So, where were we? This is the second half of my look at the first collected volume of Garth Ennis and John McCrea's run on The Demon, which took place during the 1990's. The Demon in question is Etrigan, a "rhymer" from high up in hell's hierarchy who over a thousand years ago had his soul hitched to that of a morose fellow called Jason Blood by Merlin because reasons. Blood has never aged since, the pay off is merely having his entire existence made a misery by Etrigan who he switches places with by saying the words "Gone, gone O form of Man. Rise the Demon Etrigan" (or varations thereof). This allows Etrigan access to the mortal realm to deal with various villianous devils, monsters, ghouls and other evil paranormal shenanigans which he does for his own amusement. Although in the current arc, the two angels running hell at this point in time (see The Sandman arc "Seasons Of Mist" for why) have appointed him "Hell's Hitman" giving Etrigan more legitimacy (as if he cared about that!). He's currently teamed up with Tommy Monaghan, a human hitman with x-ray vision and telepathy and are taking on a demon called Asteroth who has just summoned Gotham's city demon, "the Gothodaemon". This post completes that arc, then Ennis can't resist going back to his first love, which is military stuff. How does that involve the paranormal? You'll see (it's genius though). And we wrap up this volume with the birth of Etrigan's child down in hell which seems to be part of another plan to ruin Jason Blood's life that has included "interfering" with Jason and his now ex-girlfriend Glenda's safe sex and getting her pregnant too. Now we're all caught up, we can begin.
The gigantic Gothodaemon is now striding about downtown Gotham and no one notices, it fits right in. Oh I'm being silly, mass panic ensues as well as more murder, multilation and suicide than normal as it affects everyone within range, "it holds a city full of hate inside, and everyone it touches feels a vile, persuading whisper...As some say YES."
|Etrigan and Tommy|
Tommy: "Kinda interesting how much it looks like a bat, huh?"
Etrigan: "That's the kind of awkward question most folk would rather you not mention..."
Then Etrigan makes a beeline for where Asteroth is as Tommy deals with the gangsters and holy warriors he has protecting him.
Exhausted by the ritual, Asteroth staggers out of the church he was summoning in. The Gothodaemon is still wandering about, the police car that first catches up with it is told to just follow and observe. Glenda is also following because despite everything she still loves Jason and wants to make sure he's alright as she knows he'll be mixed up in all this.
|Asteroth in trouble.|
Etrigan stands over Asteroth's prone body and laughs, which is cut short by the Gothodaemon breaking through the roof and grabbing him. Tommy sees this can thinks, "guess I can kiss my fifty-thou goodbye". But he carries on wasting Asteroth's minions. One of the warrior priests thinking Tommy is demonic too sprays him with holy water. This of course does nothing except annoy Tommy because the shirt was clean on that morning and he unloads on them. The police arrive and the gangster coningent attack them, and get a similar, ballistic response back.
The Gothodaemon demands to know if Etrigan is trying to stop it. Etrigan just wants to know what the Gothodaemon wants with him, that Etrigan has not yet done anything to it. The Gothodaemon says for someone who feasts on evil and bathes in hatred, Etrigan is a "delicacy".
The Gothodaemon: "Five hundred years ago a man built his house here. He was the first citizen of Gotham. His wife was second. That night he drank to celebrate and strangled her to death. And I was born".
It says that every night the evil carried out in Gotham City trickles down to it and it bathes in it, a half millenia of hatred. And Etrigan is "nothing" compared to that, which is an unwise thing to say to put it mildly.
|Etrigan takes down the Gothodaemon.|
Etrigan: "In God's sweet love men can rejoice - but I ne'er heard his Blessed Voice, speak out and offer me the choice to drink his Blessed Wine... For that's my place within His game, to be cast out and get the blame, for all these mortal acts of shame. You know what I say? Fine."
He then unleashes his flaming breath while explaining to the Gothodaemon as it begins to disintegrate under the searing attack that he not the Gothodaemon is the "King of Hate!" The Gothodaemon shrinks and disperses and Etrigan returns to Asteroth still lying on the church floor. Etrigan gleefully tells him the Gothodaemon wasn't much of an opponent and now he's going to torture Asteroth all night before he returns him to hell.
Tommy has also finished off the mobsters and holy warriors, the police have arrived on the scene at this point so he shoots the guns out of their hands and makes his escape. Dum and Dee think with Asteroth and his mob gone they can take over the Gotham crime scene, but when they bump into the police arrivals that rather puts paid to that idea. Glenda has also found the place, she calls "Jason?" outside the church front door. But only hears "No" from Etrigan as a response and she sadly leaves.
Etrigan is sitting on a rooftop talking to himself. He expresses his joy that Glenda's pregancy is going to result in pain for her, and send Jason insane. He then revels in his new job:
Etrigan: "It's not just Gotham now you see - there's whole wide world out there for me - Where I can hunt and slaughter demon strays. If there's a body count as I'm about it - even better! Come! Let's shout it! Etrigan the Demon's here to stay!"
And that rounds off the "Hell's Hitman" arc. Now let's move on to "Haunted Glory" which is Ennis's way of slyly getting a military story into a series about demons and magic. It stars one of those wonderfully zany Silver Age creations, a Haunted Tank. No really, the Haunted Tank was a WW2 Allied forces tank linked to the ghost of a Confederate general called Jeb Stuart, who Alexander the Great (!) sent to be a guardian of his two namesakes Lieutenant Jeb Stuart and the tank he commanded, the M3 Stuart. The comic was called G.I Combat and the Haunted Tank first appeared in it in 1961. The comic was cancelled in 1987 and it fell into comics limbo (the General being a Confederate might have explained why people weren't in a rush to feature it) but it has had some notable appearences since then, this three part tale being one of them.
This first chapter is drawn by fill-in artists, Denis Rodier and Wayne Faucher. A quick introduction to the Haunted Tank then we join two Germans. A younger one called Bergen and an older one called Von Raddel. He'd been a drooling vegetable since WW2 when he was hit in the head by a bullet from a Russian soldier during a battle outside Kursk where he and his platoon of men had been ambushed and massacred. Bergen had revived his memory and self by showing him a swastika.
Now they are going to revive Hitler's dream, although they have plenty of fascist support already in Europe, Bergen's organisation "Wotan's Fist". Now he wants muscle that Von Raddel can supply. Von Raddel takes out a necklace with a pendant on it and suddenly the dead Nazi soldiers rise up from their battlefield graves.
In Limbo, General Jeb Stuart is reliving his Civil War glories to himself when Etrigan appears and tells him to come with him and "fight the war that never ends." The revival of all the Nazi soldiers has "torn down the walls that keep Earth safe from what's below", and because magick has bought them back, magick will be needed to fight them. The General says he knows his duty, "the haunted tank shall rise again". And it drives itself out of the yard it had been left to rot in.
Back with Jason Blood, he tells Jeb and friends that they are needed to crew the Haunted Tank one last time. It arrives outside much to their surprise and Jeb looks pleased to see it. Back with the Nazi's, the zombies have been loaded into a aeroplane and they are heading for America.
|The Haunted Tank and crew reunited.|
Returning to the Haunted Tank, Jeb sees the General who vouches for Jason. They agree to crew it again, despite Jason's misgivings as to Etrigan's motives. The Nazi plane flies into a US army base in Texas, it came in under the radar and the Americans scramble to be ready for when it lands. It disgorges hundreds of zombies and they find their weapons useless against them. They are massacred and Von Raddel and Bergen find tanks and lots of them.
The next chapter begins at the American Fort Cahaill. The last of the soldiers have been killed and the Nazi zombies are crewing the tanks under Von Raddel's control. While the Haunted Tank's crew get inside, no mean feat when one is fat and the other a paraplegic, Jason demands to know from Etrigan what he wants with, "four geriatrics and an obselete tank." Etrigan says you need magic to fight magic and he can't destroy the Nazi zombies on his own. Angrily Jason says the words and Etrigan manifests.
|Jason is unhappy as usual.|
Etrigan is waiting for the fuel trucks which are traveling by road while the tanks roll across the desert.
Etrigan: "' Deutchsland uber alles' eh? We'll find out if that's true today! This might wreck their well-laid plan. This demon fights for Uncle Sam."
He sees off an attack by some of the zombies following on foot. Then we join Jeb and the gang in the Haunted Tank rattling across the desert.
They come across Etrigan and are freaked out, but The General says Etrigan is on their side. Etrigan points out the fuel tanks to them and so they will target them first. Between the shelling from the Haunted Tank and Etrigan's fire breath, the fuel tanks don't stand a chance and explode.
Bergen and Von Raddel are waiting at the refueling rendevous point and Von Raddel looks for them with a telescope and sees their smoking remains. He finds a town close by they can refuel at, and also kill everyone living there because he's in a bad mood. He spots Etrigan laughing his head off and says he can deal with him, he summons the devil folk of "infernal valhalla" and the ground opens up under Etrigan and he is pulled down. The Haunted Tank crew are on their own and only they can save the town. "Mount up" says Jeb.
|Dragged to Nazi Hell.|
Back on Earth the zombie crewed tanks fire upon the Haunted Tank but all miss. They are lined up in a neat row, and approaching them under cover of all the smoke, the Haunted Tank drives up a ledge and her crew drive it over the Nazi tanks with Jeb dropping grenades inside each one as they go blasting them apart from the inside.
Von Raddel screams at the zombies to destroy it and they fire but hit each other because zombies are pretty stupid. Bergen stays out of the way next to the truck that is full of napalm, saying to himself "this is a nightmare." The Haunted Tank keeps jinking and the Nazis keep missing it.
He fights the Nazi demons as Etrigan pulls himself free of the nails holding him. Etrigan punches they leader then grabs him by the neck and nails exactly how pathetic they are, he says they are not the Kings of Hate, because:
Etrigan: "This is the thrust behind thy ranting: 'He's brown! She's red! His eyes are slanting!' 'Thank god we're better off than her! Those foreigners are worse than curs!' ' My life's become a pile of crap - it's that guy's fault for being black!' ' They come over here and take out jobs!' 'Of course they do you lazy slobs!' Let Etrigan show you the light: That isn't hate... it's naught but spite".
And he rips the demon leader's head right off. Then he climbs onto the back of The General's horse and they depart Nazi hell back to the war going on in a Texas desert.
|The General to the rescue.|
The Haunted Tank has become stuck and the crew are staring to bail, but one is stuck and the other needs someone to carry him. Von Raddel in the last tank bears down on them, they only have one shot, but they make it count and Von Raddel's tank is destroyed although Von Raddel is thrown clear, which allows Jeb to finish him off with the machine gun.
|'Tis but a fleshwound.|
Narrator: "She is old now. She is old, torn and beaten, and she lies beneath the desert skies a thousand miles away from home. She carried four young men to war, and all they asked of her was that she'd bring them through... and everytime she did. Her time will come again".
Damn, it says something about Ennis's writing that he can hit me in the feels over a bloody tank! The final chapter in the collection is a done-in-one story told in voiceover by a P.I called Joseph D. Gunn (this also is drawn by a fill-in artist called Neil Dobbyn). He's composing a letter to someone called "Pete". He has the "craziest" story to tell, and it started that night when he was tracking down and threatening someone for non-payment of debts. He then spots the weird, goofy pink thing (which does seem to be actually called "Thing") going into an off-licence.
He follows and sees it buy a couple of cigars and a bottle of Jack Daniels. When it leaves Joe asks the person manning the counter to tell him about it and doesn't he find it odd. The man says it's nothing compared to all the superheroes and aliens and huge demons kicking about Gotham. Joe then follows Thing back to Jason Blood's flat.
|Harry the cushion spills the beans to Joe.|
He peeks in at what Jason is doing. There is a pentangle on the floor and Jason is looking through a magic mirror. He sighs at the image of a pregnant Glenda and laments he can't protect her from Etrigan. He then uses a little of his blood to bring a small imp to life. It climbs up on his shoulder and Jason commands it to follow Etrigan who is currently in hell and spy on him. The pentangle on the floor will act as a gateway.
Joe then barges in pointing his gun at Jason. He says Jason will work for him now which makes Jason smile in pity. Joe advances on him saying if he doesn't he'll shoot Jason. He is standing in the middle of the pentangle and Jason says "gate". And it starts sucking Joe downwards, he fires a wild shot and destroys the imp on Jason's shoulder, before falling into hell proper.
He comes face-to-face with Baytor the demon of madness. Etrigan arrives via a horned beast and is told the birth of his son is imminent but the mother, the Lady Smegma is dying. Etrigan doesn't care about her, she was a means to an end, getting a son. Joe follows him and hides behind a curtain in the delivery room. Smegma says the baby is too big, she can't push it out.
|Etrigan's son is born.|
Joe: "It was a nightmare. It was every disgusting thing you could imagine. And it was changing itself all the time. Shifting and warping, unfolding more and more gross bits from inside itself...BUt worst of all was its face ... it's awful, terrible face... when it turned round and looked right at me."
Then suddenly Joe is transported back to Jason's flat via the pentangle. In shock he yells at Jason "do you know what that bastard thing's done?" Jason beseeches him to tell what he saw, but Joe just runs back to his office.
We join him as he finishes his letter to Pete. He writes that the idea of that thing coming to Earth is more than he can take. Etrigan is bad enough news, but his son would make life not worth living. He signs off, takes his pistol, puts it in his mouth and blows his brains out. The End. And on that somewhat depressing note we come to the end of this collection.
|Joe can't live with what he saw.|