Sifting Through the Ashes:

Analyzing Hellblazer, Part 21

Issue 24 “The Family Man”
Writer: Jamie Delano
Art: Ron Tiner
Colors: Tom Zuiko
Letters: Tom Frame
Cover: Dave McKean

Being a supernatural horror comic, it is only natural that Constantine would encounter demons, ghosts, zombies, and worshippers of dark gods on his adventures. Up until now, Hellblazer has depicted just that. As creepy as some may find such threats, in the end the reader is able to put the book down, let their pulse stabilize, and return to reality, where such things are mere fantasy. However, the next story arc of the series, The Family Man, Constantine faces down a “real” threat, one that is not easily brushed aside as a creation of fantasy, a serial killer.

Picking up shortly after the conclusion of the previous issue, “The Family Man” begins with a father discovering his brutally murdered wife and children bringing his idyllic life to a sudden stop. A radio broadcast of the murders causes another man to reflect on his early-to-rise lifestyle that provides for his family, and decides to stay in and spend the day with them. In 2005 DC’s Identity Crisis posed the question of “who benefits from attacking (a hero’s) families” the answer being: the families, as those being threatened / worried about the threat are much more apt to be cautious and spend greater time to ensure the safety of their family. While the families being targeted here are much more ordinary, the threat in both Identity Crisis and The Family Man both convey a greater human threat than what regularly is dealt with in Hellblazer or in the Justice League.

Shifting over to Constantine, we see him still occupying the house of Jerry O’Flynn who was last seen being dragged into a library basement. Back to using people (as is his nature), Constantine sees no trouble in settling into Jerry’s now occupant mansion. Opening a safe that is filled with thousands of dollars and a sizable amount of drugs, the devious nature of O’Flynn is hinted at as more than just a dealer of occult antiquities. Then, an elderly man comes calling for an envelope that was in O’Flynn’s possession and makes small talk with a lonely Constantine, being all too happy to partake in. While out of the room, Constantine sees that the envelope contains a list of names and an address, which informs the reader that this elderly man is really The Family Man killer (his calling card that he leaves Constantine reads “Homo Familiaris,” Latin for Family Man).  As he pages through Jerry’s accounting ledger, we discover a little more about O’Flynn’s character and his past dealings. Constantine viewed him as a role model of such, one that he tried to emulate upon arriving to London and whereas Constantine is a magical adrenaline junkie, O’Flynn was addicted to trade, “the urgent intravenous rush of supply and demand” as Constantine puts it. Finding an ad for “Happy Families,” a TV quiz show with a number of names written down and a journal of how someone named R.H. has been coming to O’Flynn for mementoes from serial killers, before progressing to the point of supplying victims for “F.M.”, the journal is a clear recollection of O’Flynn’s descent into his trade-addiction and R.H.’s obsession with serial killers. Each goes from long closed cases to murderers still at large, all the parties taking further and greater risks to satisfy their needs. The object of one’s addiction is usually perceived as a physical thing (drugs being the most common). With O’Flynn however, his addictions transcend physical needs for psychological ones. [1]

His disbelief is shattered when he receives a call from Reed Hackett (R.H.), who asks when he should expect the next delivery from The Family Man. Opening a small parcel the old man left and discovering it to be a child’s sippy cup filled with blood, Constantine comes to the horrifying realization he has condemned a family to die and that the killer knows his face and name. Disgusted with the man he had just spoken casually with, Constantine leaves the money he was planning on taking and burns down O’Flynn’s house. At first, he toys with the notion of going to save the family that has become the Family Man’s next target, but his cynicism kicks in, realizing it’s too late to save them and must now save himself. Constantine’s semi-clear conscious has again become muddled. Once more, he is back into the fray, albeit facing a much different foe.

Notes:

1. Am I addicted to looking for meaning in comics and writing about them? Maybe. Ask me again when this work is finished.

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