Staring At The Wall, Part 3 of 5
Annotations By : Adrian Brown
Click Here for issue synopsis
Revelation 13, verses 11,12 &14
11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.
12 And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.
14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast,
The first real signs that the Beast's powers are growing. It controls a group of people rather than a series of individuals.
The priest's name is Peter Atwell: Mabel Lucie Attwell was an illustrator of humorous cartoons much beloved of twee Thirties British society.
I recall my Uncle & Aunt had one of her more famous pieces in their bathroom "Please Remember, Don't forget ..." a cautionary tale about not leaving the bathroom wet.
Panel 5, inset
"I've never got this far before."
It seems that the doors keeping the Beast out of the world have been protecting humankind.
It's been a while since we had this sort of horror in Hellblazer. The sacrilegious kind that is deep-seated in the psyche of anyone who had a religious upbringing of any kind. Powerful, whatever we have now come to think. As seen in The Exorcist.
The use of holly thorns is a switch from the symbolism as used in the hymn "The Holly and The Ivy" however, the significance of holly as protection against evil predates Christianity.
"The Valley of the Shadow"
A phrase from the twenty third psalm, The Lord is my shepherd.
There's not a riverside pub in London called The Cutter. The name of a boat would be fair enough for such a pub. There is one of that name in Cambridgeshire.
Is this Kev the same one that John rode up to the asylum with in "Black Flowers" ?
Only if he's had his haircut severely (qv Mr John McMahon, proprietor of the Straight to Hell website.)
Nice work on the pub interior on this page.
Colourist (as we call them here in England) Lee Loughridge has dropped a clanger here, giving John's beard a yellowish tinge, when it should be stubble. Thankfully the error is put right in subsequent pages.
Flashback a few hours.
It has been suggested to me that many of the supporting cast talk with similar voice to Constantine. I do not hold this suggestion, take a look around the room at the start of this arc. Everyone has their voice.
This is certainly true of Nathan Arcane on this page, although I can't imagine John being quite so belligerent.
That's a nice synopsis of the story so far in panel 3.
"Constantine, we must talk" - the speaker is a new character for this story (see page 7).
Back to the now.
(Beard has returned to stubble though.)
There is not really a whisky called Glen Fourstar !
John is making reference to the fact that the cheap whisky tastes like petrol.
Strangely enough, those pretentious folk, who describe tastes of whisky (and wine) in terms that do not reflect the actual taste, often refer to a "petrol note".
"The third door is down" "the well you drink from when you sleep and dream is poisoned".
Perhaps the beast has invaded some sort of unconscious human mind, however, it may be referring to the "well" within each individual's mind rather than the mystical collective mind.
Now, it occurs to me that I've mentioned before how someone seems to know an awful lot about John.
Supposing The Beast has been sat in the Underworld watching the history of Mankind jealously, why would he settle on John ? And why engineer the various events we have seen take place which seem to serve just to humiliate Constantine ? Curiouser and curiouser.
I still suspect the hand of someone we have met before in John's life.
Enter The Phantom Stranger.
He doesn't just turn up to tell folks off like this.
There must be some importance in what he said to John.
"He is a permanent man of mystery, arriving when and where he is needed and then vanishing. He offers advice, cryptic warnings and information."
The Stranger confirms that the Shadow Dog was in fact Mankind's Best Friend, but doesn't tell John much else.
"I have stood with you against the enemies of man."
Indeed, in Swamp Thing #46 the Earth was subject of another attempt at Armageddon (actually, it was The Crisis, not Armageddon, that DC-wide crossover came later). Swampy went with John up to The Monitor's satellite (you don't need to know more about The Crisis - it was a bizarre trick of continuity over quality) and there they bumped into The Stranger. It is here that we first found out about Newcastle, and John's time in Ravenscar. Not long after the Crisis was "resolved" (until Grant Morrison mended it further with Hypertime) they would work together again, at a similarly climactic apocalyptic moment during the American Gothic arc (#50).
Apparently prompting John to some different kind of action, the Stranger voices a nagging doubt about the whole Shadow Dog "threat". Why would an unnamed beast take on the form of a dog ?
"What you have blighted you cannot heal."
"What you have broken will not mend."
Now this is the age-old problem with serial fiction like this. We are pretty sure that John will survive and the status quo of sorts will be reinstated (Death of Superman anyone?). Given that the Phantom Stranger knows stuff, it is safe to assume that he is talking about something specific. Is it John's relationships with his erstwhile team ? Perhaps specifically with Angie ?
London is deserted, remember it is night time.
The Beast continues to bait John from within the humans it is destroying.
This seems very much like the scenes we saw in Stone Cross. I wonder if that is coincidence ?
Pages 10 & 11
Earlier, before John left the house, but is it before or after John spoke to the Phantom Stranger ?
Angie says what several commentators (ie people on the Insane Rantings Hellblazer forum) have been saying. John is addicted to becoming the saviour (even his initials are the same !)
John deserves Angie's well-practised kick in the groin (see #182), but she's not about to free herself of the blame.
This reaction is all very good, and in keeping with her placing herself in John's company, but remember that she knows something from the angel in Eden that John doesn't. And nor do we.
Later, back at the Clerkenwell Guest House.
Pages 13 & 14
As it happens, the Beast confronts John immediately after that first cut (which is, after all, the deepest).
I have to say this is a damn fine two page spread. Our Beast is going for the classic Satan appearance, which matches up with the un-named jealous rival from Eden. Is that the revenge that the Beast refers to, or is it a specific vengeance against John ?
Even better, although it's a simplistic page. Constantine is still defiant in the face of the Devil.
"I was to accept a sodden piece of clay as my master" Adam was given the task of naming the Beasts, and with names comes power. "Be Christened by him" is perhaps an anachronism - didn't Christening begin with Christ ?
"Now that I sit here where all minds touch. Where all dreams cross."
Now this is apparently confirmation of the collective consciousness. But is it within the realms of Dream ? Or somewhere deeper ?
"Yeah, I noticed that. Very handy little feature."
The Beast is new to this collective thing, and doesn't notice what John is up to.
Okay, supposing it was sunset when John left the pub, and dark when John was walking back to the hotel.
Your average pawn shop is going to close at 6pm, so we have got to assume that this is the next morning.
Gemma has obviously collected this stuff from her time at Fredericks' searching through Scrap Gillis' stuff to identify the Red Sepulchre (see #177-180). She's still daft enough to go to somewhere close to the source of her loot.
As John observed two pages ago, he's at a handy location to contact people.
He possesses the pawnbroker (hands up who thought of Dead Man ? Only me ? Bah !) and advises Gemma that he needs her help. Of course, this is because the grown up magicians have all rejected him, but I hope she gets a boost from this. "Nothing, you go on with your gloating, mate." is an aside to the Beast (see next page).
Vivimancy - Spirit Magic. John's spirit is currently disembodied, and he's told Gemma where to find the body.
"You're gonna have to raise ..." Hell ? Me from the dead ? The alarm ?
The Beast cannot know what John's been doing, but it notices his mind wandering.
And here John says the same words we heard from the pawnbroker on the previous page.
The Beast indulges in classic villainous behaviour and gloats about its plot that has apparently succeeded.
The arrival of Gary Lester and the Lukhavim is part of it (#181) although perhaps the envoy from Arawn was genuine (#182). I would expect that Fredericks' dream was part of The Beast's plan, because that is where John became involved through direct attack on his family. It's also where Angie came in.
"Every time I came close to breaking through the third door, the mongrel would find me again."
Wasn't there some reference to previous times that this had occurred ?
"The dry lands" of Palestine are places also known as Horeb or Jabes.
Horeb was where the Israelites fleeing from Egypt with Moses made the golden calf (I wonder if The Beast gave them the idea ? Perhaps the bible disguised the nameless one as a calf ? There was naked dancing and killing at that time too.) Exodus 32:1-35 "Aaron makes a golden calf and tells the people to take off their clothes and dance around naked. God then punishes them mercilessly for following their divinely appointed religious leader."
John Collier was the alias John used when he returned "from the dead" way back in #175.
Note that the shadows suggest the sun is moderately high in the sky.
If John cut his wrists successfully last night, he'd have had at least four hours to die.
Fools rush in where Angela fears to tread!
Well, not really, but it's classic Constantine family no nonsense approach from Gemma.
And then Gemma realises that she's been rejected by her Uncle John before and now he is asking for her help.
THE END ?
Well, obviously not.
The next question has to be, will Gemma act on John's request ?
And the question after that is, will she have the sense to get help from people who know better ?