Well this is my two-hundreth book covered for this blog so to celebrate here is some vintage Garth Ennis and a look at the first volume of his run on DC's The Demon series back in the 90's. Ennis was in the middle of a well receieved run on Hellblazer when the opportunity to take on writing duties for a second series came up. Unfortunately it was all superhero stuff, which folk should know by now, Ennis is no big fan of. Then a chance to write The Demon came up, he jumped at the chance and along with artist and regular collaborator John McCrea he gave us his take on Etrigan, a demon who is bound to the soul of an immortal man called Jason Blood. Jason Blood can summon Etrigan to take his place on Earth with the rhyme "Gone, gone O Form of Man. Rise the demon Etrigan" and is replaced by a yellow, cat-like demon with great power who speaks entirely in rhyme. Created by the legendary Jack Kirby, Etrigan fell into disuse until Alan Moore, as part of his general revamping of DC's magical characters in the pages of Swamp Thing, bought him back and made him popular again. Ennis writes very positively of the impact Moore's writing of Etrigan had on him in his introduction to this collected volume and his whole run is dedicated to showing just why Etrigan should be feared and respected as he had undergone some badass decay in the Alan Grant run which came before. We also get the introduction of Tommy Monaghan in The Demon Annual Bloodlines special. I've covered the whole Hitman spin-off series before on this blog, but will include the recap of his introductory issue again so the rest of his appearances in this book make sense. Also as ten issues in total are collected here, I've split it into two parts which means the short "Hell's Hitman" arc will be resolved in my next post. There are some leftover plot threads and characters from Alan Grant's run on the book, which has not been collected, but Ennis incoprorates them gracefully into the storylines rather than do a full continuity reboot. Jason Blood/Etrigan are also now based in Gotham City, a wretched hive with opportunities for helltastic fun aplenty. So without further ado, Ennis and McCrea's The Demon (if you're wondering where issue #41 is, it was a fill-in involving neither Ennis or McCrea).
The book begins with a biker gang invading and descrating a church. The leader, Johnny Basterson makes an offering of his soul to summon a demon called "Brandor". Johnny convulses then reveals to his gang that Brandor is now in control of Johny's body much to their delight as this will make their gang the top one now.
|Heeeere's Johnny, I mean Brandor.|
His summoning brings forth a demon called "Rectomm", leader of an opposing gang and somewhat pissed at Etrigan for slaughtering his gang, eating his brother, fed his mother to the Hell Gerbils of Acheron and stole his girlfriend. He calls Etrigan a "Felcher" and I can't believe Ennis managed to get that reference into a PG rated comic!
Etrigan punches him a few times and threatens him with more violence if he doesn't give up who has taken over Johnny. We then cut to Brandor/Johnny and his gang riding through Gotham on their way to the cathedral. On a roof is Etrigan watching:
Etrigan: "But there's hellspawn in Gotham - I must do what I can - 'cause this towns for no demon.. save Etrigan".
He goes to the cathedral where Johnny/Brandor plan on opening a gateway to hell. Usually a holy place would be somewhere Etrigan cannot go, but because Gotham is such a faithless town he can enter.
|One way to exorcise a demon.|
Etrigan: "You've had your fun with your messing about. But now it is time to get the hell out."
Etrigan then bites Brandor's head off and turns his attention to Johnny. He blasts him with his flame, burning Johnny to a crisp while quipping, "here comes the toast rider." Back in hell, the biker gang resign themselves to more boredom, while on Earth a grinning Etrigan walks away from the fires his flame attack caused, "don't leave priests dead and churches defiled. Or you'll meet one who is truly wild."
Now The Demon Annual #2 and it's a Bloodlines special. Bloodlines was DC's 1993 line wide attempt attempt to create a whole batch of XTREME '90's heroes. As we see in this chapter, aliens feeding off people's spinal fluid accidentally trigger superpowers in a small minority of people instead of killing them. The roster of heroes it produced was pretty lack lustre, only Tommy "Hitman" Monaghan made any kind of an impact getting his own brilliant series a few years later. The rest of the Bloodlines heroes fell into obscurity and were bought back to be killed by Superboy Prime in Infinite Crisis.
|Tommy gets his spine chomped.|
Tommy escapes the hospital and goes to his friends Pat's house to get tooled up. He then declares himself "not Tommy, Pat. Hitman". But this ID is rarely used again. He's tends to be referred to as "a hitman" rather than "the Hitman" which he later declares an embarrassing name in his next appearance in The Demon: Hell's Hitman arc and it would be dropped completely along with the red scarf he wears for his own series.
The man he was going to kill before it munched his and Tommy's spines was a mobster called Rober Dubelz. His conjoined twin sons Moe and Joe was revenge on the monster and Tommy and pit out a contract on him. Tommy decides to crash the funeral and deal with the twins. As he observes the guests arrive he sees Jason Blood, trying to read his mind leaves him shaken. Glonth then crashes the wake and so does Tommy.
|Glonth vs. Etrigan|
Glonth now outmatched, flees, while Moe Dubelz bellows that he'll have his revenge on Tommy. Tommy and Jason Blood both leave the funeral and Tommy tries to read Jason's mind and is shocked at what he finds.
Jason Blood: "It's not always a good idea to go peering into the dark. Sometimes you might not like what you see."
Tommy: "And sometimes, Mr. Blood. Sometimes, you ain't got a choice."
And the Annual ends. It's a great intro for the character of Tommy, and establishes characters and plot threads that get picked up three years later when Tommy gets his own series.
The "Hell's Hitman" arc starts next in Jason Blood's flat, on the sofa are two living cushions Harry and Katarina who are a couple (these are leftovers from Alan Grant's run). Katarina wonders why Jason is so broody, Harry says that it's because of Etrigan. Currently Jason is defying Etrigan's request to manifest and help him take down a demon called Asteroth.
Etrigan: "So pay the piper Jason Blood! Or I'll turn thy mind to boiling mud! I'll scream all night, and then all day - 'til for a rubber room you'll pray!"
But Jason calmly calls Etrigan's bluff saying if he drives him mad he won't be able to say the words that allow Etrigan to walk the Earth. He doesn't want Etrigan fighting an arch-demon in Gotham because of all the collateral damage he'll cause.
|Jason, the cushions and Etrigan.|
We then cut to Asteroth, a demon in a natty suit who knows Etrigan is coming now. His human right hand man draws his gun for taking on Etrigan but Asteroth has a better idea of how to deal with him, guns being useless against demons. He orders the "commandos" to be put in position.
Etrigan in a hooded cloak, is attempting to go undercover to get information on Asteroth's whereabouts in a bar. But everyone in the bar pulls a gun at the mention of Asteroth and the barman fires a shotgun in Etrigan's face. Which does nothing to him. Etrigan burns the flesh off the mans arms then tears his way through the bar. When everyone is either dead or unconcious, he neck-lifts the barman and questions him again.
Etrigan wants to know where he is and what he is doing and why everyone was protecting his anonymity. The barman says Asteroth moved in a couple of months ago and has been undertaking some twisted killings as he established himself in the underworld. He is located in a place on "twelfth and third", so Etrigan sets off to confront him.
|Remiel and Duma.|
Remiel: "By the creator! Why did I have to be exiled with him? What was wrong with the Angel of Intriguing Converstation? Or even the angel of amusing anecdotes? Even the Angel of Scrabble would be better than this! But nooo I had to end up with the Angel of Silence!"
Heh. Now we return to Etrigan who makes his assault on Asteroth's base. But Asteroth has prepared. There are priests and choirboys there, the priests throw sharpened crosses and holy water at Etrigan and the choir sing, bringing him pain in his head. Asteroth masquerades as an honest businessman who has made big donations to a televangelist's church to get this holy protection.
Etrigan, stabbed by the crosses and with patches of skin melted off by the holy water, manages to blast his way out before his head gets chopped off. On his knees outside, he says the words, "G...g..gone Oh wretched Etrigan... Take refuge now in form of man". And he returns to hell with Jason Blood back on earth.
|Holy commandos give Etrigan serious pain.|
We then cut to Jason bidding farewell to a man called Randu, saying Etrigan's new role means he's lost all hope of ridding himself of him. He tells Randu to take Harry and Katarina and leave, "goodbye old friend". Now he has to inform his sort-of girlfriend Glenda, which he does via an ansaphone message, telling her to never call or come to his home again, "don't look back."
Etrigan: "And Asteroth fills me with mirth! He thinks he'll bring Hell on Earth? He doesn't know me very well - for I'm the one! I'll give 'em hell!"
We then cut to Asteroth musing about how tommorrow he's going to finish the summoning of Gotham's demon, "the blackest of the city-demons" by creating the final part of the "Lodestar Daemonique" and that he will then have his "Hell on earth."
He's interupted from his reverie by the Reverend Frukker, it's his "Church of the Blessed Televangelist" Asteroth has been donating large sums to which has gained him the holy protection he used against Etrigan.
We then see Glenda trying to get in contact with Jason Blood, but instead she is faced with Etrigan. And he has some news for her; she's pregnant. When she and Jason slept together, although they took precautions, Etrigan intefered and now she's up the duff with Jason's kid much to Etrigan's glee as he has yet another way to make Jason's life a misery.
|Glenda gets the good/bad news.|
Etrigan: "For Blood is lonely, cold and hurt, as low as he can go... But, Etrigan was never one to put on half a show! A thousand years of hate have I, a charnel rose that's bloomed... and I plan to see this man well and truly doomed!"
Back in the mortal realm Tommy Monaghan is using his mind reading skills to win at poker. Etrigan comes calling, Etrigan wants his help in taking on Asteroth. Tommy says he'll do it for twenty thousand dollars, which Etrigan reluctantly agrees to and they make plans to hit Asteroth the next day.
Back with Glenda and she finally gets to talk to Jason after letting herself into his flat. He tells her that he's cutting ties because of Etrigan becoming Hell's Hitman which is going to mean increased danger to those around him. She blurts out that she's pregnant, which renders him speechless. Then he says it makes no difference. He can't break his link with Etrigan though he's searched everywhere for a way to do it that won't result in his real age of one thousand, one hundred and fifty-seven years suddenly catching up with him. Even though Glenda loves him, he can't even bring himself to hold her now.
|O Jason U so moody.|
Etrigan is back on earth and goes to Jason's flat where Harry the cushion is back without Katarina. Apparently she fell in love with Randu's couch, so Harry had Glenda bring him back to Jason's place. Then Etrigan feels something in his cloak's hood and yanks out a goofy looking creature which hitched a ride back from Hell.
In Noonan's bar, Dum and Dee are telling Tommy about all the places Asteroth has had people buried in concrete with symbols scratched in the concrete afterwards. They've been placed all over Gotham all equal distance from his base in the centre. Tommy read their minds and finds out they want to take over once Asteroth is dealt with and they'll kill Tommy as well. They ask to come along and help and Tommy agrees knowing to be ready for them once it's all over.
|Drinking with Dee and Dum.|
Tommy, Dee and Dum investigate the site of where Asteroth had one bunch of people buried in concrete, it has weird symbols scratched in it. Tommy uses his X-ray vision to confirm there are bodies inside, "better call The Demon" he says.
Etrigan is currently in Jason's kitchen talking with Harry the cushion, he also has the weird, goofy thing stuffed in the microwave and is repeatedly frying it (it's immortal). He's punishing it from escaping from hell via Etrigan's hood, but the thing says he wasn't supposed to be in hell in the first place.
|Asteroth practising his eeeevil act.|
Meanwhile Reverend Frukker is giving mass, and lined up is Etrigan who grins and blasts all the ministers and so on standing round the Reverend. When Frukker says this is holy ground and he shouldn't be here, Etrigan sneers a religion based on squeezing money out of it's congregation is not holy.
Then he grabs Frukker by the nose and tells him Asteroth is a demon. Frukker doesn't believe him, Etrigan just says:
Etrigan: "If this demon's word you doubt then seek your charming buddy out... you think he's just a business boss. See what he thinks of the Holy Cross."
He then transforms into Jason Blood and asks if this is where he makes a donation. Later Tommy over hears the right-hand man recruiting criminals to help out. He decides to take them out and flings the right-hand man through a car window and jams a pistol in his mouth.
Tommy says nothing as the man tries desperately not to think about where the final showdown is taking place. But the location "St. Jacks" leaks out and grimly Tommy pulls the trigger decorating the car interior with blood.
|Interrogation, Hitman style.|
We then have a quick check-in with Jason and Glenda, she yells at him for putting on his cold self to her. Then says the baby and she will do just fine. "You know the way out" she says as she turns away. He leaves, thinking how much he wants to say he loves her and will protect her from Etrigan, but he knows not to make promises he can't keep.
He becomes Etrigan again, who prowls the roof tops towards St. Jack's cemetary. Already waiting there are Tommy, Dee and Dum. Etrigan arrives and shoos Dee and Dum away, then yells at Tommy for getting drunk on the job and tries to cut the money he's going to pay him to five thousand. "The deal was twenty" insists Tommy.
Then Frukker shows up and races towards Asteroth. He holds up a crucifix to him and Asteroth is merely bemused. Frukker stammers in embarassment and Asteroth leads him inside the church, then Frukker hands the crucifix to Asteroth who absently minded takes it. And his hand and arm burst into flame. "A-ha!" says Frukker. "Oh-ho!" says an furious Asteroth who transforms and punches Frukker so hard it breaks his neck and kills him.
|Asteroth's true nature discovered too late.|
Etrigan is pleased by this, someone runs in to tell Asteroth what has happened but he says it doesn't matter. The final sacrifice has been accepted, "The lodestar is complete! The gate is open! Rise the Gothodemon!" And a huge black shape rises over the church. "Fifty-thousand!" says Tommy and here on that cliffhanger we take our leave for a while. To be continued.
|The Gothodaemon arises...|