Red Sepulchre, Part 2 of 4
Annotations By : Adrian Brown

Notes from last issue's Cover: John Constantine, Gemma Masters, Packer ?, Clarice, Domine Fredericks, might have been meant to be Josh Wright ?

Notes on this month's cover: The Magician tarot card and some bone-casting.

Page 1

Following on from previous annotations.

There was something called the Red Cross of Constantine.

I have since discovered that a "Whited Sepulchre" is a term for someone who is outwardly virtuous but inwardly corrupt or wicked. Perhaps a Red Sepulchre is the opposite. Perhaps the item everyone is looking for is in fact not what it seems. Remember "the big double-yuh" ? Remember the Maltese Falcon ? Remember the Fifth Element ?

Auromancy: there seem to be several strands of magic linked to the five elements (Elemancy): Aquamancy (water), Auromancy (air), Pyromancy (fire), Tellurmancy (earth), Vivimancy (spirit).

Of course, air and wind are exchanged when it comes to Seventies disco. And Air might be aura.

Now I've got a long shot here, so please don't read on and blame me if it turns out to be right....

Domine Fredericks and his mob (including Joshua Wright) are looking for something related to the Constantines called the Red Sepulchre. They know it is responsible for killing people so they think it's a weapon, but what if it is something closer to home ? After all, we know that John has been responsible for killing a fair few people ... (like I say, that's a stab in the dark).

Sepulchre comes from a word meaning to bury.

"Pulchra" is beautiful in Latin.

Page 1, Panel 4: Told you it was Josh's boys who kept John alive !

Page 2

The Tate club as seen in previous notes. Home of the old school Magic Circle that Fredericks seems to be at odds with. (As we will see later, he's also in league with them.)

Compare these two pages with page 18.

Page 3

NME on the DC forum observes, "When the solicitation for this arc came out, I wondered if it was based on Hammet's "Red Harvest", which has been adapated as Yojimbo, Fistful of Dollars, Last Man Standing, and recently Azzarello's Cage. The basic storyline is a lone figure playing the middle between two warring gangs, and in this case, it's gangs of magicians. Anyway, I got some confirmation here from Mike in this issue with the character who admitted that his line was derivative of Fistful of Dollars."

And I can't say fairer than that.

Albert's "Fakir Trick" might be familiar to those of you who saw David Blaine stand in ice or on a pole.

A fakir is a Hindu holy man with a tendency to illusions. Most (in)famously lying on beds of nails. Much of what they do is via training and mind over matter.

The backdraft is what happens when a fire is burning in a confined space and someone opens a door, allowing in air, which feeds the fire. Indeed, the UK Fire Research & Development group says, "3.3 Backdraught Limited ventilation can lead to a fire in a compartment producing fire gases containing significant proportions of partial combustion products and un-burnt pyrolysis products. If these accumulate then the admission of air when an opening is made to the compartment can lead to a sudden deflagration. This deflagration moving through the compartment and out of the opening is a backdraught."

So Albert, despite talking in American, is being very sensible.

Page 4

There you have it. "A Fistful of Dollars".

These annotations will now be conducted to a soundtrack of Calexico and Mariachi Luz De Luna (who I saw perform together at the Barbican 24 hours after reading Hellblazer #178).

Page 5

Gemma looks too cocky. Now that might be Marcelo Frusin's house style (and this is a particularly lovely page of his) or her family way. It may be that she has been influenced by magic.

The Savoy is a posh hotel on The Strand.

Page 6
It seems that Albert knows more than one fakir trick.

Of course, any ostrich knows, if you can't see your predator, they can't see you.

"Prat about" US readers should know that most British noun or verb swearwords can be used in this fashion, as verbs meaning to "mess around". Except bastard. You don't "bastard around".

Page 7

If that car registration is "LUL 51?" as I suspect, it is from London. It's an Audi, anyway.

We are getting a better picture of the sides in this war, but the lines are still blurred. Not least when Albert and Clarice realise that John's involvement might make them redundant.

Page 7, Panel 4. Now, we've all seen England depicted as Olde Worlde in American comics, but the cobbled streets (besides having cobblestones that are way too big) of Soho are something that should have been treated to the editor's eraser. This looks like some sort of pedestrian street from Prague, which often doubles for Victorian London.

To make things worse for Clarice, they were responsible for Gemma being in the hands of Fredericks (remember that Gemma thinks they are all being very kind).

Page 8

Yes, the US flag is wrong, but not as wrong as the Union Flag.

Domine clearly has a hold on John's niece.

The mirror is thought to have power over a person's soul.

Page 9

Fredericks is relatively new in town and has apparently decided to usurp the existing powers in London magic. White folk held a position in Zimbabwe similar to those in South Africa. I suppose "Rhodesia" as it was then called was more British, where South Africa has the Afrikaaners.

"The latest land grab" is sanctioned by Zimbabwean PM, Robert Mugabe, who claims it is intended to hand the lands back to the natives.

Does John believe the Sepulchre is a myth, or is he playing hard to get ?

Page 10

We find out exactly what happened to Scrape Gillis (while he was alive).

Matelot is an old-fashioned term for a sailor.

There are many gay bars in Old Compton Street, but I don't think the pubs on Greek Street fit that bill. Perhaps a gay coffee bar ? Then again, why would Fredericks know ?

Fans of the irksome crossover may wish to note that Warren Ellis's Planetary #7 that starred a John Constantine looky-likey called Jack Carter, also featured a scene on Greek Street.

Page 11

Fredericks tells us that Scrape's shop was in Shepherd Market. If anyone wants the Hellblazer pub crawl when they're in London, when we get to Mayfair, it's your round !

Page 12

Does anyone else think there's different artists at play on this issue ?

Specifically a couple of pages where Tim Sale seems to be in the house.

"You have no real talent for disproportionate violence, Mister Constantine" is a splendid UK gangster type threat. If you like this, you should watch "Get Carter" - no NOT the Stallone one, the Caine one !

Shame we can't read the business card. Remember in earlier annotations, I suspected that Fredericks' place was in west London ? I reckon it's Richmond. Or further west.

Page 13

He has slightly more hair, but I wonder if the mage interrogating Scrape Gillis is meant to be the same one who is at the table on page 12 of #177 ? That would further illustrate the complex sides in this dispute. In any case, he's in Fredericks' house.

Page 14

"Fifth Circle" a reference to Dante Alighieri's "Divine Comedy". (Mike Carey was also referring to this work in Lucifer in recent arcs.)

A satirical work on Dante's contemporary society, in some senses similar to Gulliver's Travels. Each layer in Dante's work contained certain spirits. Those in #5 are the Wrathful and the Sullen, stuck in mud and tearing and rending each other. "sullen" would best be equated with "depressed" which some call anger turned in on one's self.

The interrogator is called Ghant.

The "bone abacus" is referred to on the cover of this issue. Divination using bones is called astragalomancy, which also applies to dice. Here, Ghant seems to be using them to exert power over Scrape's ghost.

Page 15

Even more magic than you can shake a wand at in this arc.

Clarice dispenses with the fancy trappings of stage magic and gets to business.

The gibbet is the beam that people are hung from when executed.

There's a riverside pub in East London that tells of ne'er-do-wells hung above the water, and to illustrate the point, has a poorly constructed "gibbet" that would not bear even a small turkey.

After the Second World War, the British Government published a number of booklets telling people to save resources. "Make Do and Mend" was a booklet encouraging people to recycle and repair clothes rather than buying new ones.

It's interesting that Clarice remembers her Mom saying that, which suggests she is in her sixties or thereabouts.

Pages 16 & 17

These phone boxes look very specific, on the slope of a hill as they are. My first thought was it looks like Archway. Whatever. It seems to be close to Fredericks' mansion.

Angie (see #175 and #176) has a habit of turning up when you least expect her.

"It's all gone quiet over there" is a football chant employed when your team has taken the lead over your opponents. It has the tune of "singing ay-ay yippee, yippee ay" from "She'll be coming round the mountain". Consider the British football grounds with two sets of fans in different areas, taunting each other. The recognised response to this song is "You only sing when you're winning" as referenced by the pop star, Robbie Williams.

John refers to Map as a trainspotter, which a fine old Constantine put down.

I don't know if other nations are treated to the sight of middle-aged men standing on train platforms noting down the numbers of trains, through all kinds of weather, but it has become a metaphor for slightly potty enthusiasts with an over-developed attention to detail. (What Freud called "anal".)

Page 18

You ever noticed how dead folks always say they are cold ? Good point about the fire.

I really like the art on this page.

Page 19

Ah ! The Classic ! Supernatural forces really do exist in John's world, as we know, even if most of his efforts are designed to avoid this sort of thing. This one looks more like a Hammer devil than previous demonic visitors to the book.

Page 20

At Fredericks' place. Those unfamiliar with the aforementioned "A Fistful of Dollars" would do well not to watch that film in the next two months.

Page 21

Constantine versus his Nemesis. "When next we meet, Mr Constantine, the tables will be turned."

Page 22

Josh's tendency to act without thinking has caused all this fuss ?

John's niece was taken as they thought she could identify the Red Sepulchre, or at least that they could use her to identify it. This answers my question in previous notes about who Josh was referring to as "the bitch".

Josh is very confident here, providing the second part of the villains' requirement to tell the hero what their plan is (see also page 12).

Annotations By : Adrian Brown

Read issue synopsis.

Gratuitous (but relevant)...

...and for the ladies.

Twat (allegedly)

By all accounts, a ticket to a good time.



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