Issue #30 “Fatality”
Writer: Jamie Delano
Art: Ron Tiner & Mark Buckingham
Colors: Tom Zuiko
Letters: Gaspar Saladino
Cover: Kent Williams
Picking up immediately from the previous issue, “Fatality” brings The Family Man storyline to a close. As the title of the issue suggests (and because Hellblazer does not end at issue #30 but instead at issue #300) the issue marks an important event in the life of John Constantine and narrative of the series, Constantine directly taking the life of another. Throughout the series many people have died because of their association with Constantine, but up until this point Constantine has never been the one that has pulled the trigger or stuck in the blade. He often causes the circumstances that result in the death of his friends, and subsequently grieves over their loss, but this occurrence provokes a different response from John.
The issue is comprised of an ongoing chase between Constantine and The Family Man, going from one perspective to the other as they dart around London in a game of cat-and-mouse with the roles changing as the issue progresses. Due to Chas’ spying from the previous issue, Constantine has the opportunity to get the drop on The Family Man and kill him anonymously, but decides that he needs Samuel Morris to know that he, John Constantine, is his killer. The Family Man has dealt John the most personal blow of the series thus far, and John wants his death to be just as personal. The scene of Constantine having the opportunity to murder someone he knows has caused much suffering is reminiscent of “Fellow Travelers” when he has the chance to shoot the corrupt ex-cop Davis, but opted against it as he considered it “wrong.” This issue shows that Constantine has become more flexible on the notion of shooting someone but it is not something he is at all comfortable with.
Half way through the issue, the direction changes to focus entirely on Constantine, which increases the overall suspense of the chase. Constantine knows that he is being followed and figures he is safe in numbers, travelling back to Liverpool by bus with a group of football fans. Very observant readers, or upon rereading the issue, will notice that the disguised Family Man is never far from Constantine throughout his trip back home in nearly every panel. Constantine’s narration of the literal and figurative burden of his gun draw attention away from the disguised Family Man who is largely drawn in as a body to fill scenes at a bus station. The final confrontation between Constantine and The Family Man occurs at a rest stop before spilling out to a highway underpass. In comparison to other confrontations the duel between Constantine and The Family Man is up close and personal, The Family Man egging a still reluctant Constantine on. Throughout the arc The Family Man has regarded him as a worthy adversary, someone like him, but in the end the differences of the two become more apparent. Flashbacks during the fight to Samuel Morris’ childhood reveal his father instilling the belief of “killing as a kindness” in regards to ending the suffering of his dog, it is something that is done out of love, to take away pain and misery. When his parents went out one evening and did not return until long after they said they would, the pain that he felt from being abandoned by them is what drove him to kill them upon their return, as to him they were already dead. In the end this brought him a sense of peace knowing he would never have to experience that pain of abandonment. Conversely, Constantine’s reluctance but eventual murder of Morris is met with revulsion, Constantine vomiting after shooting Morris in the head. Constantine ponders over if what he did was justified, if any murder can be justified, even if it could have saved lives in the future. Regarding a knife slash to his brow as his “mark of Cain,” he cynically comes to the conclusion that executioners (and by extension murderers) are always volunteers because they enjoy it, of which he obviously does not.
Although the story arc only spans four issues, the threat of Samuel Morris feels greater than that of Jallakuntilliokan and the Freemasons from The Fear Machine, at least when it comes to Constantine. This could be accounted for based on the style of the two arcs. The Fear Machine is an epic sprawling political thriller that Constantine just happens to get caught up in, with a wide array of characters and intertwining plots that, in the end, has Constantine act more as an observer of the threat at large. Other than saving a few lives (which all ended up dying in the end anyways), Constantine’s role in the story is much less vital than other arcs. But, The Family Man is a much more concise personal threat that has lasting repercussions on the life of Constantine in comparison to The Fear Machine. It could be argued that The Family Man would have just kept on killing were it not for John, but the threat of a serial killer is treated much differently by Constantine than the Lovecraftian horror. The arc shows Constantine possessing legitimate fear, resulting in a more serious, cautious attitude than what we’ve previously seen. While his smugness is still present at times, it is Constantine’s (and the series) adaptability that keeps the stories interesting.