HellBlazer #5 HELLBLAZER #5
When Johnny Comes Marching Home

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

Issue Synopsis : August 10th, 1968. Lieutenant Frank Ross slogs through the Vietnamese jungle with the rest of his platoon, all young men from the little town of Liberty, Iowa. Suddenly another soldier - Craig Anders - spots movement in the bushes ahead and opens fire.

August 10th, 1987. Old Willy Anders hammers the final nail into a sign bearing the legend "LIBERTY WELCOMES HOME HER BOYS". Willy bitterly blames the nearby Interstate for draining the town of its trade and dragging its sons off to war. Still, the future looks bright - the town is finally on the top of the Resurrection Crusaders' Pyramid of Prayers; at last, their boys will come home. Suddenly, Willy spots movement in the corn stacks. He parts the stalks and finds himself stood in the Vietnamese jungle - and right in his son's line of fire!

1968, Vietnam. For a brief second, Craig Anders thinks he sees his father fall to the ground, but further investigation reveals that he's actually shot an old Vietnamese man. Lt.Ross mocks him gently, and the troops move on.

1987, Liberty. Frank Ross, now old and worn-out, mans the Liberty Corner gas station. He's drinking heavily, to drown the memories of 'Nam and his guilt for being the only son of Liberty to survive the war. As the dry heat overcomes him, Frank slumps onto the desk, dreaming of fire, 'Nam, and a machine-gun thrust into a young girl's face...

John Constantine only intended to make a quick visit to the states - a brief stopover to check on the Swamp Thing and then he'd be straight back to England and Zed - but an article in the National Enquirer about Liberty and the Resurrection Crusade made him change his plans. Now he steps off the interstate bus and into Liberty Corner, where a sleeping Frank Ross is fitfully reliving a Vietcong attack. Ross wakes suddenly, and - mistaking John for a Vietcong soldier - grabs his gun from the desk and opens fire. John jumps just in time to avoid the first two shots, but Ross is too fast and before John knows what's happening, the pistol has been thrust into his mouth. Frank Ross seems to be in some waking dream as he hisses "Here's yours, yellow bitch!" and cocks the hammer. It looks like curtains for John, until Frank's wife Nancy runs into the shop and shouts his name. Suddenly back in the real world, Frank drops the gun and collapses into Nancy's arms.

John guilt-trips Nancy into driving him into Liberty. On the way, she explains that a TV preacher working for the Resurrection Crusade has promised the old folks of Liberty that he'll bring back their MIA sons with the power of prayer. John senses trouble brewing...

...and it is. Frank Ross - the only person in Liberty not watching the evangelist on television - wakes up with the knowledge that somewhere out there, his men are waiting. As the past bleeds into the present, Ross collects his guns and steps into the Vietnam night to join his platoon.

Inside, Nancy gives John the run-down on the Resurrection Crusaders' Pyramid of Prayer - a complicated chain-letter scam that promises miracles for those who work their way up to the top of the pyramid. Suddenly, in the middle of the evangelist's preaching, the boys from Liberty step into the room. The old folks get up to greet their long lost sons, but Constantine - who's more familiar with the dangers of the supernatural - makes a break for it. He's already at the door by the time the first shots ring out.

1968, Vietnam. The boys from Liberty have made their way into the little Vietnamese hovel - nothing but old Vietnamese, save for a young man and woman. The squad starts smashing the place up, burning the buildings and rounding up the gooks. The young man makes a break for it, but before Lt. Ross can shoot him down, the girl pushes his gun aside and sends the bullets flying wild. He slaps her across the face and turns back to his troops.

1987, Liberty. The motel is burning, and the old folks have been rounded up by their sons. They try to plead for mercy, but their boys don't seem to hear them. John makes a break for it but Frank Ross sees him and prepares to gun him down. Nancy comes to the rescue again, pushing Frank's gun away and sending the bullets off their mark. John dives into the corn as Frank - still thinking that he's in Vietnam - backhands his wife and returns to his men. He tells them to move the prisoners out, then drags Nancy by her hair into the corn.

1968, Vietnam. His men safely off in the distance, Frank turns on the Vietnamese girl and begins to strip her of her clothes.

1987, Liberty. Frank throws Nancy to the ground and - reliving a crime committed twenty years before - rapes her.

Watching from the corn, John Constantine tells himself that he should do something. But fear of becoming caught up in their war paralyses him and he draws away from the crime. In the distance, lightning crackles across the sky.

1968, Vietnam. In the distance, explosions crackle across the sky. Frank Ross watches from the jungle as the Vietcong mortars light up the night. He knows that his men must be dead, and it's his fault for sending them on. He unpacks his radio and calls for a napalm airstrike. As he signs off, he turns to see the Vietnamese woman holding a gun to his head.

1987, Liberty. Battered and bleeding, Nancy Ross fires the pistol into Frank's thigh. He slaps the gun from her hands and puts his machine-gun to her face, hissing: "Here's yours, yellow bitch!" The gunshots break John's paralysis.

1968, Vietnam. There are mortar explosions on one side and angry Vietcong on the other, but Craig Anders and the Liberty boys are miraculously still alive. They duck down and start to fight back. Meanwhile, hundreds of feet above, the planes are approaching for the airstrike...

1987, Liberty. Frank Ross is finally awake. As he cries over his wife's body, John steps out from the corn and decides to get Frank back on track. Putting on his best American accent, John commands Frank to get back with his platoon. Frank hears him as a drill instructor, and re-enters his waking dream. He enters the corn and heads up towards Liberty Corner gas station with John in tow.

The rest of Frank's men are in the gas station forecourt with their surviving prisoners. John heads towards a bridge for cover as Frank Ross steps into the middle of the road and riddles an oncoming petrol tanker with bullets.

Out of control, the tanker swerves and falls onto the gas pumps--

1968, Vietnam. --and Frank's airstrike falls down onto the boys from Liberty.

1987, Nebraska. John's managed to hitch far away from Liberty, not staying to count the bodies. As he watches a 'Nam vet with his family, he reflects on the horrors that the Resurrection Crusade set upon Liberty, noting that somewhere along the line he stopped being an observer and became a witness. So, he wonders, where's the court?

Issue synopsis written by James Wilkinson

[ Previous Month's Issue ]            [ Next Month's Issue ]
Frank Ross in Vietnam, '68.

And Frank Ross in Liberty, '87.

John's about to bite the bullet...

Until Frank's wife intervenes.

The troops take Liberty.

Frank rapes a Vietnamese woman--

--and shoots his wife.

Apocalypse Now.

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