Right. In case you missed it, here’s PART ONE
And just so we know what the score is, here’s a list of things we’ll keep track of as we go along. Just for laughs, eh?
Plot - What happens in the story worth noting, without giving away too much. Our job isn’t to tell you the story. It’s to help those who read the story keep track of the details. Go buy the comics and read them yourself, you lazy, cheap wankers!
Prominent People - Characters whom we see more than once. First appearances, mentions of reoccurring characters, anything on the hierarchy of Hell and real life figures drawn into the story and anyone else who deserves noting.
Deaths - Any deaths of prominent people or any particularly gory and interesting ways of dying. This is a horror book, after all. Also, a running tally of all the times John has directly been involved in a friend or family member’s death. Deaths of enemies, except where John directly murdered the person in question, are not counted. Instances where it is unclear if the person died (Talbot in Issue #22) or where they probably would have died with our without John showing up (i.e. Una in Issue #25) are not counted.
John Screws Up - This happens quite a bit, but anytime John is directly or indirectly responsible for some bad thing or another happening, we note it. We advise not making a drinking game of this for two reasons – first, you’ll get pissed very quickly and be unable to keep reading and second, because you might spill lager on your comics!
Pub Trivia - Anything else worth noting that doesn’t fit one of the other categories.
Simple enough, right? And now, a few words about...
The Garth Ennis Run
As most would have it, these are the golden years of Hellblazer. And for once, I agree with most. What Delano built, Ennis built upon. John became more capable, facing greater threats with deader calm than ever before – the gift of his merging with his better half? Perhaps. But in the end, it doesn’t matter. For John Consantine, however capable or however much the crusader, was still the same smartass bastard we all knew and loved.
Of course Ennis had a tough time of it coming right off the back. As he notes in the introduction to the Dangerous Habits TP, Delano had done so much with John that Ennis was at a loss as to where to start with his new adventures. And then he hit on it – the only thing left to do was to kill him.
Hellblazer #41 – The Beginning of The End (Dangerous Habits - Part One)
Plot - Diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, John starts making arrangements for his death only to find that he doesn’t want to give up yet.
Prominent People - Astra and Thomas Constantine appear for the first time as part of the Ghostly Horde. First appearance of Matt; another lung-cancer victim John meets while inspecting a cancer ward.
Hellblazer #42 – A Drop Of The Hard Stuff (Dangerous Habits – Part Two)
Plot - Desperate for a cure, John travels to Ireland to visit a friend he hopes can help him. But his friend may wind up needing John’s help, as The Devil comes to be given his due.
Prominent People - First appearances of Brendan Finn and The First of The Fallen.
Deaths - Brendan dies peacefully and his soul moves on to Heaven because of John’s actions. Despite this, he’ll occasionally show up in future issues along with the rest of the Ghostly Horde.
John Screws Up - While John bests The First of the Fallen in masterful fashion here, it does make his situation more urgent. After all, John was bound for Hell already if he died and if you’re going to be in prison, best not to piss off the warden.
Hellblazer #43 – Friends in High Places (Dangerous Habits – Part Three)
Plot - With no hope in Hell giving him a new lease on life, John pleads his case to a higher power.
Prominent People - First appearances of the succubus Chantinelle (aka Ellie), the archangel Gabriel (aka The Snob) and neo-Nazi leader Charlie Patterson.
Hellblazer #44 – My Way (Dangerous Habits – Part Four)
Plot - With a plan in mind, John makes his peace with friends and family.
Prominent People - Appearances by Cheryl Masters, Chas Chandler and Matt.
Pub Trivia - The first reference made to Mike Adams – a loanshark Chas knows who has a reputation for doing bad things to people.
Hellblazer #45 – The Sting (Dangerous Habits – Part Five)
Plot - With a slit wrist and Hell to Pay, John attempts the con of a lifetime.
Prominent People - First appearances of The Second and Third of The Fallen.
Pub Trivia - Best known for the last panel, with John flipping off The First of the Fallen. It was also in this issue that people noticed that The First, Second and Third of The Fallen seemed to be very different from the Three shown to be ruling Hell in The Sandman books. This would be explained later in Issue #59, with confirmation that Lucifer and The First of The Fallen are separate beings.
Hellblazer #46 – Falling Into Hell (Dangerous Habits – Part Six)
Plot - Recovering from the bender of a lifetime, John runs into an old friend only to lose another
Prominent People - First appearance of Kit Ryan.
Deaths - Matt dies of violent hemoraging. It’s a bit of a question if this is one small way The Devil is getting back at John or not.
Hellblazer #47 – The Pub Where I Was Born
Plot - An insurance scam goes wrong and one of John’s favorite bars is up in smoke, along with the bar’s manager.
Prominent People - First appearances of Freddie and Laura Collins as well as psychotic thug Joe Hollis.
Deaths - Laura dies rather horrifically in the fire.
Hellblazer #48 – Love Kills
Plot - John investigates the bar burning only to find that someone or something is killing the criminals before he can get to them.
Prominent People - First appearance of Lenny Fisher (an informant)
Deaths - Most everyone involved in the crime is killed, save Quincy, who John “persuades” to rebuild the bar, putting Freddie and Laura to rest.
Hellblazer #49 – Lord of the Dance
Plot - It’s Christmas Eve and John is looking for a gift for Kit. But it’s an odd homeless man with an odder story that inspires John to give a gift that can’t be found in a store.
Prominent People - First appearance of The Lord of the Dance.
Pub Trivia - John and Kit’s first kiss.
Hellblazer #50 – Remarkable Lives
Plot - Called from his bed by a bloody message on the mirror, John is called to an audience with The King of the Vampires
Prominent People - First appearance of The King of the Vampires
Pub Trivia - John and Kit’s “first time” together.
Hellblazer #51 – Counting To Ten
Plot - John’s stuck at the Laundromat with a bunch of old women. A dull night at last? Don’t you believe it.
Pub Trivia - A one-shot written by John Smith, this is the only issue during this period NOT by Garth Ennis.
Hellblazer #52 – The Players (Royal Blood - Part One)
Plot - John is brought in to investigate a number of killings – killings that involve a demon who has possessed a member of Britain’s Royal Family.
Prominent People - First appearance of Sir Peter Marston, the demon Calibraxis; Lord of Blades and Butcher To The Devil’s Court (though we don’t learn his name until the next issue) and The Caligula Club
Pub Trivia - John officially moves in with Kit and makes his promise to leave her out of the magic end of his life.
Hellblazer #53 – Revelations (Royal Blood – Part Two)
Plot - John holds a séance to get some answers and finds that, as usual, things are even worse than he thought.
Prominent People - First appearance of Nigel Archer (psychic hippie anarchist), Scot Guard’s Lieutenant David Hezlet, rich layabouts Hugh and Holly Elliot with cameos by Prince Andrew, Duke of York and Charles, Prince of Wales.
Pub Trivia - We find out the name Calibraxis and that he was responsible for the Jack The Ripper killings.
Hellblazer #54 – The Good Old Days (Royal Blood – Part Three)
Plot - John and Nigel plan a trap for Calibraxis as Sir Mastron and Lt. Hezlet plan a trap for them to keep the scandal quiet.
Deaths - Quite a bloody scene as a demonically possessed Prince Charles rips people apart with his bare hands and eats bits of them.
Hellblazer #55 – Dog Eat Dog (Royal Blood – Part Four)
Plot - The plot becomes clear and it’s up to John to stop a mad monarchist from putting a demon on the throne of England.
Deaths - Hugh and Holly Elliot are gunned down by Hezlet. Hezlet has his throat ripped out by a demonically possessed Sir Marston. And Sir Marston finds himself alongside Sir William Withey Gull (the man responsible for unleashing Calibraxis in the time of Jack the Ripper) in Hell after he eats himself to death.
Hellblazer #56 – This Is The Diary of Danny Drake
Plot - A ranting man on the London Underground tells John a tale of a demonically possessed diary and a bargain for incredible luck.
Prominent People - First appearance of Danny Drake and the Triskele, Wyrm Queen of the Succubae
Deaths - Though the story ends before it happens, it is pretty clear that Danny Drake is not long for the world after the last page.
Hellblazer #57 – Mortal Clay
Plot - John and Chas find a mystery after grave robbers try to steal the corpse of Chas’ uncle after his funeral.
Prominent People - First appearance of Dr. Amis
Deaths - John and Chas find Chas’ Uncle Tom dead of a heart attack – one of the few natural deaths in Hellblazer history.
Hellblazer #58 – Body and Soul
Plot - Captured by the corrupt ballistic tester Dr. Amis, John and Chas are in for a painful death. And what is worse, it seems Amis’ experiments are destroying the very souls of the bodies he is destroying
Deaths - Chas beats Dr. Amis to death with the butt of a rifle.
John Screws Up - John told the less spiritual-knowledgeable Chas that he was sure his uncle was in a better place. Given what happens in this story, it was something of a lie, though John could be forgiven for his ignorance at the time he said it – though he doesn’t forgive himself.
Pub Trivia - We find out that Chas’ real name is “Frank William Chandler” but that Chas was a nickname because of him having the same last name as Jimi Hendrix’s manager. It probably made sense at the time. (Also, for those who care to know, “Hendrix” does not trigger a spelling mistake in Microsoft Word 2002)
Hellblazer #59 – Fallen Women (Guys and Dolls, Part One)
Plot - The Devil’s after Chantelle, wanting her as a pawn in some grand plan to catch John. She escapes and warns John, setting the two to plot an escape route for them both.
Prominent People - Appearances by Ellie, Triskele and The Devil.
Pub Trivia - The Devil speaks at length about he political structure of Hell referring to events in the DC Comics Universe - Heaven Standing Alongside Hell during “The War Against Shadow” six years earlier (a reference to Crisis?), Etrigan briefly becoming ruler of Hell, “those endless, bloody triumvirates” and Lucifer swearing revenge on Morpheus and then quitting his position as ruler of Hell (The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes and Seasons of Mist) This issue also confirms that Lucifer Morningstar, the most powerful archangel (and eventual star of his own Vertigo series) is a separate being from The Devil, who fell before him. It also confirms that The Morningstar is less powerful than The Devil.
Hellblazer #60 – Nativity Infernal (Guys and Dolls, Part Two)
Plot - Mostly a story in flashback, we learn of how Ellie came to owe John a debt – and of the deaths of her lover and child. Meanwhile, The Devil plots further as he tends to the torture of a former demon that also fought against John.
Prominent People - First appearance of the Angel Tali and Clive Peters (a demonically possessed child-rapist in Whitechapel).
Deaths - Tali dies, killed by his flaming swords of his fellow angels. His child disappears, presumably killed by the angels as well.
John Screws Up - John uses a protective spell to hide Tali and Ellie from the forces of Hell. It never occurs to him that Heaven would be equally displeased and unforgiving regarding the results of an angel and demon mating.
Pub Trivia - Negral has a cameo, having apparently been made mortal to experience the 10,000 year Demonic training process again as punishment for having failed to stop John.
Hellblazer #61 – She’s Buying A Stairway To Heaven (Guy’s and Dolls – Part Three)
Plot - With The Devil and Triskele on their trail, John must attempt a desperate plan to save Ellie’s soul and his own.
Deaths - Triskele is beheaded by the Devil and her head put on a spike. Agony and Ecstasy – unseen since Issue #12 when they took Negral – suffer a similar fate after they attempt to take The Devil to be tortured in John’s stead, via the “Rule Of Three Defeats” that John used to beat Negral.
Pub Trivia - John cuts a masking sigil into Ellie’s soul that prevents her from going to Hell but also protects her from being found by anyone. The Devil breaks the rules of Hell for the first time here, killing Agony and Ecstasy for noting that he suffer John’s punishment having been bested by him three times (saving Brendan Finn, saving himself and saving Ellie)
Hellblazer #62 – End of the Line
Plot - A family visit sends John after a magician with designs on his niece and to visit another old family member as Kit teaches Gemma you don’t need magic to get back at the girl who stole your boyfriend.
Prominent People - Appearances by Tony Masters, Cheryl Masters and Gemma Masters. First and last appearance of Harry Constantine.
Deaths - 12 on the dead tally - John kills his undead relative Harry Constantine, whacking his head off with a shovel.
Pub Trivia - The title of this issue is a bit of a double pun, at this issue was indeed the last Hellblazer published on the DC Mature Readers line. It would become a Vertigo book starting with the next issue.
Hellblazer #63 - Forty
Plot - John’s ready to celebrate his Fortieth birthday alone and miserable. But the Lord of the Dance has other plans and gives John a party he’ll never forget.
Prominent People - First appearances of Janine (liquor store owner), Scottish football hooligan Header, Mange(a magician trapped in the body of a rabbit) and Vicar Rick (aka Rick The Vic) Nielsen. Cameos by Ellie, Nigel Archer, The Lord of the Dance, Zatanna, The Phantom Stranger and Swamp Thing.
John Screws Up - John relieves himself on the shoes of a, for once, just trying to be friendly Phantom Stranger. He also passes out before getting a chance to clean up Kit’s apartment, leaving a mess of booze, pot and rabbit droppings.
Pub Trivia - This was the first issue of Hellblazer published under the Vertigo imprint. Odd, as it contains the largest number of DC Comics character cameos of any issue ever. Header also makes reference to Chas’s loan-shark Mike Adams, and how before Header killed another friend of John’s (Terry Butcher) for sleeping with both his daughters (Siamese twins), Mike Adam’s cut off most of the Terry Butcher’s penis.
Hellblazer #64 – For God And Country (Fear and Loathing – Part One)
Plot - The Archangel Gabriel experiences doubt regarding “his Father’s” righteousness when faced with the revelation that he’s been associating with racists and meets a nice mortal girl who he can talk to about his doubts. Meanwhile, neo-Nazi leader Patterson – whose plans have been disrupted by Gabriel’s doubts - plans to strike at John through an attack on Kit
Prominent People - First appearances of Dez Ridley (an old friend of John’s) and George Ridley (Dez’s younger brother)
Pub Trivia - John and Rick complete their bargain from last issue – Two Grand and a jar of angel semen in exchange for a pocket-sized Bible made from foreskins.
Hellblazer #65 – London Kills Me (Fear and Loathing – Part Two)
Plot - Kit handles the thugs sent after her easily. So easily, that Patterson sends thugs after John himself. Meanwhile, Gabriel finds romance with Julie during a walk in the park.
Pub Trivia - Reference is made to Joe Hollis from #47-48, when George calls a friend about getting a “sawed-off” being held for Joe Hollis.
Hellblazer #66 – Down To Earth (Fear and Loathing – Part Three)
Plot - At the mercy of the neo-Nazis, John is helpless but to wait as his plans unfold without him. Julie, who was really Ellie in disguise, cuts the heart out of Gabriel after sleeping with him – a crime that gets Gabriel kicked out of Heaven and puts him at John’s mercy.
Deaths - 13 on the dead tally. Dez is killed by the neo-Nazis, his face cut apart and left to bleed to death after a savage beating. Charlie Patterson and some of his men are gunned down by an angry George
Hellblazer #67 – Dear John
Plot - John may have an angel at his command, but what does it matter with Kit moving to Belfast and out of his life?
Pub Trivia - The infamous issue where John becomes homeless after Kit dumps him.
Hellblazer #68 – Down All The Days
Plot - John sinks lower and lower into alcoholism as The King of the Vampires comes to London.
Prominent People - The King of the Vampires appears. First appearance of Darius (a lover of the King of the Vampires) and Davy (a homeless male prostitute).
Pub Trivia - The King of the Vampires refers to the events of Royal Blood (52-55)
Hellblazer #69 – Rough Trade
Plot - The King of the Vampires finds John, unprotected in a back alley. And he’s hungry for the blood of a magus.
Prominent People - First and last appearance, in flashback, of John’s great-grandfather William Constantine. Janine, the liquor store owner from #63. also appears at the end of the issue.
Deaths - 14 and 15 on the dead tally. Davy is killed because of his proximity to John. The King of the Vampires dies due to the fire in John’s demon-tainted blood. Darius also commits suicide in a manner that evokes the name of Captain Oates.
Vertigo Jam #1 – Tainted Love
Plot - John shares stories and a bottle with another homeless man, telling him the story of how magic screwed up the life of a woman he knew and the friend she was dating.
Prominent People - First appearances of Seth (John’s womanizing friend) and Annette. Cameo by The Third of the Fallen.
Deaths - Seth bleeds to death after the unkindest cut of all and Annette is seen to have committed suicide shortly after.
Pub Trivia - This story is included in the Hellblazer: Tainted Love TP between issues #69 and #70
Hellblazer #70 - Heartland
Plot - Kit returns home to her family in Belfast and tries to adjust to a life without John Constantine.
Prominent People - First appearances of Claire Ryan (Kit’s younger sister), Peter Ryan (Claire’s twin brother), Ann (Claire’s friend), Sean (Ann’s husband) and Neil (Claire’s friend, who has a crush on Kit)
Pub Trivia - This is the first issue of Hellblazer in which John does not appear.
Hellblazer #71 – Finest Hour
Plot - Inspired by the psychic vision of a doomed pilot’s final moments, John finds the will needed to clean himself up.
Prominent People - First and last appearance of Sergeant Jamie Kilmartin
Hellblazer Special #1 - Confessional
Plot - John has a run-in with a pedophilic priest from his past – one who has also crossed paths with The First of the Fallen.
Prominent People - First and last appearance of Father Tolly
Deaths - Father Tolly commits suicide by putting pencils in his eyes and head-butting a pew.
Pub Trivia - John hitch-hiked to London in October 1969, and picked-up girls by claiming to be Paul McCartney’s cousin. Also, this story is included at the end of the Hellblazer: Tainted Love TP.
Hellblazer #72 – Brave New World (Damnation’s Flame – Part One)
Plot - Seeking an escape, John journeys to New York City. But an old associate is out for revenge and John is so very, very vulnerable.
Prominent People - First appearance (in the flesh and in the flashback, at least) of Papa Midnite’s sister Cedella. Also the first appearance of Peter (a barman John met ten years earlier), Zeerke (a thug working for Midnite) and The Moon Child, Private Brown, The One Last Trive, The Streetsigns of Manhattan, The Greenbacks (several manifestations of the American Hell) and the ghost of John F. Kennedy. The First of the Fallen also turns in a cameo as Papa Midnite turns in a full performance.
Hellblazer #73 – Broadway The Hardway (Damnation’s Flame – Part Two)
Plot - John witch-walks through a hellish parody of America, fighting the cannibals of Central Park, flying Greenbacks and making an unlikely ally in a dead President.
Prominent People - Appareances by The Greenbacks, The Streetsigns of Manhattan and Papa Midnite, as well as JFK.
Hellblazer #74 – Trail of Tears (Damnation’s Flame – Part Three)
Plot - John C and John K travel to reclaim the stolen Throne of America and John learns who was responsible for him being trapped in the Nightmare America.
Prominent People - JFK and Papa Midnite appear. The Moon Child, Private Brown, The One Last Tribe and Cedella also appear.
Hellblazer #75 – Special Double-Size Issue - Hail To The Chief (Damnation’s Flame – Part Four)
Plot - Staring down an irate tribe of Native Americans and facing the First of the Fallen on unfamiliar territory, John strives to escape from Hell while honoring his commitments. Now if he can only do it before his body is destroyed on Earth.
Prominent People - The First of the Fallen appears in the form of Abraham Lincoln. Peter the Bartender, Zeerke, Cedella, Papa Midnite and JFK appear as well.
Deaths - Papa Midnite seemingly commits suicide in this issue, but this would later be ret-conned by the Hellblazer: Papa Midnite mini-series. JFK also appears to go mostly brain-dead, his arms ripped off by The First of The Fallen.
John Screws Up - John flees, rather than aid JFK in the fight with The Devil Lincoln.
Pub Trivia - This is the issue where John first briefly adopts a black trenchcoat.
Hellblazer #75 – Special Double-Size Issue - Act of Union
Plot - Another flashback story, this details the first meeting between Kit and John, back in the days when she was Brendan Finn’s girl.
Hellblazer #76 – Confessions of an Irish Rebel
Plot - Stuck on a layover in Dublin, John gets a visit from a ghostly visitor. A pleasant one, for once.
Prominent People - Brendan Finn returns from the dead for a staring role. Ric the Vic and Header have Cameos as does Jerry O’Flynn (from Hellblazer #23)
Deaths - 16 on the Dead Tally. In Flashback, John and Brendan’s friend Cox dies in a horribly unmanly fashion, getting his nuts blown off by Zeerke.
Pub Trivia - Quite a bit of flashback and back-story reference here. John refers to the deaths of Jerry O’Flynn (#23), Terry Butcher (#63) Sir Marston (#55), the burning down of the Northhampton (#47-48). Zeerke (#72) is mentioned in passing and mention is made of a gun called the Ace of Winchesters, which would appear again later in Ennis’s Hitman series. This issue also marks the first time we’ve seen a supporting cast member from the Delano run who wasn’t a member of John’s family interacting with members of the Ennis supporting cast.
Hellblazer #77 – And The Crowd Goes Wild
Plot - Chas tells a story of how John cheated death to some mates in a pub. Little does he know that John is about to enter into his life again.
Prominent People - First appearance of Beano, the drummer for John’s old band. Cameo appearances at John’s funeral by Ric the Vic, Tony Masters, Gemma Masters, Cheryl Masters, Richie Simpson, Emma, Ray Monde, Kit Ryan, Brendan Finn and Header.
Hellblazer #78 – Rake At The Gates of Hell, Part One
Plot - John sets to work his latest plan to beat the Devil, stopping to help rescue an old girlfriend fallen on hard times. Meanwhile, the First of the Fallen is approached by a young demoness with a plan on how to best Constantine once and for all. And George goes on the run after killing the neo-Nazi cop who killed his mother and set him up for a fake drug bust.
Prominent People - John’s ex-girlfriend Helen, Helen’s pimp Phil, John’s current girlfriend Sarah, Sarah’s sister Helen (a nurse), Detective Constable Kenfield and George Ridley’s mother appear for the first time. Header, Ric the Vic, Chas, The First of the Fallen, a demoness claiming to be Astra (the girl John failed to save at Newcastle) all have brief appearances.
Deaths - 17 on the Dead Tally. Header is shot in the chest helping John burgle the Caligula Club for some magic pages. George’s mother dies after being pushed down the stairs and George shoots the cop (Detective Shaw) who pushed her, starting himself down a path very much like John Constantine’s.
Pub Trivia - This was the first Hellblazer mini-series to lack individual chapter titles.
Hellblazer #79 - Rake At The Gates of Hell, Part Two
Plot - John continues his plotting as Helen goes into withdrawl as her pimp tries to track her down. George finds out that his friends are planning a riot against the police. And The Devil destroys the balance of Hell forever.
Prominent People - First appearance of Jo (a doctor), Zap (not Spaz), Shelly, and Frank (friends of George). Brief appearances by Lenny Fisher (tortured by Phil), Nigel Archer, the former Archangel Gabriel
Deaths - The First of the Fallen kills the Second and Third of the Fallen, having realized that the “balance” of Hell was a sham to keep any one of them from taking over.
John Screws Up - John leaves Helen unprotected, making her an easy mark when Phil tracks her down.
Hellblazer #80 - Rake At The Gates of Hell, Part Three
Plot - John offers George some help and is refused. Meanwhile, John learns of what happened to Helen and asks Chas to have someone deal with Phil the Pimp. Ric the Vic comes to a messy end that may prove even messier for John. And a full race riot breaks out in London.
Prominent People - First and last appearance of Betsy, Rick the Vic’s girlfriend. Jo, Lucy and Sarah appear, with the later telling off John for his want to try and fix things in people’s lives and making things worse when he tries. The First of The Fallen appears in quite an active role as does The Lord of the Dance.
Deaths - 18, 19 and 20 on the dead tally. Ric the Vic commits suicide to keep the Devil from hurting him, forgetting that suicide is the spiritual equivalent of a “Go Directly To Jail Card”. He winds up in The First of The Fallen’s clutches and tells him of John’s plans. Nigel Archer, who was holding onto the heart of Gabriel for John, is killed off panel. Finally, Gabriel dies licking The Devil’s boots.
Hellblazer #81 - Rake At The Gates of Hell, Part Four
Plot - Phil gets his, but John has little satisfaction. Taking refuge in a Church basement while London burns. Meanwhile, the riots get worse as George finds more and more of his friends die over what he has done. And The Devil and Astra watch and wait for John to come out of hiding.
Deaths - All of George’s friends from two issues previous die during this issue.
Hellblazer #82 - Rake At The Gates of Hell, Part Five
Plot - John has a chance encounter with Kit, who came to say her final goodbye on good terms. And with her kisses still fresh in her mind, John enters the battle field only to find Nigel Archer dead and The Devil waiting.
Prominent People - Kit makes her final non-flashback or special appearance.
Deaths - Although we heard of Nigel’s death two issues earlier, this time we get to see the body.
Hellblazer #83 - Rake At The Gates of Hell, Part Six
Plot - His lung cancer restored and a slow-death ahead of him, The Devil tells John of what he confessed to Father Tolly, not knowing that John has one last con to pull.
Prominent People - The First of the Fallen and Ellie appear. Helen and George appear for the last time.
Deaths - The First of the Fallen is killed, at least temporarily, by Ellie. It turned out she was the Astra demoness all this time.
Pub Trivia - We find out the pages John and Header stole detailed the history of The Fallen. This gave Ellie the knowledge on how to kill the Second and Third of the Fallen (which she gave to The Devil) as well as how to kill The Devil herself.
Plot - Shortly after Kit’s return to Belfast and her family, old wounds are reopen and with it a family trauma.
Prominent People - All of the supporting cast from Hellblazer #70 are back.
Pub Trivia - This story, originally a one-shot special, is included at the end of the Rake at the Gates of Hell TP. It is unclear if it happens before Kit left Belfast to meet John for the last time or after the events of issue #82.
Quite honestly, there’s very little worth skipping and very little that is hard to find in the Ennis run of Hellblazer. Indeed, only issues 47-61 (about 1/3rd) of this period remain uncollected in any TP edition.
The reason for this is probably because the later issues all feature artwork by Steve Dillion, who would go on to work with Garth Ennis on what many consider to be his finest work ever - Preacher. Perhaps the decision to trade these Hellblazer issues may have been based more on selling the series to the fans of Preacher rather than promoting the series itself in a more portable format.
Either way, it is fairly easy to get most of the essential Constantine stories of this period. Dangerous Habits is a fan-favorite and rightly so, having had many parts of it ripped off for the horribly inferior Constantine movie.
Oddly, many important stories – at least in terms of introduced characters – are located in the the uncollected period. I personally recommend that any serious Hellblazer fan collect, at the very least, #49 (The Lord of the Dance’s first appearance), #50 (The King of the Vampire’s first appearance) and #59-61 for the story of how Ellie came to owe John Constantine if you want to fully appreciate the appearances of those characters in the later TP editions that cover 62-83. You owe it to yourself to get the whole set though, as Royal Blood is one of my personal favorite stories of all time.
Sadly, I do think the Ennis run suffered a bit toward the end. Rake at the Gates of Hell, while having many moments of brilliance, also feels severely rushed. The subplot with George and the race riot, while an interesting parallel for how John gets his friends into trouble, really has little to do with the story at hand and would have made a better mini-series. And after the slam-bang-whiz opening where there are several different plots going on at once, everything grinds to a halt to give Kit and John one last bit of rumpy-pumpy in the penultimate chapter.
The Final Analysis
Simply put, most believe Ennis to have been the finest writer to ever handle John Constantine. His detractors may note that he was not as subtle as Delano or that he depended entirely on Judeo-Christian mythology for his stories, rather than using a variety of sources as Delano did. In short, many of these fans either dislike Ennis for being Ennis (i.e. the shock-jock of comic literature) or for not being Delano.
Well, one thing everyone can agree on, fan or detractor, is that he was a major force of influence on John Constantine. His run, continuous for nearly four years (save for one issue) set a benchmark that equaled that set by Delano, starting a tradition of Hellblazer writers whose runs would go 40 issues or thereabouts. And if nothing else, Ennis’ later fame on more outrageous titles would bring attention back to the book where he got his start and create a whole new generation of Hellblazer fans in the process.
Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.