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Comic Book / The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael

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The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael (and the Dead Left in his Wake) is a Bangsian fantasy comic from 2000 AD.

Ichabod Azrael was a cruel and murderous man who was once the most feared gunslinger in The Wild West until one day he met his demise after a shootout with a mob of enforcers sent after him to deliver justice. Ichabod wakes up in the afterlife, a world deprived of color and guarded by blurry horsemen. Finding that his gun somehow still works against these demons, Ichabod sets out on a journey to escape this Purgatory and return to his woman Zoe, the only thing he ever loved in the world of the living.

The series crossed over with Judge Dredd in the "End of Days" storyline with Ichabod crossing over to Dredd's world to stop the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

This comic provides examples of:

  • Big Red Devil: Al Capone takes the form of a red horned demon. It's ambiguous whether this is a hallucination of the main character or not though.
  • Book Ends: The comic has the Opening Narration "His name is Ichabod Azrael". It ends with the words "His name was Ichabod Azrael".
  • Bottomless Magazines: Quite literally; Ichabod's revolver continues to fire an unlimited amount of bullets despite the chamber being entirely empty when he checks it.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: Purgatory/limbo is a wasteland where the souls of the formerly living wait in line at the bank of a river guarded by demonic horsemen before receiving judgment by The Ferryman, who will take them to their final destination.
  • Cessation of Existence: When Charon escapes to the land of the living, he has to be returned to his duties before he is killed. Since in his case he's not supposed to be there in the first place, he won't be sent to purgatory like any regular soul but his demise means he will simply cease to exist.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Nathanael Beauregard - when he falls on another man, his first act is to reassure him that he isn't up to anything gay. He also thinks that limbo is a plot by Native Americans to double-kill him.
  • Deader than Dead: Ichabod is able to kill the grim reapers in Hell or limbo or wherever he is using a massive effort of will; they then get sucked down into what is believed to be a place even worse than Hell. It's implied that he can kill the already dead in a similar manner.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ichabod's horse in the afterlife is hilariously snarky.
  • Deus ex Machina: When the Hunter is about to strike down Ichabod (again), "God" intervenes to put them both into different panels that creates an invisible barrier between them from the characters' perspective.
  • Death Takes a Holiday: Charon is tired of ferrying souls from limbo to their final destination for all eternity and orchestrates a scheme that will allow him to escape to the land of the living. However, without Charon being there to keep the flow of life and death stable, all reality will ultimately cease to exist.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The parts of the story set in the afterlife are in black and white, while any part of the story set in the world of the living is in full colour.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Ichabod Azrael kills several demons, angels, and other supernatural entities despite being a mere mortal. This is because he was secretly given his powers in the afterlife by Charon, The Ferryman.
  • Dying Dream: One possible interpretation of the ending, as Ichabod lays dying when reality ceases to exist all around him, he finds himself back with Zoe and their child in the cabin.
  • Fake Memories: Ichabod's memories of Zoe were all faked by Charon.
  • The Ferryman: The ferryman appears as a grizzled old prospector type who carries each soul down the river towards judgement. He's also the instigator of the whole series as he wanted to escape an eternity of service by going to the land of the living. He manipulated Ichabod to create a portal there by giving him fake memories of a woman he loved as well as the means to fight demons and angels. However, if Charon just abandons his job, all reality will start to unravel.
  • Foreshadowing: Early on, one of the Horsemen asks a crucial question: what could make Zoe fall in love with someone like Ichabod? As it turns out, she wasn't even real.
  • Freudian Excuse: Defied in the first strip: the narrator says he'd like to say Ichabod became a killer because his father beat him, but in reality, his childhood wasn't any harsher than any other kid at the time. Some people are just born mean.
  • Gravity Screw: When Ichabod is hanging at the edge of the afterlife before he falls into nothingness, he calls for his horse, who just ignores gravity completely.
  • Hell Hound: The Hunter has several supernatural hounds to assist him with tracking down wayward souls in the afterlife, which become friggin' giants at several points.
  • Implacable Man: No matter how many times either of them is killed, the Hunter will continue to pursue Ichabod across time and space to kill him over and over again, since that's his job. He even resorts to cannibalizing his own Hell Hounds to restore his own body as some sort of bloated monstrosity.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: The native girl Ahtunowhiho tells Ichabod Azrael that she's his daughter by Zoe. The characters themselves lampshade how out of nowhere this reveal is and perhaps the result of a writer running out of ideas.
  • Morality Chain: Zoe was the only thing on Earth that kept Ichabod Azrael from being completely evil, so when he finds himself in the afterlife he decides to defy fate by going back to the land of the living. Which is later revealed to be a lie created by Charon, who wanted to give Ichabod a motive to break free from purgatory with Fake Memories of a woman who never existed. Though she is later given true form when Ichabod and Charon get thrown into different time periods, she is returned to nonexistence when Charon returns to his duties. This revelation angers Ichabod so much that he kills Charon, thus destroying all creation.
  • No Name Given: The Hunter, so named because he tracks down refugee souls to bring them back to face judgment in purgatory. Though considering he was let out of his confinement to hunt the main character from the stomach of a whale, he might be Jonah.
  • Non-Linear Character: Goblin demons perceive time like this, in contrast to human souls. This is how one of them knows the plane isn't supposed to be there, and there's something unusual about Ichabod as well.
  • Painting the Medium: Scenes in the world of the living are in full colour, and those in the world of the dead are black and white. Additionally, the grim reapers and their horses are drawn in a very sketchy style which contrasts with the clear, stark art of the rest of limbo; souls awaiting judgement refer to them as blurry.
  • Professional Killer: The eponymous Ichabod Azrael is, in the very first strip, assassinated by a gang of notorious outlaws led by Bloody Bill Sterling.
  • Rewriting Reality: The western town of Atonement in the afterlife includes an author who is writing Ichabod's tale as it happens. Eventually however his typewriter takes over and continues the story without his help.
  • Satan: Lucifer makes a brief appearance in the final arc when he visits the town of Atonement in the afterlife and frees the Hunter to help him take it over.
  • Shout-Out: When Ichabod travels the river of judgment in the afterlife on Charon's boat, he only faces an impenetrable wall at the end a la The Truman Show.
  • Skull for a Head: There's a demon who commands Charon, and also has a cow's skull for a head.
  • Splash of Color: In the otherwise black and white town of Atonement in the afterlife, the only colored object that Ichabod Azrael can find is a gold-plated Chekhov's Gun which he figures he'll eventually have to use. Indeed, it's there so he can kill Lucifer.
  • Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum: After Ichabod discovers that his love Zoe only existed as a fabrication, he kills The Ferryman and dooms all of reality to destruction out of spite.
  • Talking Animal: In the afterlife beyond the river there are talking animals of substandard intelligence. Ichabod joins up with a particularly snarky horse.
  • Unreliable Voiceover: The first strip uses this is bit. The narrator says he heard that Ichabod's introduction to killing was when he killed 20 horsemen, but we see him killing one man in a duel. Later, the narrator relates a story about how Ichabod had a secret love who was able to calm his insane rage and dismisses it as nonsense, but the images show that that's exactly the case.

Alternative Title(s): The Grievous Journey Of Ichabod Azrael And The Dead Left In His Wake