Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hellblazer by Garth Ennis issue #41

"I'm the one who steps from the shadows, all trenchcoat and cigarette and arrogance, ready to deal with the madness. Oh, I've got it all sewn up. I can save you. If it takes the last drop of your blood, I'll drive your demons away. I'll kick them in the bollocks and spit on them when they're down, and then I'll be gone back into the darkness, leaving only a nod and a wink and a wisecrack. I walk my path alone... who would want to walk with me?"

Reading John Constantine has been an emotional rollercoaster where one always has the power to walk away from the inevitable crash that's coming--and yet, for some reason, one also feels compelled to stay for the ride and hope there is something that can be salvaged. My connection to this character has gotten stronger each issue that it feels as if I've known and loved him in a previous life and I merely forgot about it. And then I'm constantly reminded why I was better off forgetting in the first place every time I turn a page in an issue.

It's the most exhausting and schizophrenic relationship I ever had with a fictional character; on one hand I know that I should hate him but on the other hand I just keep finding a way to forgive him anyway. Fuck. This.

MOVING ON. This issue marks the first part of the official Dangerous Habits story arc and it's called The Beginning of the End which is exactly what it says on the tin. This is one of those landmark storylines that even that Keannu Reeves movie adaptation added as a subplot. What was that, you ask, in case you never bothered to see the film or just forgot about it because the entire film was shite anyway?

Nothing much. Dangerous Habits just happens to reveal that JOHN CONSTANTINE IS DYING OF LUNG CANCER, WHAT THE FUCK?! The tragi-comic irony about this twist was not lost to our titular hero. It's the first thing he complained about right-off-the-bat. He really thought his death would at least be just as special as the life he lived. Heh. I'd feel the same way if I was living his life. Actually, he and I do share this unique sense of self-entitlement that often makes us believe we are destined for something...not boring.

What a tedious way to die, is what John thinks. Cancer!? Shit, son.

Written by Garth Ennis, the issue starts and ends with a less verbose prose than his predecessor's. No metaphors and literary symbolism scattered. The narrative is much more straightforward and I like it. I didn't mind Delano's poetic sentence construction. That element had made a lot of his stories vibrant and hard to put down. But Ennis' style is cleaner, proficient and yet still very distinct in voice and delivery. The plot of this issue serves to illuminate the readers what is the current conflict John has to face this time and that would be his impending mortality. Understandably surly, John Constantine contemplates the last month's events which included his reunion with his dead twin (the most fantastic story Delano has written after The Family Man story arc, personally), which I thought provided him a much needed spiritual closure. But things have not become easier for John at all; this is Hellblazer after all and Constantine is the king of complications.

After finding out that he's dying due to an ailment that doesn't fit a master of the dark arts (sodding cancer, can you imagine? I guess he shouldn't have smoked--thirty bloody sticks a day? WHAT?), John is quite possibly going through the stages of grief for his inevitable demise, and he's at the Denial and Isolation stage. Halfway through the issue, we see him trying to make sense of his situation, visiting clinics and acquainting himself with chemotherapy patients, all the while refusing to accept that this is how it's all going to end. It's...sad. And yet, as a fully-pledged Constantine fan, I myself know he will find a way out of this (well, the series also lasted until 300 issues so it's obvious that he wouldn't die in this story arc). But I try to be in the moment as much as I could and it's really not that hard because Ennis was great in capturing John's tumultuous psyche at the moment, perfectly spelling out how alone John truly is which is why he even befriended a sick, dying old man with the same affliction as has. He's taking whatever comfort he can get and for the first time I did get the sense that he might be too tired to come up with new tricks to outsmart his own fate.

Helplessness is John's enemy now. Nevertheless I know he can turn it around. A large part of him will never stop believing in him. Call me a sucker, but John is, ultimately, my hero.

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

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