Issue #62 “End of the Line”
Writer: Garth Ennis;
Artist: Steve Dillon;
Colors: Tom Ziuko;
Letters: Gaspar Saladino;
Editor: Stuart Moore;
Cover: Glenn Fabry;
Life is full of many choices and in a way it is one of the things that means to be a free. A world in which you could not decide upon the course of your life, whether it be what kind of career you want to pursue, or to be with the one that you love is one that is hard to image, and regrettably for some a world in which they still reside in (at least only for the time being hopefully). While many choices that humans make can have drastic effects on our lives, others such as interests pursued or fashions to wear do not play such a part and rather are our way of being an individual and expressing ourselves. However there is one thing in life that we will never have a choice over that will possibly have a greater effect on our lives than anything else as “End of the Line” shows, our family.
For the sake of this argument the family in which humans are born is the primary focus, while the family one marries into can and most certainly does play a large part in the lives of each person in the marriage, that is a choice someone has had to make at some point, whether it be through traditional courtship or in arranged marriages as although the participants of that marriage had no say in it, their parents made a choice. Family and what one inherits from them (like it or not) is often no small matter. Ancestors pass on genetics to their descendants, not influencing their hair, eye color or skin tone to future generations but also making them predisposed to things such as diabetes or cancer. Political and religious believes can undoubtedly factor into the development of children, but not necessarily in the way that parents want/expect. Not to mention that the varying career choices and by an extant income of families will present different opportunities to children as well. Now what does this have to do with Hellblazer and John Constantine? Everything. As we’ve seen before, the Constantine bloodline is one that is predisposed to a magical lifestyle and is often ill fated to tragedy. We’ve read 61 issues about John Constantine’s magical antics, but from as early on as issue #4, “Waiting for the Man” we’ve also seen how his young niece Gemma has been progressing on her own magical path.
Issue #62 finds John and Kit visiting Liverpool near Christmas to spend time with John’s sister Cheryl, her husband Tony, and their daughter Gemma. Nearly immediately after entering the household and exchanging pleasantries, Cheryl confronts John in the kitchen and accuses him of passing on magical knowledge onto her daughter, presenting a diagram she found Gemma constructing made from arcane symbols, pins, and a photograph of Gemma and some of her friends. John proclaims his innocence, that he has never taught Gemma anything and that he doesn’t want magic to mess up her life as it has to his, ultimately offering his help to get Gemma off magic before she ever truly starts. Upon confronting Gemma about the diagram, she reveals that a boy named Robbie Brooks told her how to make the diagram, so she could get back at her “friend” Sandra for stealing a boy she liked away from her. John asks why she decided to mess around with magic, and aside from trying to get even, Gemma expresses how exciting the entire thing was. The entire scene plays out exactly like how a mother finding her child has tried the same drugs that made her brother into an eventual junkie, and it’s what makes it relatable to reader, as many have either been in the position of having a secret such as this discovered, or have lost a love interest to a friend, or have tried to go to drastic measures to get even over something petty.
Infuriated by how someone is setting Gemma down the path, Constantine sets out to find Brooks, to “sort this wanker out.” while Kit remains behind to have a talk with Gemma. Barging into the squat in which Brooks lives, John finds what is best described as a Constantine impersonator. Pudgy with a bad strawberry blonde mullet that looks like a poor imitation of John’s hair style, and in awe that Constantine is in his house Robbie Brooks is a John Constantine fan-boy plain and simple. It’s an amusing notion that John is well known amongst the youth of Liverpool despite all the badness that seems to follow him, but that is probably half the appeal. Instead of having to put the fear into some little snot, John instead has to resort to different manners, as the threats to Brooks would most likely just entice him to be more Constantine-like1. Ultimately John “cursing” Brooks with a string of Latin gibberish is all more amusing as mystical sounding evocations are all but absent from Hellblazer so when the more “traditional” depictions of magic do make an appearance, it’s always amusing, added by the fact that it’s often tongue-in-cheek.
On the streets of Liverpool Kit and Gemma talk about relationships and individuality. Young and naive, Gemma assumes that Kit is just as into magic as John is, as when someone involves themselves with John Constantine how could they not? Kit tells her the lesson of just because people are in a relationship it does not mean that they have to share all the same interests. Furthermore, the mystical side of John, which many have probably found appealing in John over the years doesn’t even interest her, and as John knows that, he doesn’t have to be all sly and mysterious about it to her, he can be himself. In relationships it’s common to want to be with someone who you can relate to on every front, but ultimately people need to be their own person and live their own lives, couples don’t need to do everything together, it can be smothering and ultimately unhealthy for the relationship. Gemma tells Kit about all the wild times and places John has been because of his magic, and while Kit agrees with her, she reminds her of all the pain and suffering that has also been caused because of it, and that Gemma doesn’t need it to have an exciting life. Kit does not condemn Gemma for trying to get back at her friend, as she suggests next time she “chin the wee bitch” telling her to make sure others know who she is and what she’s about, and not to take crap from anyone. Kit Ryan gets much more character development over the remainder of Ennis’ run, in the first half of the run she was a drop dead gorgeous Irish woman who was an anchor of normalcy in Constantine’s often outrageous life. However here we begin to see how Kit is more of a character on her own, a strong kind woman who doesn’t take shit from anyone.2
The issue closes with John sitting upon the seaside at the grave of Harry Constantine, his distant ancestor who served with Oliver Cromwell at the Drogheda Massacre. Marked as the beginning of the Cromwellian Conquest of Ireland in 1649, the Siege of Drogheda is notorious for the large number of civilians were killed by English Parliamentary forces during the sacking of the city, the precise number is still one for debate but ranges between 800-4000. The conquest of Ireland was so brutal that Oliver Cromwell, who would go on to become Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland, is still a hated figure in Ireland akin to the hatred of General William Sherman in the American South. At some point, Harry Constantine was cursed by The Ribbon Queen so that he would live forever, ultimately being buried alive by people who did want to actually kill him. At some point in his youth John Constantine found the grave and dug up his long undead ancestor and had him teach him history and guidance before burying him again, Constantine being a bastard and all. This time Constantine has come to talk with him about family and fate, how all Constantines seem to be bastards, and make great plans with the aid of magic, only to have it go belly up. Additionally John has realized how the bloodline has a tendency to “Buck at fate. Down to the the last drop of blood. We struggle all the way” While this can easily be seen with John fighting to beat his lung cancer, but also with his father Thomas, who still struggled to raise a family despite his wife dying and him only having one arm. Harry surmises that it is all a choice, and that Gemma has probably already made her’s concerning magic, and asks Constantine to let him rest. Constantine indulges the corpse, taking off his head with a shovel and killing him, before returning to Cheryl’s surmising that because he’s a “failure” and the last Constantine to indulge in the magic lifestyle, no one else will have to go down as a Constantine because of him, and that’s something to be proud of.
“End of the Line” features a number of strong statements about fate, family, and individuality. Plainly put, although you may think you are fated to live your life based off your family history and upbringing, you are not. You have to live your own life, your own way, bucking at fate to the last drop, like a Constantine would. Just don’t end up living your life like a Constantine. It’s hazardous to the health and wellbeing of you and those around you. Moreso them than you.
1. In that regard if I start smoking excessively and drinking G’N’T’s on the regular, someone please stop me.
2. While Kit’s character really gets fleshed out over the remainder of Ennis’ run I much prefer how William Simpson drew her, but that’s just personal preference.