Staring At The Wall, Part 2 of 5
Annotations By :
Adrian Brown

Click Here for issue synopsis

The Cover : John has assembled a team of occult experts. Similar to the one he assembled at the end of the American Gothic run (who can forget the "death" of Sargon ?) but this time with fewer links to the spandex-clad DC Universe. An experimental logo application does not quite work, and the location of the barcode is intrusive. But we are treated to John Constantine wearing a Nick Cave t-shirt and fine portraits of four of his nominated team. (Chalice - deceased; Ravi - departed?; Nathan Arcane and Alba Suria).

Page 1

Restating the scene.

The Blue Thistle Hotel, somewhere in North London? Possibly in Clerkenwell.

Panel 3

There really are not many scenes on London's Embankment that look like this (if any). In most places there is a wall between the riverside path and the river Thames. The expanse of water could be The Serpentine in Hyde Park, but looks too big, which certainly makes it too big to be any other waterway in London.

The description of Map almost makes him sound like Jack Hawksmoor from the Authority, and as he was developed by Warren Ellis, that might be the case. See Haunted for more information about Map's powers.

Panel 4.

A panel of two arses. One realistic, one gargantuan. (See I cannot resist !)

Meanwhile John talks to Jason ("the schizophrenic").

Page 2

Arcane and Clarice search the hotel for psychic remnants to protect the crew from the approaching Shadow Dog. Note that she says there are seven of them, unless she is omitting Map, that suggests that Ravi has taken his leave - someone who has lived so long would tend to be careful around danger, wouldn't they ?

Page 3

Arcane knows what he's doing. The psychic energy of such a rape might well be more powerful than a murder, and power is what they need.

Page 4

John and Angie prepare to monitor the situation. I bet the version of MTV that this TV picks up is much better than in the real world.

Panel 4

Famous last words ?

John tries to reassure Angie, saying nothing will happen to Jason.

It's already been suggested that for all his outward confidence, John is worried about risking people's lives again.

Page 5

Angie finds her brother "thinking".

Evidence of the last panel suggests he's actually been eating !

But their conversation is relatively mundane (if you'll forgive the play on words).

Page 6

I like Map's link to London through the Underground. It is after all the circulatory system, and perhaps Map is the system's defence ? (I was going to say "white blood cell" but, erm ...)

Map's invocation is decidedly less esoteric than the ones John has used recently.
The colours he refers to are the colours of the Underground map.
Green - District Line; Red - Central Line; Black - Northern Line;
Light blue - Victoria Line; Dark Blue - Piccadilly Line;
Silver - Jubilee Line; Yellow - Circle Line; Purple - Metropolitan Line.

Since he does not mention brown, ie the Bakerloo line, I wonder if that is where he is ? There are other lines omitted notably the brown-y/purple Hammersmith & City Line where Constantine called him previously (see notes for 177, p10 "Map lives in the Underground. Not sure if this is meant to be a specific station, but it looks like it could be one on the Hammersmith & City line between Baker St and Farringdon.").

The Estuary is far to the East of London. It's quite a growth area these days, with new housing for commuters being built on what used to be docks.

The Thames Barrier was constructed in 1984 to protect London from any surge of water that might travel upstream. It's happened a few times before, apparently. But we live on the third floor, so I'm okay.

The M4 corridor is the area around the main road that heads west out of London.

Fans of British TV sitcoms might like to know that one of the most powerful spirits of this area at the moment is David Brent out of The Office. This is set in Slough, of which John Betjeman wrote " Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough! It isn't fit for humans now".

Then again, there's also the ancient site of Avebury just south of Swindon.

London is just off the right (east) of this map.

Page 7

Unfortunately, the geography of London is hard to follow in this issue, but I would speculate that Map has walked down to the river at Embankment. This brings together the Bakerloo line and that other line of power for London - The Thames. The city depicted in the main panel on this page does not look like London at all. But, if you can stretch the imagination to replace the two tower blocks with the Houses of Parliament, the location of the "root" of the clouds that Map is calling down is similar to that of Embankment on a curve in the Thames towards the centre of London. Let's call it suspension of disbelief.

Page 8

Voodoo TV (VTV) is on !

The impact of the Shadow Dog on the world, as shown in the previous issue, is to create death and madness. In an old people's hostel, a member of staff serves up poisoned soup, a murderer apologises in blood, a government official denies that there is an epidemic in a typical piece of spin.

Page 9

Jason's knowledge of what is going on surpasses his sister and one or two of the others. He suggests that if the door from the underworld had been opened fully there would be murder on a larger scale. Arcane is not impressed. He also sardonically observes what I said in the annotations previously (issue 189, page 6) that Jason was released from hospital rather quickly.

Angie's love for her brother blinds her to the obvious fact that everyone effectively volunteered for this job (although I am sure John has some hold on them too) but Jason invited himself.

Page 10

Jason explains the three doors.

The Shadow Dog is running around like a mad thing, biting people who then become infected by the madness.

Page 11

Map is on his way back to the hotel. The area around Kings Cross is known as an area for prostitutes, and this one (if she was one before the dog bite) has a special offer for Map. "Polish your helmet for a pony" might be seen as a treble entendre, what with her apparent attempt to polish map off with that knife.

But the "helmet" is the one in his trousers, and a "pony" is slang for 25.

"I'll kill you all." Is this her madness, or is she specifically talking about John's team ?

Page 12

You know, "Chalice" is a receptacle, and it crossed my mind that his body might still act as such.

Panel 5.

Ahhh, the lovely rustic scenery of Central London!

Page 13

I'm not superstitious but did Clarice interrupt them before that kiss for luck ?

I like Angie's attitude. She knows something about John, and unlike the usual response of fear or revulsion, she makes it clear to him what his responsibilities are. When John ponders that he is getting slow, it might be said that he's been rash and impulsive in the past, but he has usually achieved his main goal even if his successes are littered with corpses.

Then again, thinking of Angie's arrival in John's life, I still have a suspicion that she's a little too convenient, and got close to John quickly. She could be a Trojan Horse.

Page 14

There's a protective circle, the "smokescreen" of what Arcane calls the "psychic brainfart trauma disco" and a group of magicians with assorted skills. Now John feels he can tell everyone what his plan is.

Page 15

"Alba is the battery" - as discussed last issue, she seems to be some sort of conduit for the white flame or power of the Moon.

John could be referring to himself as a "fetish" after all that nasty business in the USA with SW Manor. But of course he's not ! He's connected to the Shadow Dog by virtue of the fact that a lock of his hair is in the Umbral Hound's birthplace - Eden.

John interrupts Map to say they are going to hit the beast with London. Well, I think Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of Greater London, will have something to say about that (not least because of this issue's failure to resemble London).

Page 16

Arcane is a one isn't he ?

Reminds me of those folk who try and impress everyone with their magic(k)al knowledge when all they really are is hedonists.

Crank is Methamphetamine aka speed. It "cranks you up". Bernie is Cocaine. I do not know who Bernie was, but they've given their name to several slang terms for coke.

Abano is a place in Italy. He was also a thirteenth century doctor who dabbled in magic.

"Look at the Pentacle of Solomon, Look at the person,"

(Hey, these translations take a while, and it's a busy time of year, so I'll come back to this in January if that's okay?)

Page 17

Map speaks Latin "Now, brothers and sisters, through my hands, through the hands of my friends". And conveniently repeats most of it in English.

"Caedete" (or more correctly caedite) means "Kill" and this is followed by "make your anger felt".

Page 18

That dog's walking on its hind legs !
Very nice last panel, by the way.

Page 19

Suddenly, it all becomes clear.

The Shadow Dog was chasing Angie and Jason because it wanted "Jason".

Angie sees her brother in the mouth of the beast, but he says he has taken Alba's power. When Alba says "I'm dead!" since she is not actually dead, I assume this means dead like a battery?

Page 20

The White Flame emanates from Jason and destroys the Shadow Dog ?
What is this cruel twist ?
This Tale of the Unexpected ?

Page 21

Now this is the best page in this issue.

It has the punchline, the art, and the crux of the story (and this is only end of part two !).

Again, John's promise that Jason is "gonna be okay" seems hollow.

Panels 2&3

Now, someone is talking through Jason here. Someone who knows John of old ?

The favourite guesses at the moment are Nergal, First of the Fallen, Arawn (who first tipped John off) or Anton Arcane. Or even Josh Wright - although I don't think he's dead. It may just be the Beast who left Eden as described in the Eden issue. On the next page it refers to humans jealously as "sons and daughters of Adam" (but I don't think it's Aslan out of the Narnia Chronicles).

Panel 4

Now there is a priceless expression on John's face.

Page 22

A brilliant cliffhanger for a monthly series.

No-one saw it coming.

The timing helps (this sort of twist usually happens in part 3 or 4) and the fact that Jason seemed an innocent until those bite marks on page 5.

One thing's for sure, Jason looks dead and Angie is not necessarily going to be happy (although she might consider that he's been released).

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