Issue #46 “Falling into Hell”
Writer: Garth Ennis;
Pencils: Will Simpson;
Inker: Mark Pennington, Mark McKenna, Kim DeMulder, Stan Woch;
Colors: Tom Ziuko;
Letters: Gaspar Saladino;
Cover: Tom Canty;
As with any ongoing comic series, after the events of a major storyline the fallout of the events must be acknowledged by those that were affected before the narrative can progress. Characters live while others have died and destruction has been wrought and often the phrase “and nothing will ever be the same” has come up at least once in monthly solicits. In some cases epilogues dealing with ground shaking events like the “deaths”1 of major characters such as Captain America or Batman become events of their very own to enforce the severity of what has transpired. Given how the series spent an entire issue of Constantine saying his goodbyes in heartfelt ways to his friends and family, it is only natural that the series spends time dealing with the fact that Constantine did in fact not die, wrapping up loose subplots as well as sowing the seeds for the future of Ennis’ run.
“Falling into Hell” opens with Constantine recovering from a multiple day bender. Immediately it could be expected that this is because of his triumph over The Fallen and the curing of his cancer, but it actually the complete opposite. Constantine insteads drinks to drown out the feelings of despair that have washed over him in realization of what he almost did to the world. Over the past five issues Constantine’s focus was primarily on how to cure himself of terminal lung cancer, and going to any means necessary, and only now does he consider the repercussions of his actions. Yes he tricked the three Fallen brothers into saving him, but had they instead gone to war he would have “condemned everything that’s ever lived to the slavery of angels.” Like in Jamie Delano’s issues before him, Ennis casts the forces of Heaven as one of oppression that doesn’t fall into the category of what most of humanity would perceive of as “good.” In short Constantine let his care-for-none self-centered attitude gamble with the lives of everyone on Earth, and his death will still carry the same consequences. Constantine remarks on how no one has ever tricked the Fallen as he had and that the powers of Hell will be trying to find a loophole to get them out of starting their own war. While Constantine’s comments are filled with a touch of fear and dread, there is also a hint that he wants Hell to find this loophole so that when he does eventually die, as everyone is apt to do at some point, he doesn’t take the whole world with him.
Realizing he needs to get out and tend to things he has otherwise forgotten thanks to alcohol, a maudlin John bumps into Kit Ryan, the former girlfriend of Brendan O’Flynn, on the rainy London streets. The two immediately reconnect despite remaining out of touch for 8 years, John’s mood immediately brightening and his narration harkening back to issue #42 when he saw Kit’s photo, “…raven black hair that shone in the moonlight/Green eyes you could drown in/Skin like snow/Miss Ireland.” The reuse of the phrase and the tone of the pair’s conversation in the diner enforces to the reader just how much Kit means to John. John may not yet realize it as of yet but by the end of the issue and certainly over the continuation of the series, he will. Most of this issue has a somber feel to it, as do many issues of Hellblazer, but the unexpected encounter of Chas at the diner and Constantine’s straight-man perplexed to know why John isn’t dead adds some humor that stands out within the issue and makes the remaining pages all the more heart wrenching.
Before John can continue his reunion with Kit, he realizes he has forgotten all about Matt who is lying in the cancer ward, and possibly dead. John rushes to the hospital, Kit in tow believing that John needs the emotional support, only to discover that Matt is infact still alive, and just as perplexed as Chas was to discover that John is still alive despite the big goodbye the pair shared a few days prior. Matt briefly meets Kit before she heads off to grab coffee, and Constantine is treated to one last bit of elderly insight from his friend after denying that they are just friends. In the short time that he has known Constantine, Matt has been privileged to know the “real” Constantine, as opposed to the aloof man of mystery that most people know him as. While he doesn’t know the how and why of the more magical parts of John’s life, he knows enough to know that deep down Constantine is lonely individual who doesn’t have that many people that are truly close to him. Just from a brief exchange and observing her body language, Matt can tell that Kit is one of those people, although like before John doesn’t really realize it. Matt proclaims that friends like Kit are what will allow him to keep playing the man of mystery, a safety net to fall back on. John’s narration has hinted at such a relationship in recalling the time he spent with Brendan and Kit in the past, but as we’ve seen, John doesn’t always accept what he tells himself, or is quick to change his mind on it, “The Sting” ended with a smirking Constantine flipping off the devil, while two days later he is drowning his sorrow in whiskey. Matt’s words very much hold true outside of comics, people need some sort of support system as we are naturally social creatures, and whether it’s friends, family, pets, religion, or whatever works for each of us personally that allows us to keep living. Often whenever there is a shooting or mass killing the perpetrator is often described as a loner or someone who did not have the social support that can be a factor in leading to such behavior.
Before Constantine can respond to great lengths about special people in our lives, like Kit, Matt starts to go into a fit that ends ends in his organs rupturing, and him dying very painfully and violently. Looking back to “My Way” in issue #45 this is exactly how Matt joked he would have wanted go, but here when it actually happens it’s much more gruesome than originally pictured. a delirious and dazed Constantine wanders out into the street, lamenting over the fact that he gets to go on living his bastard of a life while good loving people have to die without a chance in the world. Cynically, he thinks that this suffering is his life, and it is part of what is to be Constantine. Kit comes out to comfort the grieving Constantine, the warm red colors of Tom Zuiko contrasting the cool blue of the rainy surrounding. Constantine warns her to keep away from him as she’ll only get hurt like everyone else, but Kit decides to stay instead. The final panel of Dangerous Habits is Kit holding a crying John in the street, with a caption of lyrics from The Pogues’ “Rainy Night in Soho” stretching across the top of the panel:
“We watched our friends grow up together
And we saw them as they fell
Some of them fell into Heaven
Some of them fell into Hell”
Many different bands and many different songs could have easily been used here, but Ennis’ choice of an Anglo-Irish punk group that makes use of traditional Irish instruments alongside politically charged lyrics comes off perfectly here.
Looking back on Dangerous Habits there was an overall theme of the relationship one has with the people that you choose to surround yourself with as well as living life on your own terms. Other than The First of the Fallen, everyone got what they wanted in regards to their own story: Brendan O’Flynn got to go out drinking amongst good company, Constantine got to trick the forces of Hell and survived his bout with cancer, and Matt Higgins got to pass on some wisdom to a man he viewed like a son before he passed. The endings to all of these may not have ended happily for all those involved, but without the bad endings, there’s nothing to compare the good ones to.
- Death is used in quotations here given the fact that the likelihood of a major character (particularly superheroes) actually staying dead for an extended period of time is slim to none.