HellBlazer #1 HELLBLAZER #1

Writer : Jamie Delano
Art : John Ridgway
Cover Artist : Dave McKean
Colors : Lovern Kindzierski
Letters : Anne Halfacree
Editor : Karen Berger

Issue synopsis written by James Wilkinson

Issue Synopsis : New York, November 1987. Henry Wambach clutches his swollen belly as he stumbles from his office in the Grenwich Village Post Office, his head surrounded by a halo of flies. Hurriedly excusing himself, he flees the building and purchases six enormous hamburgers from a street vendor. Even for a man as big as Henry, this is a lot - but it does not sate his hunger. He eats on the move, making his way to a nearby restaurant where he voraciously devours everything on the menu. It is not enough, however, as something inside him demands more, more, more... Soon the flesh begins to drain from his face, his chubby head reduced to a skull from which flaps of skin hang limply. Desperately, insanely, he claws at the other diners' plates, thrusting their food into his mouth, before trying to gnaw at the people themselves. But he is weak; his muscles have wasted away and he scabbles impotently on the floor before - finally - Henry dies.

Same time, different place. John Constantine's back on the streets of London, and none too happy. It's a damp autumn in the city as John makes his way through the imapssive crowds to his lodgings. Ugly brick and concrete buildings, everpresent rain and careless drivers all conspire to make his jet-lag worse, but they're nothing compared to Mrs. McGuire, John's landlady. After harassing him about his bad language and habit of disappearing without notice, she tells him that Gary Lester, a friend of John's, (or as she has it, "the druggy one") has moved into his apartment. Before she lets him go, however, she demands John pay back the money she lent Lester to send a parcel to America.

John finally gets into his flat, but there's no time to rest; Lester's left the place in a terrible state. The kitchen sink's lost under a culture of mold so big it could probably apply to join the UN, the fridge is filled with insects, and - most bizarre of all - there's a hypodermic needle full of pulped bugs on the living room table! Suitably freaked out, John is alerted to a scratching noise coming from the bathroom. He expects the worst, and gets it when he finds Gary Lester curled up in the bath, screaming, with thousands of insects crawling over his body.

After calling up Chas, a 'connected' friend of his, Constantine picks up a few cans of bug spray from the newsagent's (intimidating some skinhead thugs along the way) and begins a full-on insectide massacre. As Chas administers Gary's junk, John explains that Gary was an old friend of his, until something nasty happened in Newcastle. After that they grew apart, and the last he heard Gary was in Morocco "doing the William Burroughs bit".

With Lester sedated, Constantine hypnotises him into telling his story. It seems that whilst on the search for more dope on the streets of Tangier, Lester came across a young malnourished boy who had been kicked out of a workhouse for not pulling his weight. Covered in ritual scars and minus a tongue, the boy seemed to be the victim of a slave labour trade. But there was something supernatural about the boy, a force trapped inside him that was begging to be let out. Lester took the child back to his room, where he tied him down and began an exorcism, during which the boy's flesh began to bulge and tear, each bubble of skin bursting open to release a fly. Soon, thousands of insects had ripped their way out of his tiny body to form the demon-swarm Mnemoth. Gary managed to trap Mnemoth in a bottle, so pleased with the power he had over the monster that he barely noticed that the child had died from his injuries.

But victory did not last long. Mnemoth began speaking to Gary, first pleading for then demanding his freedom. Growing ever more frightened of what he had unleashed, Lester returned to England to track down Constantine, only to find out from Mrs. M that he was out of the country. Remembering that Constantine had a sometime girlfriend in the States, Lester sent it there, where (unbeknownst to both Constantine and Lester) it was intercepted by Henry Wambach, the man who died at the start of this issue.

Constantine gets Gary to draw a picture of the child and his tattoos before allowing him to sleep. He then tells Chas to get comfortable, because the poor sod's going to babysit Lester for the next three days. Chas protests, but quietens down when John reminds him that he is in Constantine's debt. Before going to sleep, John looks out of his window and sees a mysterious graffiti artist signing her picture with a "Z". He ruminates a little on Emma's death before turning in for the night.

The next day, John decides to get in touch with some of his contacts to shed a little light on the mystery. He visits a professor working in the British Museum who tells him that the tattoos Lester drew appear to be part of a containment spell used by the Dinka tribe in Southern Sudan, then calls up Papa Midnite, New York's kingpin of voodoo and crime, who tells him of Henry Wambach's mysterious death. Constantine decides to forego a visit to the Big Apple in favour of a trip to the Sudan, where he tracks down the Dinka tribe and their witch doctor.

It seems that his arrival has been foretold - but the witch-doctor's divination had him pegged to arrive the previous day. The old man refuses John's request to travel with him and trap Mnemoth, saying that he cannot; his power comes from African soil, without which he would be impotent. He does, however, offer to show John how to perform the ritual himself.

Taking a gutfull of psychadelics, John watches history from the eyes of the witch-doctor as Mnemoth begins to feed on the starving peoples of Africa, taking the form of flies that cover them from head to foot, drinking water from the surfaces of their eyes and devouring the dead skin that falls from their malnourished bodies. John watches as the witch-doctor picks out one of his people's children, trapping Mnemoth inside the little boy before leaving him tied to a rock, so that Mnemoth will consume him (and in doing so, kill itself). But it was not to be. The witch doctor could not bear to stay with the boy until his death, so was not able to stop the bush-fighters who took him off the rock and sold him into slavery. John comforts the old man before leaving.

Armed with the knowledge of how to stop Mnemoth, John takes Gary Lester to New York. During the cab ride over to Papa Midnite's club, it becomes clear that Mnemoth's killing spree has become big news; a radio DJ chatters sensationally about the mysterious phenomena that has claimed three lives, whilst 'experts' on another channel attribute it either to viruses or God's wrath.

Constantine and Lester arrive outside Papa Midnite's very exclusive club. It is so exclusive, in fact, that they have to go around the back. As John picks the padlock on the rear entrance, Papa himself consults his dead sister for advice. It seems that she whores herself to the demons of Hell in exchange for information that she gives to her brother, though she knows nothing of Mnemoth (presumably because it is from the African tradition, and therefore seperated from the traditional "Hell").

John scares one of Midnite's zombie servants into letting him and Lester into the Penthouse. It seems that he has a history with Midnite, having tricked him out of fifty thousand dollars, and the voodoo king is ready to smash John's brains out as reparation until the conman explains that they need to work together to defeat Mnemoth. Midnite says that he will consider the offer, and agrees to look after Lester whilst John goes out for a little while.

John makes his way through New York's streets, subways and alleys until he reaches what used to be Emma's apartment block. He stops on the pavement where she landed after being pushed from her window by a creature called The Invunche (Swamp Thing #37, "Growth Patterns"), then summons up the courage to enter. The man who lives there now tells him that he's felt some kind of presence in the flat ever since Emma died, and that it's inspired him to paint her death. John leaves, sickened, but not before finding out that Lester's package had been redirected to the postal office.

Felling weak and woozy, John sits down on the steps and finally says goodbye to Emma. Imagine his surprise, then, when she walks up behind him and says hello! She and the rest of the Newcastle Crew have not been able to pass on into the afterlife properly after dying, and since falling to her death, she has been waiting in her apartment for John to visit. She offers to help John with the Mnemoth problem and he accepts.

As they walk down the street, they happen across the demon-swarm's latest victim, a frustrated vegetarian who breaks down a butcher's window to get to the meat inside. He shrivels up before their eyes, a small group of insects fleeing from his husk. John and Emma track them to a church, where Mnemoth itself, now an enormous thirty-foot insect, hovers over a terrified priest. John challenges the monster, but he is too weak. Emma convinces him to flee, leaving the priest to be possessed by the demon...

Issue synopsis written by James Wilkinson

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