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Hellblazer #176
HB176
Story title(s)
'High on Life, part 2'
Script
Art
Steve Dillon (pencils), Jimmy Palimotti (inks)
Colours
Lee Loughridge
Letters
Clem Robins
Editor
Will Dennis (editor), Zachary Rau (asst. editor)
Cover date
October 2002
Collected in
Previous issue
Next issue

John Constantine: Hellblazer #176 (October 2002) Solicitation Text : "High on Life," Part 2 of 2. With Angie in a hospital bed and the mystery of Gemma's absence deepening, John is starting to take things personally. But the only way to cleanse Elster Tower of its aura of evil and madness is to take the fight to his enemies. No weapons, no plan, no backup. But sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand.

Plot summaryEdit

Gathered in the accident and emergency ward of the nearest hospital, John and Cheryl wait anxiously on news of the badly wounded Angie while Tony worries about his own safety - unhappy with being out and about at such a late hour. When a doctor informs Constantine that Angie is in a serious but stable condition and that her wounds match those normally associated with victims of the Striptease Killer, he seeks out the nearest payphone to learn more about Spatchcock's assailants. A disgruntled Inspector Watford is woken from his slumber by a phonecall from the inquisitive Constantine. After exchanging customary barbed retorts with John, Watford reveals that the Striptease Killer was responsible for the murder of seventeen women ("..mostly tarts..") the previous year before disappearing off the streets of London. John informs Watford that the killer is still active, having merely relocated to Liverpool, but the inspector doesn't seem overly surprised and suggests that some form of cover up may be going on before hanging up on the magus.

Still unsure of the situation at Elster Tower flats, and with Angie heavily sedated, John decides to play doctor and uses some of his own (possibly still demon tinged) blood to give her a make shift transfusion. Rudely awoken from her slumber, Spatchcock tells John that she was investigating the grass around the flats before she was attacked. Hoping to find a patch of dead grass beneath one of the flat windows, a sign that the persons within were responsible for the bad mojo that hung heavy in the halls of Elster Towers, she actually learned that all of the grass was dead save for one narrow ring around the tower block. Angie is convinced that this proves that the guilty parties reside in the flat at the very top of the complex.

Constantine, in something of a contemplative mood, wanders the streets of Liverpool where he crosses the path of a homeless teenager. Devoid of spare change, John offers the teen a cigarette before waxing lyrical with the slightly bemused boy, hinting that he's given himself up to the good old synchronicity highway in order to get in the mood for his upcoming confrontation. Constantine offers the teenager the remainder of his cigarettes in exchange for a glance at the contents of the boy's rucksack. The teenager agrees, revealing a syringe and spoon to John. Moving on, Constantine arrives back at Cheryl's flat to finds her sleeping on the couch. Slipping on his trench coat, John tells his sister that he plans to be gone by morning before climbing the stairs to the top of Elster Towers.

Returning to Gladys Wren's flat, John finds the door wide open, the doorframe still surrounded by strange markings. Gladys herself is seated at her kitchen table and welcomes Constantine, pouring him a cup of tea and referring to him by the fake name he gave on their first meeting - Mister Collier. The cordial mood doesn't last long and an angry John quickly loses his temper with the elderly woman. Ignoring Gladys' protests, Constantine rummages around her flat till he finds a room lined with bottles - each containing a sliver of flesh and a label inscribed with a woman's name and date. Victms of the Striptease Killer. John draws a parallel between Gladys and the homeless drug addict he met earlier in the evening before accusing the old woman of using the murdered girls' memories to get high. Constantine does professes to being confused as to her targeting of hookers. Gladys explains how she liked "the romance, the hanky panky" of those girls' lives - as for the pain and suffering they went through, well, she could just pour that away, letting it seep down throughout the rest of the tower block.

A sneering Gladys mocks John as his vision starts to blur, taunting him with the knowledge that the tea he drunk was drugged, referring to him for the first time by his real surname. As the two Striptease Killers, the men responsible for the attack on Angie, appear on the scene, Constantine finds himself struggling to remain conscious. At the mercy of the two killers, John lashes out desperately with one of the bottles, smashing it across the face of his nearest attacker. Constantine makes it as far at the flat door before the second attacker, Gladys' son, catches him. John reaches out to smear one of the strange markings around the doorframe as he's knocked off his feet and sent sprawling by his razor blade wielding assailant. With the magical protection around the flat disturbed, John summons the dead girls, who wreck their revenge on Gladys. A desperate Gladys tries to make a deal with John as the spirits of the dead girls consume her, screaming the words "Trade... Domine... Scrape" before she dies. Only the timely arrival of Angie saves John from meeting a rather gory end at the hands of Gladys' enraged son.

Constantine, being Constantine, can't help but dismiss Angie with an off the cuff quip before leaving her, and Liverpool, behind. Now London-bound, John notes that not only were none of the postcards from Gemma postmarked, but that they all portrayed scenes from Normandy, despite supposedly being sent from Lyon. Adding in the fact that Gladys knew his real name, Constantine is convinced that someone is out to get him.

ContinuityEdit

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DiscontinuityEdit

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GoofsEdit

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NotesEdit

* Annotations for this issue.

* Enjoy the soundtrack while you read.

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