HELLBLAZER #185
Third Worlds : Ordeal
Annotations By : Adrian Brown



The language on the customary Bradstreet wall of the cover is some sort of ancient arabic cuneiform script. If you look at the preview cover (without issue number and the usual Vertigo indicia) and this site you might be able to decipher it, but it looks like it might be in whatever foreign language the locals in this story spoke. Perhaps Tim copied it from a real relic?

Okay, so John is off with Angie on part two of his quest to find out about the Shadow Dog. Last we saw them they were in Brazil and now they're on the Iran-Iraq border, next it's Australia. So that's Cocaine, then Morphine, and then ... um ... lager. (Actually, I know that doesn't bear much examination.)



Page 1

Panel 1

Isfahan (pron. esfahaan) has been designated by UNESCO as a world heritage. It contains a wide range of Islamic Architectural styles ranging from the 11th century (C.E.) to the 19th. It's around 400 km from the border, across a mountain range - at least four hours drive ! (see Page 2)

The airport has a nice looking VIP pavilion, but I expect John and Angie didn't stop.

Regarding previous theories about the Hellblazer timeline, Salmi's comments about the border having tank patrols, suggests that this has been in the last year - with the allied incursion into Iraq. Of course, there have been tanks at this border for some time longer.

Panel 3

One of those untold stories that Hellblazer is strewn with. Continuity completists might want to hear this tale, but I like the mystery.

Panel 4

Be'esira ?

The Iran - Iraq border has been identified by scholars as a likely location for the Garden of Eden. Specifically the marshlands of Mesopotamia, which literally means "between the rivers" Tigris and Euphrates. The marshland some call Eden is shrinking



Now, if the location of Eden is between the rivers, it's going to be across the border in Iraq, but there's an explanation for the geography coming up (Page 4).

Panel 5

Here's one of those local wildlife vignettes that have illuminated this arc of Marcelo Frusin's. However, like the sting'ed tail of the scorpion, I have problems with some of his art this issue. See below.



Page 2

Panel 1

Beriti is divining with bones - see the bird skull on the cover.

Panel 3

Everything is facing to the north. In the direction of Eden.

Panel 4

Between Isfahan and the border are the Zagros Mountains. As John & co are coming from Isfahan into some mountains, it's possible that the location of Be'esira is among these mountains.



Page 3

Panel 1

Pages like this really show the best in Marcelo's art. The mountain terrain looks spectacular.

Inset Panels

Angie is beginning to learn that sometimes John does not talk in riddles.

"Off limits to anything with two legs and an opposable thumb" - ie mankind. And of course, mankind is persona non grata in Eden since all that apple business.



Page 4

Panel 1

"The suspension ..."
"Yeah, go and treat yourself to some."

Iran has had the highest rate of seizure of morphine in the world, as one of the so-called "Golden Crescent" states, along with Afghanistan & Pakistan where opium grows naturally.

Panels 2-5

Angie is confusing science with religion (or science with fact, depending on your POV). And John explains the apparent location of Eden - as it has several entrances not necessarily geographically adjacent to Eden.

Right. I have a complaint about Angie's arse. Marcelo has just over-accentuated it this time, and nowhere more so than at the bottom (heh heh) of this page. That's all for now, but I'll be watching !

However, note that John is more appropriately attired this issue.



Page 5

"Some days bring forth joy, others misery, but each day brings forth God's will" - is that a quote ?

Ghursoon has second sight, and telepathy. Obviously, John would have known that he was up for retribution for the theft of which Ghursoon suspects him. He is his usual irreverent self.

As we saw in the last issue, he's not afraid to confront people he has wronged to get information regarding the Shadow Dog.



Page 6

Angie's butt strikes again !

However, that final depiction of Angie on this page resonates more with her first appearances.

Panel 2

The Nephilim were the offspring of the angels and human women. It would make sense that this sort of miscegenation would occur at the borders of Eden. Here's some insight from an expert in this sort of thing, Andrew Collins (not the former NME writer and co-writer of "Lloyd Cole knew my Father")

Angie's "I wouldn't know, to be honest ..." "it sounds like a piss-awful career choice" has an air of Constantine about it, but it's part of the infamous Scouse wit that she and John share.

"Angela" as a messenger of God, hmmm, that would work in some crude Hollywood adaptation of John's life, wouldn't it ?



Page 7

John gets his come-uppance. Beriti obviously has a grudge, and the implication is that John took advantage of her.

Panel 4

"At least I never got you up the stick" ie pregnant.

The Viz Profanisaurus says the following:

up the duff See up the poke.
up the poke See up the stick.
up the stick See in the club.
in the club adj. Up the duff; pregnant; pregas. abbr. in the pudding club.

It is probably safe to guess which "stick" someone has to be "up" to become pregnant.



Page 8

That old clash of ex-girlfriend and prospective girlfriend !

Angie's not fazed by the encounter though, and her "change your Tampon before toxic shock sets in" is a reference to Beriti's bad humour as a possible result of her "time of the month".

Toxic Shock can be a side effect of prolonged use of higher absorbency Tampons. Toxic Shock Syndrome develops when the common bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, produce a toxin which is absorbed into the bloodstream. The toxin rapidly overwhelms the immune system and attacks the major organs, leading to kidney failure, collapse of the lungs and in severe cases, cardiac arrest.

Panel 4

Note to all foreign people. When trying to swear like a Brit, Angie's fine construction of the double profanity should be seen as good practice.



Page 9

"Those Islamic Fundamentalist Bastards"

No they are not, as John explains, they are Christians (supposedly) descended from Cain. This would make them the more violent branch of the family tree, and so well-placed to be defenders of Eden. Even if they are not welcome there.

"Binei Gadol" = lit. "sons of the Great" ? so "Children of God" ?



Page 10

John asking Angie to plant his hair close to the Garden of Eden is presumably a set up for later in the ongoing story. He has his own plans for his trial by ordeal. Whether he is innocent as charged is another matter.

Speculation: John will be able to say that his DNA is directly rooted in the Garden of Eden. Which could be useful. (I hesitate to say it's hair of the dog.)



Page 11

The Spatchcock lineage.

"My Dad was a docker" - Liverpool being a port where the ship building and shipping industry once reigned (see the annotations for Mike Carey's first issue for notes on that).

"My Mam" (correctly pronounce "me mam") "was a cleaner at the metal box factory" there really was a company called "the Metal Box Company", probably still is.

"Our Jason's touched in the head" - "our kid", "our brother", "our Mam" is often used in the place of "my ..."

"There hasn't been a wedding in the family for three generations where the bride wasn't at least three months gone" speaks for itself.

"We've never voted Tory, or crossed a picket line, or seen a fight and kept on walking" there is the Scouse working class ethic set out for you.

And of course, Angie would have said "honour" not "honor".



Page 12

Ghursoon would be intrigued as to why John came back when he knew he'd be in this trouble. Despite his beating he is keeping his cards close to his chest. (Oh wait, that was last issue.)

I suspect the story is written down in the bible and the aforementioned scrolls of the Nephilim. But that those versions are slightly modified by interested parties.

Note the comic page storytelling device used here (and on page 6) where the final "Panel" steps out of a box and bleeds onto the next page, where the speaker's words appear as a caption. It's a version of the movie technique of fading into a voice-over. Nicely done here, and adds to the pacing.



Page 13

Angie buries the hair.

And here's an angel with a flaming sword.



(Anyone know the song of that name, by Ian Broudie now of the Lightning Seeds ?)



Page 14

The story of the Garden of Eden, as told "from the horse's mouth".

Anti-creationists who do not want to know the final results should look away now.

There's a mammoth, sabre toothed tiger, and some contemporary animals.

The seraphim are burning angels hence the flaming sword, but they should burn the eyes of the onlooker.

Some bible translations say the guardians East of Eden are cherubim with flaming swords, so perhaps this is it. Note that these should not be confused with the angels of Mike's other work, Lucifer.



Page 15

Panels 1-3

Here we go. The secret origin of the Shadow Dog. Thinking of Eden mythology, the beast that was referred to in the bible was the serpent. It was not very happy, and God - not Adam - gave it a name.

Panel 4

The seraph does not threaten Angie, but gives her a stick. Of course, the angel only has to keep her out. The silent nature of this Panel is more striking, after all, how do you convey a conversation between an angel and an awestruck scouser ? As for that stick: it's from Eden, perhaps the Tree of Knowledge ?

And Timmy Bauer on the "Straight To Hell" forum suggested she might play fetch with the Shadow Dog !

Panel 5

Of course Ghursoon does not know the name. The humans had probably left Eden by the stage it was known.



Page 16

Panel 1

Angie returns with the branch.

Panel 2

Beriti is quick to accuse John, but of course, if he did take the scrolls, she allowed herself to be duped by him ... and therefore, ahem, slept on the job.

Panels 3-5

A stronger implication that John slept with Beriti.

It's fairly clear that he did seduce and trick her and that's why she's upset.



Page 17

Trial by ordeal of boiling water. A bit like a witch's ordeal !

It's worth saying that John's watch might have taken a bit of a battering by the shackles he was in earlier.

But then he might also have used sleight of hand to buy some time to psyche himself up.

His denial and lack of burning seems to have everyone convinced.



Page 18

Panel 1

Well, Angie and Beriti are surprised, but differently. The former relieved, the latter disappointed.

Panel 4

"KLUD" ???

I'd have preferred "Into the sand, scum queen!"

As I noted above, Beriti is the one who failed her job, so the guards are more concerned about her than John and Angie.


Page 19

Panel 1

"No" - John is still concerned that they are being watched, or eavesdropped in the case of Ghursoon's telepathy.

Panel 2

"Not now Angie" - John waits until he is out of "telepathy- range"

Panel 5

And then he let's his concentration slip. And feels the burning that he really sustained in the boiling water. Because of course boiling water burns you if you put your hand in it for six seconds.

How did he hide the burns though ? (Consider that he made people imagine they saw Clarice at a window previously. And stage hypnotists can make people think they are chickens.)



Page 20

I really like this page too.

Both John and Angie's interaction, and the layout, and that last panel.

So John did relieve them of the scroll, but if he'd just said "I didn't steal the scroll" he'd have saved his hand some time in the burning water !



Page 21

"Night's as quiet as a Salvation Army piss-up" is a nice enough simile for "very quiet" unless it's the residents of a Salvation Army hostel ... but anyway.

It's Cactus Thing !

John is recuperating, and this is Angie's first face to face confrontation with Swampy.



Page 22

Panel 1

As John wakes, the Swamp Thing tells him that something came through from the "subtle realms" six days earlier. Time wise, that would probably be at the start of "Black Flowers" so Angie's week now looks like this:

Totentanz gig
Arrive in Bedford
Set off for Brazil
Fly to Isfahan (probably needing a couple of flights)

John was told by the Lukhavim that "The dog is pressing against the door" at the end of #181.

I don't know about you, but I wonder if the Shadow Dog was not the big thing that came through, but the smaller one that followed it.

"Soft realms" is evocative of the "shifting zones" of issue 2 of Sandman.

Panel 2

Now, as you know, I have been perturbed by portrayal of Angela's Arses in this issue. BUT LOOK AT SWAMP THING'S !!! Ha Ha Ha.

Panel 3

"Old mate of mine. Hates my guts." Pretty much sums up all of John's old friends.

Of course, Angie does not know that Swamp Thing can take on any local flora in his appearance. And wondering *how* tubers might be used by Cactus Man would be quite disturbing. Then again, how did Angie arise at the question in the first place ?!

Incidentally, not wanting to brag, but I have a page of Swamp Thing art framed on my wall, and it's one drawn by Rick Veitch. And Alec (Swamp Thing) injects himself into Abbie's brain by taking on the form of the microscopic flora in her body. See ? He's quite a versatile lover.



Annotations By : Adrian Brown

Read issue synopsis.

 
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