Friday, September 26, 2014

Hellblazer by Garth Ennis issue #44

When I started my review for Garth Ennis' Dangerous Habits story arc, I asserted that John Constantine is undergoing the stages of grief while waiting his impending death due to lung cancer. In The Beginning of the End issue #41, we see him in his Denial stage where he felt as if life owed him a more meaningful death than cancer, considering that he thought that he had lived a special life. In A Drop of the Hard Stuff issue #42, he started spending time with a friend he hasn't seen in years and lashes out when the Devil came to claim his friend's soul. He did display Anger in this issue but only to the extent that it was the only emotion he has that doesn't make him powerless so he embraces it. In Friends in High Places issue #43, John tries to get out of his looming mortality through Bargaining, setting up meetings with a minor demon and an archangel who both refused to do anything about his situation. Now we come to the Depression stage of the story and yet, to be quite honest, the transition towards Acceptance is quick by the middle of the story because this is also the issue where John dares to do the unthinkable which is also his last resort.
"Can you see me now, all you friends I've lost and betrayed? Do you wish me well, then, or are you praying I'll be with you soon? Will you relish every scream when my blood starts hitting the floor, or will you turn away, afraid to look, the moment you've been waiting for too awful to look at, even for my sins? Sit back and enjoy the show."
I love this issue because it reminded me of the John Constantine I was introduced to when the series began. I've described John once as a man of action even if his decisions usually have detrimental results to the lives of his friends. Though I was impressed of his resourcefulness and ability to adapt into any given situation, I also resented him because he was selfish in such a way that he's using people around him without even owning up to the deception. The weirdest thing about this narcissistic display is that he always feels remorse and guilt afterwards which makes me as a reader wonder why he would commit such a vile act in the first place if he's going to start feeling bad about it anyway. And that's the thin line that separates John Constantine from the real assholes who see humanity as expendable--and why we relate to his struggles in a way that keeps Hellblazer interesting and emotionally moving at times.

At his core, John is a decent and compassionate man who has learned to guard his heart by employing a carefully-crafted cynical approach in all the things in his life--including he people he claims to love. He does selfish things and regrets them later which is what every flawed human being does on a daily basis, and in the expanse of the series he has learned and evolved from such mistakes, and I was happy to join him along that journey.

That shrewdness and self-reliance that defined John Constantine from the start became all the more admirable now because, by this point, he also carried with him all the changes that have made him a better person from the kind of man he used to be when we read him in the first issue. In My Way issue #44, we see John saying his goodbyes with the people who mean the most to him and, more often than not, they were also the people whom he treated either kindly or dismissively. There was his sister Cheryl, his best friend Chas and even his new friend Matt (the cancer patient he made an instant connection with during this story arc). Though John has a plan in place, the odds of him surviving the ordeal are still slim so he decided that it's only necessary to make peace with this people because it's a closure that they all need. I almost teared up with that letter he left Chas (which was made all the more poignant because of the last lines where John stated that at least he and Chas parted in good ways--which is not what happened before he gave Chas that letter. They had a small argument right before John walked out of his cab and Chas realized too late that it was the last conversation they had until he read that letter). John's goodbye to Cheryl felt long overdue. He was never a big part of her life and her daughter's. They were estranged for a while, but it was cathartic because it was also his way of assuring Cheryl that both of them are ultimately forgiven for all the things and actions that were left unsaid and undone.

The issue ends with a thrilling cliffhanger. John Constantine, at the end of his straw, does the impossible and it was only by the next issue that it became clear to the readers what exactly he just committed. It was a rather good one too.


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