Merry winter solstice blog faithful! And what better series to celebrate Saturnalia or indeed the birth of the baby J than a (teenaged) Garth Ennis one about organised religion. Oh stop, it's not as bad as it could have been. I don't actually think it's offensive because it's such a weird concept. It takes the idea of someone having a massive crisis of faith and going utterly mad and who for some reason drags a misfit teenage boy into his crusade against the church, makes some vaguely cynical noises about God and the bible and ends with a literal bang as the misfit schoolboy discovers what truly he has faith in. Along the way Ennis swats his verbal hands at Margaret Thatcher, the S.A.S and dozy, uncaring parenting in a rather scattershot selection of targets that only hang together as well as they do thanks to Warren Pleece's superb and striking artwork. This series ran in the lefty political comic CRISIS although I don't think Ennis's politics were/are very leftwing (nor rightwing, I'd describe him as a humanitarian liberal which he'd probably hate) but CRISIS was the most successful of the glut of adult orientated UK comics that appeared at the end of the 1980's, with this strip running in 1989. So lets get this Xmas party started.
We begin in a church, where Terry Adair is praying. Then we cut to a secondary school and our main protagonist Nigel Gibson is being taunted over his desire to go to a scripture because he fancies a girl in it. Then he bumps into the P.E teacher who heard him say "wankers" and fines him fifty lines about swearing.
Mr.Hunt: "You really are pathetic Gibson. You never do anything worthwhile. I never see you on the rugby pitches. You don't dress properly.. you've got no respect for yourself."
He tells him he should go to the scripture class. As he leaves Nigel notes the teacher will be there too eyeing up the talent.
|Alienated teenager Nigel Gibson.|
In the scripture class Nigel notes that everyone seems like "bloody zombies" spouting brainwashing material. Then Angela Hyman, the girl he's attracted to gets up to make a speech. She tells everyone that learning God's lessons when you are young helps stop older people leading you astray when you get older.
At the hospital, Terry is given terrible news. His wife died in childbirth and the kid only lived a few minutes before dying as well. Terry goes into deep shock. After scripture class, Nigel walks with Angela and asks her about the whole "women are wicked" thing. She says everyone has their place in the eyes of the Lord.
|Deeply traumatised Terry Adair.|
Terry's wife and child are buried. At the wake afterwards a couple of the people say that everyone there is mostly the wife's friends. Terry has no one to help him get over it. Later when everyone is gone, Terry goes and kneels by the two graves. He then yells at the sky:
Terry: "Are you listening God? I swear on their graves I'll kill you for this!"
Nigel arrives at the pub to meet Angela only to find she's bought along some of her fellow bible bashers. "Ah shit" he says to himself "she thinks I want to be a bloody Christian". He orders himself a beer and sees Terry hunched over the bar and thinks, "I don't know what your problem is mate. But you look just the way I feel."
|An unbearable loss.|
Nigel: "Just little things really... how do I find faith.. what being a Christian means in todays society... which prayers do I use... And of course why you think I'd want to follow such a mindless cop-out philosophy as Christianity anyway. You pricks."
They get into an argument as Nigel insists God doesn't exist and the bible is bunk. Mike, the jock and "Golden Boy" according to Nigel tells him "his sort" never do anything of their own and make fun of those who do.
Mike says he's better than Nigel because he's on the rugby team, he's doing well in his A'levels and is nearly done doing a Duke of Edinburgh award. Nigel says he is arrogant to think everyone should care about achieving the same things "just because you want it, everyone else has to want it".
|Terry overhears Nigel's criticism of the God squad.|
Terry: "Bollocks! He doesn't give a shit! You wait! You just wait until your rising main stop valve is loose! Because that's when it counts, son. That's when it matters. And when you're disappearing round the 'S' bend and God still hasn't turned up with a half inch spanner and a plunger. Well. Then you realise how much the Lord cares about you".
He then tells them he's going to kill God and leaves. Nigel gets up to follow him. When Angela tells him not to, Nigel says he only invited her out because he wanted to "get into her knickers" not have a bible study class. And he follows Terry out of the pub thinking "he's probably completely harmless".
He ends up in a derelict flat, on the table is a shotgun and under the table several molotov cocktails. There is a diary there as well which he picks up and starts to read. Up to the birth of his son it's normal stuff. Afterwards it's paranoid ranting, he writes that "God has become a blockage. I need a plunger."
His plan is to go and create havoc in the houses of the Lord until he can get Him to show his face. We cut to Terry fire bombing the inside of a church, sticking two fingers up at the burning crucifix and blasting the vicar with a shotgun.
Terry's diary: "He will want to meet his nemesis. And then I will look into the face of God. And with all the reverence due to a blockage in the 'S' bend of the world. I will unblock him. I will snuff him out."
Terry upon reading this starts to make a run for it only to bump into Terry returning from his church burning excursion. Terry tells him to sit down and listen.
|Nigel stumbles into something bad.|
He then lets Nigel go and he flees. On the way he comes across the burning church and realises Terry's crusade is a very real one. He gabbles to the police constable there that he knows who did this. The cop says he'll take a statement after he's checked the alleyway. Nigel hears a scream and goes to look only to find the policeman dead, hanged from a fire ladder by Terry who says "Lawbreaker" to him.
|Terry practices what he preaches.|
Back with Nigel, he's being stalked by Terry as he heads home. He runs thinking to himself that his pet dog will attack Terry only to find his dog crucified on a saltire. He runs again in absolute terror as Terry muses that "his four footed angel of deliverance has fallen too far to do any good."
Terry ends up cowering in a dead end alley as Terry approaches him Nigel says he gives up, Terry can obviously kill him anytime he wants. Terry says he won't kill him, Nigel is Terry's son now, "we should make merry and be glad." He embraces Terry saying he will help in his mission to deal with the blockage, "my son".
|Not cool Terry!|
Nigel: "He convinced me of that last fact beyond a shadow of a doubt. I believe him. I have faith in him. Great faith."
Nigel asks Terry what he will do when God comes down to face him. Terry says God is powerful because he is an idea. Destroying the idea behind him requires a potent symbol and he picks up a revolver. He points it at Nigel and recites Clint Eastwood's "do you feel lucky punk?" Dirty Harry speech. He says the idea behind those words has power, "they are equal in the minds of the people to the words of God. They are my weapons to destroy him".
They firebomb another church, as it catches fire Terry shoots the vicar in the leg then grabs him and smashes his head into the font repeatedly screaming "blocked!" As they leave they are grabbed by some men dressed all in black and dragged into a van. They are dumped in front of a sinister looking man who says they have been burning churches and that "I think we're going to be very good friends indeed." Nigel thinks to himself:
Nigel: "What Terry Adair does is illogical. It's insane. It's stupid. It causes the death of innocents and the destruction of all they hold dear. And all of that means nothing to him whatsoever. I think Terry Adair is the nearest I'll get to actually meeting a god."
But as he and Terry kneel before the sinister man, Nigel wonders what that makes him. The man introduces himself as Cornelius Garten. The men are his commandos and they've decided the source of the world's sorrows much be removed.
|The sinister Cornelius.|
Terry asks what he wants, Cornelius says "recruits". In his view God is a cancer. "Blockage" says Terry, "Cancer" says Cornelius until Terry gives in and says "cancer" too. Then Cornelius shows them a huge number of guns and molotov cocktails he has stored up. Then they go on a church burning expedition. Cornelius says he's impressed with them an Terry mumbles "thankyou Cornelius". Nigel puts his head in his hands and thinks:
Nigel: "I thought Terry Adair was a god. He threw off his religion and thought for himself. And, even though he was off his bloody rocker, he wasn't being led like a sheep anymore. But with that bastard Cornelius.. well now Terry's back in the flock. Which means I'm even further up shit creek".
Meanwhile a depressed and run down looking Nigel gets ready for school. His parents say he doesn't seem himself lately. As he leaves, his dad says it's probably just a phase. His sister says, "He's been in a 'phase' all his life dad. He's a real dippo". Sadly Nigel leaves the house and drags himself to school.
|Nigel's life sucks.|
Then we cut to him in the headmaster's office. He's being raked over the coals for bashing Mike over the head with the bat. Nigel lies and says Mike exposed himself to him which enrages the Head. He says Mike is vital to the rugby team, top of most of his classes and a committed Christian. Nigel is a "reptile" who nearly killed him and for that he gets two weeks suspension. He tells his parents this over dinner, they react mildly telling him to "buck up a bit".
Back to Thatcher, she is observing a conversation two of her ministers are having in the toilet via a CCTV camera in there. She has a bank of monitors in front of her. She ponders the comment one of them said that she was overreacting, then she gets on the phone and calls for the S.A.S.
While his family watch the news, Nigel gets a call from Cornelius saying tonight he has to come along, Terry insists. Then we cut to a room full of S.A.S men, they have men undercover at several major targets. If they are attacked they'll call and they can be there in minutes. They are told that if the arsonists aren't carrying guns, they need to make sure they are once they are dead.
|The attack commences.|
The big one turns out to be Saint Paul's cathedral. They go inside and start throwing fire bombs. They shoot the man who comes to see what's going on, but he's actually one of the undercover S.A.S and as he lies on the floor he calls for them to come. He then gets up and reveals he's got a machine gun. Cornelius shouts to Terry and Nigel to run back to the van. But the way is blocked by a wall of gun toting S.A.S men who open fire upon them.
Cornelius, Terry and Nigel run into a side room as the rest of the their "soldiers" are gunned down. They crouch down and Nigel starts gibbering "oh shit" over and over. Cornelius calls him a "worm". Terry meanwhile stands up and declaims that the blockage is coming forth "and it's like unto a great and mighty number two". Cornelius tries to snap him out of it.
We get a quick cut to his parents discussing Nigel, they think he'll do better when he starts work. But they aren't even sure when he goes back to school causing his sister to facepalm. Back with Nigel, Cornelius shouts at Terry that his wife wouldn't have wanted this.
That snaps Terry out of it, because he never told Cornelius about his wife. He wants to know how Cornelius knows and Cornelius says, "I killed her." He paid off the doctor to "balls up the birth". He wanted Terry to lose his faith so he could become a true commando.
Cornelius: "That's how I got them all... Find someone who's utterly devout. Inject a bit of personal tragedy to kill off their faith. And bingo! Instant fanatic!"
Cornelius rambles on that in two thousand years there could be a religion about what was written of his methods. Nigel asks "why" he did all this? Cornelius shouts that God killed his wife in the middle of childbirth, "do you think I'm goning to let him get away with that?!"
|But the S.A.S swiftly end it.|
Next day Nigel is at school even though he is still suspended, drinking vodka. Angela comes up and asks him if he is Ok saying he doesn't look well. Nigel has a serene quality about him and when Angela says there is something odd about him today, Nigel says she wouldn't believe how odd.
Then the P.E teacher appears and says him being there drinking gets him an audience with the headmaster. Nigel tells him to "go and fuck yourself". The P.E teacher rounds on him for swearing only to be faced with a gun pointed right at his head. He whimpers and Nigel pulls the trigger blowing the man's brains out.
|I hated my P.E teacher too, but even I wouldn't have shot her.|
Nigel: "He just did whatever the hell he wanted. And I guess that's the lesson I learned from him. So here I am. Free. And that's the way I'm staying. I've got faith in myself at last. True faith. But then I was bound to say that sooner or later."
|It began with anger and ends in calm. Only the warm embrace of death waits for Nigel.|