John Constantine: Hellblazer #281 (September 2011) concludes the 'Phantom Pains' storyline, as Gemma learns the truth about her attacker and races to undo the damage she's wrought.
John Constantine has faced many demons in his career, but none have affected him like this one: his niece, Gemma, who hates her uncle with demonic fury. Now she will have her revenge. He's already lost a thumb – now he might lose something even more precious...
As Gemma flees the warehouse, John faces up to the demon she summoned and realises that he's afraid to die - because dying means losing Epiphany. As he tries to come to terms with the fact that he's no longer as cold and fearless as he used to be, he tries to convince the demon not to harm him, first by offering her contacts in Hell, then by trying to gain some sympathy by sharing her hatred of Nergal. But the demon knows his reputation for talking his way out of trouble and, refusing to be tricked, swats him to the floor.
Epiphany, not knowing where John is or why he's not back yet, talks to Chas, who says that marriage has made John soft. He says that he's sure John is fine, but just as he finishes speaking, Gemma stumbles through the door; she has enough time to say that John raped her and that she tried to kill him before she faints. For his part, John tries to pull out a Gaul curse to hurt the demon but he's too shaken to pull off the pronunciation and it smashes him to the floor once more.
Gemma and Epiphany drive off to rescue John, leaving Chas behind with his taxi. On the way, Epiphany explains that it was The Demon Constantine who raped Gemma, not John himself. Gemma is mortified by this discovery and by the fact that she never doubted that it was John who attacked her. She asks what that makes her and Epiphany says she doesn't know, but she's certain that John Constantine is no rapist. They head to Epiphany's lab, where she brings out a nasty potion used to scare off demons - and, to give it an extra kick, adds the last of the potion she used to summon Lady Lazarus, casually mentioning that she lost her virginity to the spirit back in university.
They arrive at the warehouse to find a battered and bloody John smoking a cigarette. He explains that he managed to put a Persian binding spell on the demon, and is furious to see Gemma. She explains what happened with The Demon Constantine but swats away John's remarks of sympathy. Just at that moment, the demon bursts through the binding forcefield and leaps towards Epiphany, who gives it a shot in the face from her elixir. The face of Lady Lazarus appears briefly, and Epiphany mentions that it was her last batch; John guesses correctly that she was holding onto some in case she and John split up.
The demon is still alive, just about, and John remembers that such creatures have terrible gag reflexes. He pulls Tom Gott's thumb out of his pocket and gets ready to toss it in the creature's mouth, but Gemma says that she wants to do it. John asks her who helped summon it and she says it's none of his business, before throwing the thumb into the creature's maw, causing it to choke to death.
Elsewhere, Tamsin, the coven leader who helped Gemma summon the monster, is in a pretty pink bedroom applying makup to her face when she notices that the creature's page in her magic book is being slowly unwritten, signifying its death. Just then a voice - Oliver, presumably her partner - shouts for her, saying that his boss will go 'bonkers' if they're late for dinner. Tamsin finishes her makeup and puts on a wig before heading out.
Gemma looks down at the body of the demon and asks John whether it will come back to hurt her. He says that he won't let it. She shrugs his hand off her shoulder and says that she wouldn't have been hurt at all if John hadn't used his 'evil twin' to defeat Nergal. As she walks off, John reflects that she's right to hate him.
Back in bed, John and Epiphany are enjoying some we-didn't-die sex while John ponders that Epiphany has created a chink in his armour: he is now genuinely afraid of dying because that means losing her.
- John mentions Faeces McCartney, last seen in Hellblazer issue 275.
- Lady Lazarus was last seen in Hellblazer issue 277.
- The status of Lady Lazarus is complicated by this issue; before it was implied that Epiphany just used the potion to summon her; now it is implied that the potion is her. But that would make nonsense of Epiphany's claim (in issue 277) that Lady Lazarus had approached her at Alchemy college pretending to be a supernatural tutor.
- Possibly not a goof, but Epiphany's lab is in Essex - which is well over an hour's drive from Brixton, and obviously longer if you have to loop back around to London. It seems odd that they would put a good few hours' drive between setting off and rescuing John, even if they have to grab some kind of protection...
- The 'werewolf thing' that Epiphany mentions has never been shown prior to this story.
- Epiphany mentions that she made a potion to chase away the demons of 'the Gallagher brothers' - presumably she's talking about Liam and Noel Gallagher of the Britpop band Oasis.