HellBlazer #8 HELLBLAZER #8
Intensive Care

Writer : Jamie Delano
Art : John Ridgway
Art : Alfredo Alcala
Cover Artist : Dave McKean
Colors : Lovern Kindzierski
Letters : John Costanza
Editor : Karen Berger

Issue Synopsis : Somewhere in a Glastonbury church, a young girl called Mary watches the snow fall across Britain. She dimly remembers another time, when she called herself Zed and chose her own destiny. But those days are gone, as is her will to disobey. She follows Elder Martin, her father and superior, into a hall filled with Resurrection Crusaders all rapturously watching a preacher. As the preacher decries the world's acceptance of liberal mores and descent into violence, Mary is baptised and bows down before the congregation. The preacher tells them that humanity cannot wait for Armageddon any longer, that the Crusaders must prove to God that they are ready and willing to face The End, and that Mary will be the vessel through which God will come back to them. To a chorus of Hallelujahs, the crowd raise Mary above their heads and carry her through the chapel doors, down to a basement where sinister surgeons prepare to operate...

John Constantine opens his eyes to find himself in a tiny, cramped jail cell. As he desperately tries to figure out what's happening, footsteps outside his door tell him that he has company. He curls up foetally in a corner as the door opens to reveal two guards, haloed by a blinding light. Spitting insults, they drag Constantine out of his cell and into a prison corridor. The air is filled with screams as baying prisoners reach out of their cells, clawing at the air in an attempt to grab Constantine and rip him apart. The guards push John down into a seculded cellar where they chain him to a pipe, telling him that he is to be punished for what he did to a little girl in Newcastle. Unable to defend himself, John can only watch in horror as they bring out a pair of electrodes...

John's eyes peel open once again and he now finds himself strapped to a hospital bed with two wires taped to his head, and a portly man with glasses stood beside him. John asks the man - one Dr. "Piggy" Huntoon - what he's doing there. Huntoon replies that his job is to cure John of his insanity, to drive from him the delusions that have gripped him ever since Newcastle. Constantine has a vision of a little girl transforming into a grotesque demon and tries to explain to Huntoon what had happened - something about Gary Lester's cowardice leading to the possessed girl's death. Huntoon, unimpressed with Constantine's mad babble, prepares to apply electroshock therapy. As the first terrible bolt of electricity crackles down Constantine's spine, he wakes again.

Once again he is in a hospital bed, but this time his body is encased in plaster and bandages, with tubes and metal bars of varying descriptions protruding from all parts of his body. He gingerly recalls how he got into this situation: after Richie Simpson's death, John found himself haunted once again by the ghosts of the Newcastle Crew. Suffering a panic attack, John made for the nearest door - forgetting that he was on a train travelling at tens of miles an hour. As he slipped into unconsciousness, Swamp Thing appeared to him and moved his shattered body to safety. Constantine looks around the room (at least, as much as his fractured neck will allow him) and realises that he's being guarded by a policeman who sleeps on a nearby chair. John hears a doctor approach but decides that he's not up to police interrogation just yet, and pretends to sleep. This proves to be a mistake, as the doctor takes advantage of Constantine's unconsciousness by killing the policeman and taking on his true form - that of Nergal, the demonic mastermind behind The Damnation Army.

John's attempt to play possum is foiled when the demon's grotesque prehensile tongue parts his lips and enters his mouth. A revolted John opens his eyes and tells Nergal that he never kisses anyone he hasn't been introduced to. Nergal feigns disappointment that John doesn't remember the phonecall in which he offered a place in the Damnation Army. Constantine turns him down flat, but Nergal tells the magus that John will be doing his bidding whether he wants to or not. Constantine points out that Nergal's turned up a little too late to break his bones, but the demon explains that his intention was never to torture Constantine - after all, he needs the magus in full working order to bring down the Resurrection Crusade. John says that he has no reason to work with the demon, so Nergal offers him a couple: Ray's murder, and Zed's kidnapping. John's horrified to learn of these events, but still refuses to acquiesce, until Nergal threatens to devour the infants in the Maternity Ward below.

Now that he has John's full attention, Nergal begins his story: for millennia the war between Heaven and Hell had been locked in stalemate, until a group of humans known as the Brujera began a civil war in Hell (see Alan Moore's Swamp Thing TPB "A Murder of Crows"). With the enemy busy destroying itself, Heaven made moves on Earth. The result of this was the creation of the Resurrection Crusade. However, the Crusade itself is only one part of a larger plot: a stone discovered in Hell tells of a healing power that is to be concieved on the Winter solstice. Heaven hopes to couple a an angel with a human from the Crusade, thus creating a new Messiah. The Crusade's base of operations is too heavily guarded for even Nergal to enter, so the demon wants to use Constantine as a way of buggering up their plans.

Constantine, realising that Nergal has him over a barrel, agrees. Nergal slips some of his blood into Constantine's IV drip, and after a few minutes' agony his wounds are fully repaired. Nergal warns John of the dangers of betraying him, then takes his leave. With the adrenaline rush of pure evil pumping in his heart, Constantine makes a dramatic leap out of the hospital's window and flees to the big city. But by the time he's back on London's streets, the rush has gone. Realising the dire situation he's found himself in, Constantine lights up a cigarette and heads for America.

Issue synopsis written by James Wilkinson

[ Previous Month's Issue ]            [ Next Month's Issue ]
Zed experiences a laying on of hands.

John's not mad.


Swampy rescues Constantine.

Nergal arrives at John's hospital bed...

...and makes him an offer he can't refuse.

Bad medicine.

The effect of demon blood.

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