Issue #44 “My Way”
Writer: Garth Ennis;
Pencils: Will Simpson;
Inker: Tom Sutton;
Colors: Tom Zuiko;
Letters: Gaspar Saladino;
Cover: Tom Canty;
American founding father Benjamin Franklin is famously known for the quote from a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leory in 1789, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” While not the original purveyor of the phrase, it has since become part of the public lexicon as a phrase about the inevitability of life. Death and taxes are inescapable, and while one could argue that you can escape taxes to an extent, the repercussions of getting caught will probably have an adverse effect on the quality of your remaining life. While it can be seen as being grouped into “death” another inevitability of life are goodbyes. As everyone is surely aware life rarely goes how you want it and often leads to a parting of ways in one way another. How goodbyes are dealt with are unique to each person and each individual goodbye as shown in “My Way” in which a near death Constantine prepares for the inevitable.
Appearing more gaunt than in the previous issues of the “Deadly Habits” arc, John Constantine spends the majority of the issue visiting his remaining friends and family to tell them he won’t be around much longer. Constantine’s journey begins in his hometown of Liverpool, with him visiting the grave of his mother, a woman he never met but wishes is together with his father who hated him. Despite the fact that The First of the Fallen boasted of having claim over Thomas’ soul, this marks an otherwise unusually hopeful moment for Constantine who is the definition of a cynic most of the time. This can be attributed to the side of John that is seen whenever his family is directly involved. As can be seen as far back as “Waiting for the Man”
Constantine goes to great lengths to defend his sister Cheryl and his niece Gemma, often putting their well being ahead of his own. Confronting Cheryl he tells her he “won’t be back” and although he doesn’t reveal the precise details as of why, Cheryl knows it’s because of John’s involvement with magic. Of the three goodbyes within the issue, John’s goodbye to Cheryl is the only time we see him cry. Constantine proclaims that “magic is bollocks” that the real people that have no involvement with it are what is really important in life. As seen whenever Constantine does end up doing something noble or saving the world, it is to protect people like Cheryl from what they don’t understand. Constantine himself can’t get enough of the thrill magic gives him but he doesn’t want others to suffer the ill effects of the occult.
Returning to London Constantine has a brief exchange with Chas Chandler, one of Constantine’s few friends with no magical dealings who acts as a straight man to many of John’s antics. Jiding Chas and his new mini-cab, which is the result from Constantine’s end of the world warning from The Fear Machine, the pair drive off with John continuing to deride Chas’ financial decisions. Revealing that Chas’ financier is a notorious loan shark, Chas blows up at John, unleashing all of the pent up aggression for being nearly financially ruined and all the times John has put him down. Leaving the cab, Chas find a note with a wad of money Constantine won for him to set things right for his friend. Seeing that John had always meant the best for him and that this was their final goodbye he breaks down crying. In his note, Constantine proclaims that he could never tell Chas the things he had written down as he would “feel like a prat” one could view this as the masculine stereotype of not being able to truly express their feelings to other people, particularly other men, but it is more of Constantine maintaining his public image that he has presented to Chas for most of his life. The image Constantine has built for himself is so ingrained in Chas (and many others) that John would feel dishonest being actually honest with his friend. To go against that so abruptly would probably result in a laugh from Chas who would think John is putting him on once again when in reality it is completely the opposite.
Lastly, John goes to visit Matt in the cancer ward, who brings a bit of dark humor to the issue. Informing John that “his way” to go would be loud and violently, hoping that the nurse he doesn’t like slips and falls on pools of his blood. While it is a rather morbid image but delivered by the near skeletal Matt, there is a certain set of humor to the notion added. Additionally Matt reveals that what he assumed to be constipation led to a colonoscopy at the behest of the nurse he didn’t like, which reveals that his cancer has infact spread to his bowels, the deadpan delivery has Constantine keeled over in laughter and shocked that he’s someone else’s straight man for a change. After telling Matt he won’t be around anymore, Matt rises from his bed to shake Constantine’s hand and tells him “Don’t ever be sorry, son. regrets aren’t worth a bugger.” This statement sends Constantine around London as he ponders its meaning in regards to his own life. Regretting something doesn’t change how things happened and only leads to individuals dwelling on what could have been, and negative emotions building upon these thoughts, rather than taking something away from our experiences and thinking about the possibilities of the future based off what we now know.
Goodbyes complete, Constantine stands before Parliament and Big Ben, narrating that they have always been the enemy. Not the British Government in particular, but Authority in general, be it ““in Senate or Junta or Hell or Heaven.” Those that would rather have control over people than let them be free while they “shit all over them” there is a lot of rage from Constantine and Ennis in this one page, but it is controlled and contained, the phrases precise. Many of the antagonists in Ennis’ Hellblazer run are someone in some position of authority, The First of the Fallen seeks control over souls in this instance, and this will be greatly explored in the coming issues. Returning to his old apartment from the first issue of Hellblazer “for nostalgia” Constantine separately contacts The Second and The Third of the Fallen, the other two members of Hell’s Triumvirate, a sort of checks and balances system instilled by God to prevent the powers of Hell from becoming too powerful. When the Second and Third of the Fallen are present the orientation of the panels takes on a much more erratic layout than the neat structured layouts that Will Simpson has been drawing, harking back to the layouts by John Ridgeway from the early issues of Hellblazer, which would take on a more erratic style when supernatural events occurred. Constantine returning to his apartment from the beginning of the series can be seen as a comment on the cyclical nature of comics, how things always get reset back to the status quo in one way or another. While Hellblazer never has the hard reset that most monthly ongoing comics experience, many of the supporting cast from Ennis’ run is contained within Ennis’ run1. Conducting “business” with the Fallen, selling his soul to both of them in addition to The First of Fallen’s claim, Constantine smirks that approaching his death he has done it “my way.” Grabbing a razor blade, he slashes at his wrist, blood squirting out on the floor as The First of the Fallen arrives to watch him die.
“My Way” shows the many different facets of Constantine’s personality and the varying relationships he has. While it’s common to see these varying sides of the character it isn’t often all within a single issue. The cliffhanger of Constantine bleeding out with The First of the Fallen watches with sadistic glee is certainly a nail biting ending that entraps the reader into wondering just how Constantine will get out of this newest predicament. As the series continues on for an additional 256 issues2 he of course will, in a manner that has become a prominent note in the legacy of the character.
- Which of course is easily explained from them dying during the run
- Not counting specials and spin offs.