“When Johnny Comes Marching Home”

Written by Jamie Delano, art by John Ridgway

Originally published : May 1988

Setting : Liberty, Iowa USA, Quang Tri Province, Vietnam

Time : August 10, 1987 (and flashbacks to 1968 of the same day)

This is one of those stand alone issues that break away from the overall plot that is being spread through a series yet has the shadow of said plot.  Let me explain;

John has jumped across the pond not only to check up on the Swamp Thing but he comes across information that ties his friends the Resurrection Crusade (from last issue) to the good folks in Liberty.  Their kin was all lost to the Vietnam War and they have been praying and paying with the Crusade to bring their children home.  Well praise the lord they’re coming home.

See the way it works is you send the Crusade your prayer along with a check.  The more sizable the check the higher up the food chain your prayer get with national tv coverage.

The remainder of the issue deals with the kids of Liberty in Vietnam and the horrors they not only witness but some were complicit in.  The timelines/events have become entwined with current day Liberty and Frank Ross (the only one to return to Liberty) becomes mad with his memories and the magic that has boiled up from the “cancer of war” the town has been feeling for almost twenty years.  Frank sees his old comrades in arms as they sweep into town and he (and they) all see enemy combatants instead of their families.  Murder and rape ensue and John can do nothing but sit and watch.  The issue is very stark in it’s depictions of these things.  This is before DC’s Vertigo imprint (1993) that separated DC’s more mature titles from the rest of the franchise, so reading the rape of a women and our “hero” doing nothing about it is quite disturbing.  Just a quick note I wonder, and this is pure speculation, if Delano / DC had any thoughts dealing with the fact that Frank rapes his wife not another women.  Did this fact have any implications in the writing and publishing of this act?  I don’t know.Image

The last page discusses/insinuates  that no matter how many movies are made of war, you can’t know war unless you’ve been a part of it.  John looks upon a disabled vet and states that he became a witness to war and he has “the evidence now where’s the court?”  Jamie Delano and future writers of Hellblazer deal with war in a variety of ways, and if I remember correctly in a very anti-war sort of manner.

Most of the run (if not all) are written by UK writers and many references are made to the Falklands war.  So it is interesting that Delano chose to deal with Vietnam maybe to show how war is disastrous to all and is a human issue as opposed to just the nations that are involved.