Portraits in Alienated British You, Circa 1989-90, Part Thirteen :

All’s Well That Ends — Well?

With the shit having already hit the fan, the eleventh and final chapter of Garth Ennis and Warren Pleece’s True Faith plays out more like an epilogue than anything else — but it’s a highly memorable one at that, and sees the story coming to a very fitting tragic-yet-weirdly-hopeful conclusion. Uhhmmm — sort of.

Remember that asshole PE teacher that pushed our guy Nigel around at the start of this series? Well, how do you think he reacts when he sees that our barely-keeping-it-together protagonist has shown up at school while on suspension — and is swigging booze straight from the bottle, no less?

Yup, he disapproves. But not after the one-time objects of Nigel’s would-be affections, Angela, has seen fit to politely question him (in that annoying faux-concerned Christian manner, of course) as to what exactly he thinks he’s doing on school grounds, first. Their brief conversation concludes with her opining that “there’s something odd about you, Nigel,” to which he responds , rather understatedly in my view, “you wouldn’t believe it — you just wouldn’t believe it at all,” and then that dickhead coach guy bursts in.

Their exchange, then, verbatim, commences with the old hard-ass yelling “What the hell are you doing here, Gibson? You’re still under suspension! And that’s — my god .That’s vodka you’ve got there. Right, son. You’re coming with me. We’ll see what the headmaster has to say about this.” Nigel’s response? A rather unimaginative, but admittedly effective, “Why don’t you go and fuck yourself?”

His antagonist’s reaction is, of course, thoroughly predictable : “You’ve done it now, Gibson. Oh yes,” but Nigel’s next move, well — that’s the one that’ll stick with you long after you close the book. Remember that revolver he found on the floor at St, Paul’s? He pulls it out and blows the old guy’s head clean off in one of the more memorably graphic splash pages you’ll ever see (honestly, Warren Pleece really knocks it out of the park with this one). Angela screams “Holy Shit!,” Nigel answers her with a calm and collected “That’s the whole point, Angela,” and then casually saunters out to the front steps of the building as he downs the last of his bottle.

His first-person interior monologue narration carries us through the last couple of pages to the end, and while it’s highly illuminating in terms of expressing his frame of mind, it leaves his actual fate as a character on a note  that can best be described as highly ambiguous. Nigel’s final statement on God is delivered when he informs us, while stepping in dog shit, that “He’s in us. He is us. He ought to be, for goodness’ sake — we invented him,” and his closing thoughts on Terry are of a semi-wistful variety when as he thinks to himself “I suppose I ought to thank Terry, in a way. He belonged in a rubber room. But at least he was free. Bugger rules. Bugger society. Bugger religion. He just did whatever the hell he wanted. And I guess that’s the lesson I learned from him. So here I am” — but where is that, exactly?

Okay, fair enough, he’s right out front of his school, and  Nigel says that he “can hear sirens coming,” but his last thoughts,  transmitted as he looks down at his gun before smiling into the distance, leave what happens next entirely up to the reader to decipher : “Free. And that’s the way I’m staying. I’ve got faith in myself, at last. Great faith. True faith. But then — I was bound to say that sooner or later.”

Ripping a page from Grant Morrison’s playbook for St. Swithin’s Day, then, Ennis is leaving readers with a question mark rather than a period or exclamation point. Does he allow the cops to arrest him? Does he blow his own brains out? Does he go down in a blaze of gunfire like Terry and Cornelius?

You can read it any way you want, of course, and how you choose to take the ending will at least subtly affect how you view the entire work. That’s how these things go.  You can also do the whole “re-read it with one possible interpretation of the ending in mind” thing and then read it yet again geared up for the next possible interpretation, etc. But hey — that’s only if you’ve got enough time.

Speaking of which — I’ve got just enough time left here today myself to tell you that we’ll be putting a wrap on True Faith in our next segment.

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Ryan Carey maintains a B-movie (with occasional comics-related content) blog at trashfilmguru.wordpress.com, and writes about films and comics for sites such as unobtainium13.com, dailygrindhouse.com, geekyuniverse.com, and now Sequart. You can follow him on Twitter @trashfilmguru.

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