|“||Can't you hear the screaming?||„|
|~ Angel, while inflicting mind-rape|
Angel Jorgensen is the main villain of the Hellblazer miniseries comic The Horrorist. A refugee brought to America and adopted by aid workers, Angel has somehow become what is later referred to as a "Horrorist," a living manifestation of suffering capable of unveiling the true scope of oppression and injustice present throughout the world - resulting in a sizable death toll among those who bear witness to her message. Little more than a vessel for the awful things she brings into reality, she has no other goal than to wander America and share these nightmarish experiences with anyone she meets.
Immediately distinguished by her impassive face and dark eyes, Angel nonetheless rarely makes a spectacle of herself unless people look closely. An African woman of eighteen years of age, she keeps her hair close-cropped and almost never shows emotion of any kind outside of the nightmares and reality-warps she exposes people to. Consequently, though Angel appears attractive in a somewhat unearthly way, passers-by tend to find her a little bit disturbing after a while. By contrast, John Constantine almost falls in love at the sight of her.
Though she initially appears fully human and retains this guise throughout the story, it's quickly revealed that Angel is anything but human. One of the few ways that this can be recognized without the aid of her powers is through her eyes: already dark, in moments when her powers are apparently in use, they seem to darken to lightless black pits in her face - hence Constantine's initial alias: "The Child with the Black Hole Eyes."
Despite spending most of her time as a drifter wandering from town to town in the middle of a brutal winter, Angel rarely dresses in anything other than the dress she has on at the start of the comic, nor does she ever acknowledge the cold. At one point, she acquires a jacket, but never any trousers or even shoes. Only after becoming a maid at a motel and a waitress at the local steakhouse does she finally change her ensemble to that of a simple uniform.
Cold, unemotional and unsympathetic to those in her path, Angel is more a force of nature than an individual human being, and indeed argues that she stands for all humanity. She has no overarching goal in life, nor does she travel in any specific direction: all she wants is to inflict the suffering that she carries upon anyone she happens to encounter. She doesn't seem to care how many people have to die for her message to be delivered to the world, if sharing her pain with others will change the world in any appreciable way, or even if any of the recipients of her message survive. She scarcely reacts to danger, remaining unresponsive while buried in the snow by one of her victims or after narrowly avoiding an oncoming car. All she does is continue as she always has.
The only point where she shows any overt emotion is at the start of the comic, when the "screaming" inside her grows too much for her to contain, leaving her agonized and almost afraid for perhaps the only point in the entire comic. At all other times, she conveys her feelings towards others only through minute gestures: she briefly comforts Clarence as he grieves for the children killed by the landmines she previously conjured up; she coldly taunts a sheriff with the knowledge that he'll be just as bad-off as the rest of humanity when disaster strikes; after noticing an obese diner gorging herself at diner, she forces a vision of famine and concentration camps on the woman with something like vindictiveness - for her expression appears almost disgusted.
In turn, Constantine argues that Angel genuinely enjoys inflicting pain and suffering on others, perhaps out of revenge for the lack of empathy shown by the prosperous to the weak; he even claims that she perceives the many suicides and murders left in her wake as sick jokes. Whatever the case, in their first and final conversation together, she seems to regard Constantine with a twisted sort of pity for his world-weariness and faltering sense of empathy, and resolves to reignite his compassion by the most painful means available to her.
Powers And Abilities
Angel's powers are vast and nebulous, seeming to encompass both reality-warping, illusionism and telepathy - and the boundary between the three shifts frequently. At times, the suffering she inflicts on others appears in the form of direct changes to the local environment, bringing forth atrocities that normally couldn't occur based on local political and social conditions, sometimes bringing about changes in areas where she isn't even directly present. At others, she beams visions directly into the minds of others, showing them scenes of atrocities and suffering that frequently causes the recipients to suffer cataclysmic breakdowns out of self-loathing. Once or twice, she seems to lead her victims into an illusory world of horrors and crimes that appears to exist only in her mind, but proves very capable of killing them - or even reincarnating them into long-term residents.
In several early examples, she makes land mines appear in the middle of a children's playground, conjures up a train of detainees being sent to a concentration camp, institutes a government re-education program to begin rounding up locals, and plunges a formerly-prosperous family into deepest poverty and starvation, even brings down a mortar attack from a fictitious militia. For good measure, there also seems to be a degree of mental influence blended with the reality-warping, encouraging doubt and despair among the witnesses to the gulag, or inspiring the father of the family to seemingly forget the fact that they weren't always poor or starving.
Likewise, her ability to mind-rape others blurs the boundary between illusion and reality warping: not only does she seem capable of making them feel complicit in acts that weren't real, but they sometimes awaken from said visions to find themselves holding weapons.
In any case, the effects are so disturbing that victims find themselves reacting with open hatred and terror at the merest sight of Angel, begging her to stop "the screaming" or insisting that she not look at them. In the end, the screaming always grows too much for these unfortunates, and they often either try to end their lives or even murder others. Only Constantine proves immune to this particular power.
Also, given that she somehow manages to survive being strangled and drowned by her adoptive father, being buried alive in the snow by the Sheriff and travelling long distances while exposed to the elements without suffering any kind of lasting harm, it's possible that she is immune to physical injury - a result of her nature as the embodiment of suffering.
The girl eventually named Angel was born in Mozambique, South Africa; her birth name remains unknown, and it's not even certain if Angel herself remembers it. Her life prior to encountering the Jorgensens is unknown, but presumably involved a great deal of suffering and upheaval, given the region's long history of war, poverty, civil war and famine. At some point during 1986, morbid photographer Phil Jamieson happened to take a photo of her amidst a crowd of starving locals while covering a famine in the area, eventually selling it to an advertising agency to cover the costs of his next expedition. To his annoyance, the agency eventually cropped out everyone else in the picture and misused the girl's image for a "famine-chic" fashion advertisement.
Though most children her age had ended up dead of the famine or the conflicts sparked as a result, the girl somehow survived against all expectations. Eventually, she got the attention of Ray and Martha Jorgensen, a married couple serving as aid workers in the region; devout Christian missionaries, the two had seen Jamieson's photograph and believed that it was a sign from God that she should be adopted. They named her Angel, apparently believing her to be exactly that, and brought her back to the United States to be raised alongside their own daughter, Kathy.
Growing up in Minnesota, Angel was remembered as an unusual child: she was intelligent, performed well in school, and regarded by her adoptive mother as lovely, but something about her seemed to suck people dry. Her physical development was also unusual, as she developed late and didn't show signs of puberty until the age of fifteen. However, as time went on, the family around her took a turn for the worse: Kathy began to suffer from anorexia, and quickly grew so emaciated her parents feared for her life; Ray blamed Angel, accusing her of being a "a cuckoo in the nest," feeding off Kathy's soul like a parasite. To date, it's not known if Angel truly played a part in her sister's illness or her father's descent into insanity, or if this was the result of mundane mental illness.
What is known is that Ray eventually took drastic steps to protect his family, strangling Angel supposedly to death, weighing her body down with rocks and dumping her body in a nearby river. Then, overwhelmed by despair and remorse, he hanged himself in the garage. Tragically, the murder proved completely pointless: Kathy died anyway. Left alone in the world, Martha lost her faith in God, abandoned her church, and took solace in alcohol.
Unknown to all, Angel either survived her seemingly-fatal encounter, or returned from the dead. Whatever the case, the incident was apparently enough to bring about her transformation into a Horrorist, a redistributor of suffering and oppression loose in the world.
Trail Of Destruction
The comic begins three years after Angel's apparent death, putting her age at a little over eighteen years old. In the earliest pages, Angel is found sitting alone on a park bench in Fenton, Illinois, watching nearby children playing in the snow. Despite her unnerving appearance and lack of reaction to the freezing temperatures, she is regarded by both the kids and a local mailman as merely mentally ill. However, she is soon overwhelmed by the screaming inside her, and unleashes it on the playing children, conjuring landmines into existence around the playground. Oblivious to the danger, several deaths immediately ensue, leaving the mailman briefly stricken by flashbacks to his time in the Vietnam War - even as Angel shows him, in her own way, that such things happen all over the world.
Angel soon leaves Fenton on foot, wandering on to the next town; eventually, a truck driver offers her a lift and she accepts, apparently out of a desire to share her pain with him. After listening to the driver talk for a while about how he doesn't care about politics and how the rest of the world should get "democracy and jobs," Angel soon unleashes the screaming again: stopping at a train crossing, the driver sees human arms reaching from a cattle car, and Angel claims that it's a sign of ethnic cleansing in progress. Shocked by this, the driver tries to calm his nerves by saying that the people aboard the train must have been justifiably imprisoned for crimes like murder, rape, gang violence or terrorism... up until Angel points out that there were children aboard the cattle car as well.
Deeply shaken by this vision, he decides to take a break at a nearby truckstop, ostensibly so the two of them can have a coffee; however, the screaming has already begun to affect his mood. At the first opportunity, he calls his family just to make sure they're alright, only to discover that they've been taken away as part of a government reeducation program. Horror-stricken, he flees the truck-stop, leaving Angel behind. Unperturbed, she continues her journey on foot.
Travelling along the train tracks and by now some distance from Illinois, she is eventually stopped by a sheriff from another town. Initially halting her for walking on the train tracks, upon discovering that she has no identification, he decides to take her in for processing - and though he doesn't technically arrest her, he does handcuff Angel to the window grille of his cruiser. This time, the screaming is released much sooner and much more distressingly than before: after briefly coaxing out the sheriff's authoritarian streak in conversation, Angel turns the screaming on him. Overwhelmed by guilt and self-loathing, the sheriff throws her out of the car, insisting that "it wasn't my fault" and that she stop looking at him. Eventually, he grows so angry that he buries Angel alive in the snow, before promptly going home and murdering his wife and two daughters, then handing himself over to the police.
Once again, however, Angel remains unharmed. Gradually digging herself out of the snow, she eventually makes her way into the ill-fated sheriff's hometown in Texas. Not long after, she is almost run over while travelling along the road in heavy rain. The driver yells at her, claiming that her life is "worthless," only for Angel to coldly ask him a series of pointed questions about his children: "Are they happy? Is it warm in your house? Do they have plenty of good things to eat? Do you love them?"
Disturbed, the man drives off - only for the screaming to follow him home. Angel's reality-warping influence empties the man's larders, plunges him into deepest poverty, and leaves himself and his children starving, to the point that they have already begun to show signs of long-term malnutrition despite having been perfectly well-fed earlier that day. Under the mental influence of the screaming, the man goes so far as to sell his teenage daughter into prostitution for a little money, and then denies all evidence of her existence.
Stopping at a motel in town, Angel is at first turned away by Jorge the manager on the grounds of having no beds to spare. However, upon discovering that she has no ID, he mistakes her for an illegal immigrant, and decides to hire her as a maid - her status allowing him to financially exploit her without fear of legal repercussions: she can only sleep in the laundry, and her salary will go into paying for her uniform and meals. Untroubled, she settles into the role of maid with little adjustment, and acquires a second job as a waitress at a local steakhouse.
However, it's not long before she continues spreading her influence: one night at the steakhouse, she ends up serving an obese woman and her son, and over the course of the meal, the mother chides her son for making her feel guilty for eating so much - claiming that "it don't hurt no-one else." Quietly enraged at the woman's preoccupation with herself, Angel gives her a vision of a famine-stricken population barely managing to survive, eventually being herded into vast slaughterhouses and butchered for their meat. For good measure, she sneeringly asks if the shell-shocked woman has had enough to eat.
It is at this point that the woman's son asks to go to the toilet; Angel offers to show him the way, only to lead him into an illusory version of the town where the two of them are homeless and on the run from armed men in balaclavas. Hired by the government to round up and kill vagrants before they become offensive to the tourist trade, these militiamen hunt down Angel and the child, drag them into the back of a van and gun them down in cold blood. Angel naturally survives, but the child is never seen again.
For good measure, Jorge is briefly incorporated into the nightmare as one of the militiamen; he awakens to discover that he is still wearing a balaclava and holding a gun. Horror-stricken, he begs for Angel to stop the screaming, but she icily replies that only he can accomplish this. Moments later, he commits suicide by gunshot to the head.
Encounter With Constantine
However, it is at this point that John Constantine's path converges with Angel's. By this point, Constantine's many years of exposure to the horrors of the world (supernatural or otherwise) have left him inured to suffering of any kind: in his introduction in this issue, he reacts with apathy to the sight of a man having his throat slit in a barroom brawl and leaves without rendering assistance, and claims to feel absolutely nothing even while being beaten bloody by a dominatrix.
However, by chance, he happens to see the much-despised fashion photo of Angel on a billboard one evening; fascinated by the psychic impulses emanating from her image, he finds himself wanting to know more about this stranger.
His search leads him to Phil Jamieson, who is beginning to experience his own lurid fascination with Angel after having forgotten her for so many years (an obsession that will eventually result in the photographer driving his eyes out later in the story). With his help, Constantine journeys to Minnesota to interview Martha Jorgensen, but doesn't believe her when told that Angel is dead.
Coldly abandoning the lonely widower to her misery, he eventually picks up Angel's trail through the use of magic and begins following her across America, slowly noticing the ruined lives she's left in her wake: in Fenton, he meets the mailman who witnessed the landmine incident, who douses himself in gasoline and burns himself alive just as Constantine reaches him; he takes a train south, where he witnesses the catastrophic aftermath of the truck driver's vehicular suicide; arriving in Texas, he notices the sheriff being arrested following the murder of his family... and by sheer luck, he happens to find a room at the same motel that Angel works at.
Confident that Angel will come to him, Constantine waits. Then one morning, while shaving, he hears the sound of Jorge committing suicide - and turns around to find himself face to face with Angel for the first time.
Initially shocked, Constantine once again grows calm and apathetic, his experiences in Hell and countless other supernatural nightmares having left him effectively immune to the effects of the screaming. Shrugging off Angel's attempts to use her powers on him, he accuses her of enjoying the mind-rape she inflicts on others, and identifies her as a Horrorist - "a redistributor of suffering perpetuating revolutionary outrage in the cozy heartlands of oppression and complacency."
However, Constantine's anger quickly turns inwards: lambasting himself as a "dead-veined hell-junkie," he despairingly acknowledges that the only reason he came this far was because he was hoping to find something horrific enough to make him feel something, anything. Struck by pity for the first time in the entire comic, Angel suggests that he should let her work her powers on him and allow the world. Though initially reluctant to do so after not caring for so long, he nonetheless agrees to allow her to inflict the screaming on him in full. Soon after, a mortar attack strikes the town, and the chaos begins in earnest.
The two of them strip naked and kiss - only for Angel to peel her skin off, and then do the same for Constantine, before the two finally have sex. In the illusory mind-rape that follows, Angel subjects him to every bit of suffering and despair she carries, forcing him the perspectives of both victim and perpetrator: in one scenario, he is a militiaman who brutally rapes Angel, then finds himself reincarnated as the child born to her nine months later, dying as an infant when a devastating famine leaves her unable to produce milk for him; in another, he is the son of a drug addict, reduced to stealing from his mother to survive even while she murders her partner for taking the last of her stash; in another, he is a government interrogator torturing Angel - then the man she was forced to betray, being dragged into prison and tortured himself.
Eventually, Constantine awakens in the ruins of the motel, naked but unharmed. Angel lies next to him, dead: having given him every last bit of suffering she had just to get through his apathy, the experience cost the Horrorist's life. Nonetheless, Constantine can finally feel again; dressing, he thanks Angel and covers her body with a sheet before leaving the ruins, hoping that she's found peace.
On his way out, he happens to bump into the obese woman from the steakhouse - who is still looking for her missing son. Though he's previously ignored and dismissed all forms of suffering, he offers to help the woman find her child this time, indicating that Angel's sacrifice was finally able to reawaken Constantine's empathy.
- Prior to the introduction of the sorcerer Mako, Angel was the first villain in Hellblazer to have originated from Africa.