and tries to gun down The First but after seeing it has no effect, turns the gun on himself. It’s a sad but ultimately memorable fate for the reverend in comparison to the death’s of Constantine’s other friends who mostly happen off screen or of which only the aftermath. However the ultimate fate of Rick still ending up in Hell due to his suicide is rather tragic, as The First is still able to find out where Constantine has hidden the heart of the angel Gabriel is anyways, which will lead to several more deaths as we will see. Ennis uses the tragedy to cast a dark light on the idea of suicide being a condemning act, being that had Rick not killed himself he undoubtedly would have suffered greatly at the hands of The First of the Fallen as he does not ask nicely.
In an effort to only “help” despite it being none of his business, Constantine pays a visit upon George Ridley as he is retrieving ammunition for his shotgun in an effort to dissuade the riot. As would be expected, George does not take well to Constantine wandering in when he feels like he must, and as seen before in Fear and Loathing is one of the few people who can stand his own when having a verbal spat with Constantine which ultimately unsettles John and puts him even more out of his element. George’s main argument is that unlike Constantine who lives a life of mystery, danger, and all that comes with it by choice, George never had the choice of living the life of a young black man in the United Kingdom. Even though John has good intentions, George still sees him as another white man seeking to control him, which he will not have. Throughout the entire narration this is exactly what John is trying to do, doing his trademark Constantine showmanship to no avail. Leaving after not really realizing what his actual end goal was John remarks to himself how “it doesn’t work if they’re not afraid of you Constantine. ’Cos then you can’t control them.” John’s words extends well beyond his own situation, as fear as a control tactic was discussed back in Fear and Loathing by National Front member Charlie Peterson before he shotgunned. Racist and nationalist groups would hold little sway in the world if they weren’t feared by those they seek to control and threats of violence and loss, or actual violence and loss are amongst the best ways to establish that fear. As neither Constantine or George were unable to stop the wheels in motion, a riot between police and the Black residents of Tower Hamlets breaks out soon after and quickly turns violent.
Later Constantine receives word that Phil the Pimp was at his apartment, beating Helen to the point in which she had to be rushed to the hospital. Upon arriving to Helen’s room and seeing the state his friend he was trying to help and the cold silent stares he receives from the women, Constantine starts to break down, realizing that things are quickly slipping from his grasp. Accosted by his now former girlfriend Sarah after he asks if Helen was also raped as a way to use her pain and suffering to justify the forthcoming revenge, Constantine starts to flounder for control proving Sarah’s statement of him being a “macho bastard” to be true after asking Chas if he could still arrange for someone to be roughed up. It’s an unusually aggressive and cruel side of John that we have not seen until this point 80 issues into the series. Yes Constantine won’t always save you if he thinks you have it coming and will screw you over if you cross him while he’s doing his business, but until now Constantine has not gone out of his way to actively make another suffer. Constantine’s despair comes to it’s climax this issue as upon returning to his apartment he discovers that the heart of Gabriel has been stolen by The First of the Fallen, and after making the former angel lick the mud from his shoes, crushes the heart in his hand slaying the former messenger of God.
Part three of Rake at the Gates of Hell is when things within the story start to crumble into abject chaos. Neither George or Constantine have any sort of control over the events that have gained momentum around them and now run rampant. The pair will try to regain control over their own lives over the following issues as they deal with the fallout of their actions, but not before several others suffer because of their actions, justified they may be or not.
- Growing up I had a comic book adaptation of the Bible. The Book of Revelations was omitted as I’m fairly certain a 8 year old Max would have remembered the Four Horsemen, the Lake of Fire, and the Seven Headed Dragon