Issue #67 “Dear John”1
Writer: Garth Ennis;
Artist: Steve Dillon;
Colors: Tom Ziuko;
Letters: Todd Klein;
Editor: Stuart Moore;
Assistant Editor: Julie Rottenberg;
Cover: Glenn Fabry;
Life is filled with pain. To deny that would be incredibly naive, and would probably only said by those who truly haven’t experienced it. Pain comes in many forms, each hurting in a different kind of way, so just because you’ve steeled yourself to the seemingly endless stream of FOAD letters when applying for jobs doesn’t mean you’ll handle the physical pain of a broken limb with the same grace. However out of all the pains in the world, by far one of if not the worst one is the pain of the loss of a loved one. This loss often is quickly followed by a dreaded downward spiral that has lasting effects on the sufferer as shown in “Dear John”
The funny thing about pain is that the human brain can not distinguish between physical and emotional pain, which is why a broken heart “hurts” as anyone who has been through a bad breakup (or even sometimes a good one) can tell you. Our brain is literally sending and receiving the signals that makes our body feel terrible. The sorrowful issue begins with Kit in her apartment waiting for John. The scene shows the apartment nearly bare, boxes packed and bed stripped down, and along with Kit’s narration of “this was gonna destroy him” it is painfully obvious what is about to transpire. When John returns to the apartment, Kit tries to remain civil, telling John she wants to return home to Belfast for good and that she doesn’t want to be with him anymore. John immediately goes on the defensive trying to proclaim how he understands how things were rough and that the skinhead intruders weren’t his fault (at least not directly so) and that Kit should have known he isn’t a perfect soul and had to expect the Constantine Weirdness at some point. Kit’s rebuttal is that she didn’t want a perfect John Constantine, just a quiet safe life. John gets uncharacteristically emotive about how he has never gotten this close with anyone, or how good it was, or even talking about things like this with someone as a plea for Kit not to leave him, but her reply of “And now you’re ruined it all, John” sends Constantine into a downward spiral of bastardry which turns the conversation ugly and the pair leaving on bad terms, complete with the scene of Kit throwing John’s belongings out the window after he has stormed out onto the street. It’s an emotionally driven scene that the reader can find siding with both characters based off what has transpired. On the one hand we want John Constantine to be happy and with Kit as she does make him happy. On the other Kit’s reasoning of “you brought the weirdness into our life and I told you I wasn’t having that” is completely understandable as her life was literally at risk. It would have been nice for Kit to just give Constantine a good “ballackin’” for this but ultimately it would have taken away from Kit’s character, throwing away the work that Ennis has built up since her introduction, as realistically her reaction is what you would expect from a partner who was set upon by switchblade wielding skinheads. The artwork of Steve Dillon deserves excessive praise, as there are many emotions that are expertly conveyed through his artwork across the entire issue. Shock, betrayal, sorrow, anger, revulsion, “Dear John” has some of Dillon’s best work in the series within these 22 pages.
Thoroughly crushed by the breakup, Constantine does what is probably the worst thing imaginable and heads to a pub where he begins to drink, heavily. Although alcohol is often used by many as a means to find solace, chemically it is a depressant, making it one of the worst things one could indulge in when feeling sad. Sitting outside Constantine tries to keep it together, although visually you can tell that he is barely hanging on by a thread, again Dillon’s pencils do a wonderful job of conveying the emotion that Ennis’ words describe. As John’s about to have an emotional breakdown he overhears a group of young men sniggering at him which turns his anguish to rage. Constantine confronts the group and assaults them and insults the owner’s wife. Constantine’s rage fueled antics are only stopped by Chas who spotted the brawl from his car and comes to his friend’s aid, even taking a punch from the burly owner of the pub when he tells him to piss off. Safe in the car John tries to remain silent and mopey as Chas tries to get him to open and find out why he’s beating people up in broad daylight on the street. John’s short answer of “Kit left me” and Chas’ response of “Oh shit” is an enough of an exchange to convey that Constantine’s old friend realizes the extremity of the situation. Friends and family are the people that help us get through our troubles and help us deal with our pain, and although many men have trouble expressing their emotions to other men, as many view it as something that weakens their preconceived notion of masculinity sadly, the friends who seek to counsel us in hard times are the friends worth having around. So of course in his whirlwind of depressed destruction Constantine ends up pushing Chas away as well after the pair returns to Kit’s apartment that John can stay at for the week. Telling Chas he has no idea what he’s going through, that he’s an arsehole, and insulting his wife, when Chas slugs Constantine in the jaw and slams his head against a table seems utterly appropriate considering how Chas just saved John. Dunking John’s head in a toilet, to convey just how much of a piece of shit John is being to not only him but to everyone, it’s hard not to cheer for Chas as he tosses John aside and storms out. After all the suffering and run arounds John has put Chas through it’s nice to see John get his comeuppance for once, despite the hardship that Constantine himself is dealing with.
That evening lost in a bottle of whiskey, John stumbles into a cemetery as “s’where all me mates hang out…” where he he tosses around the day in his head. John comes to the realization that Kit was right about everything she accused him of being and even though she could see right through his man of mystery facade that she liked him anyways. Along with this admission of bastardry is the revelation that Constantine was afraid of love, despite the number of the times his narration joked about it before he passes out onto a grave, symbolizing the end of the John and Kit phase of Hellblazer a romance all too sweet and too short. On the west coast of england we see Kit aboard a ship as it leaves port, looking solemn as a single tear rolls down her cheek accompanied by the phrase “bastard/stupid wee bastard” revealing that although she was tough as nails and fierce during the breakup in the apartment, this has not been easy for her either.
“Dear John” is one of the most emotional issues of Ennis run’s as it is truly painful and sad to see John in such a sorry state after seeing him blissfully happy no more than a handful of issues beforehand. Anyone who has been through a bad breakup can relate with what transpires in the issue and can woefully shake their head as John makes more and more mistakes through the issue. But also the reader pities John Constantine, as anyone who let’s someone else know them as only they themselves do and then is hurt deserves as much, even if that person can be a bit of a bastard. As foretold by the Lord of the Dance in “Forty” the “bloody rough couple of years” in Constantine’s life are here.
- This issue was originally titled ‘End of the Line” when first released but was retitled to “Dear John” when collected in trade format.