Constantine #18 by Ray Fawkes and Jeremy Haun is an entertaining tale that operates as a nice character piece with a twisted premise.
The cover advertises an Earth 2 tie-in, but this is a loose connection at best. The issue takes place on Earth 2, but as long as the reader is comfortable with the idea of multiple Earths, no additional reading is required to jump on in. Constantine #18 opens with John Constantine on Earth 2, surrounded by friends and celebrating the end of the world. The scene transitions to John surrounded by parademons and with no idea of how he got there. He is quickly saved by a powerful being named Wotan. What at first seems like a rescue worsens when it is revealed that Wotan recognizes that John Constantine is not of this Earth. With Earth 2 dying around them, Wotan seeks to use Constantine’s body as a means to escape into Constantine’s world. Interwoven between Constantine’s conflict with Wotan are scenes of the scenes of the demon hunter in the coffee shop. The purpose of these scenes and their relation to the fight with Wotan doesn’t become clear until the end of the issue, but the results are a satisfying end.
Constantine #18 ends with a simple revelation. To escape Earth 2, Constantine will have to find his alternate Earth counterpart and use him as a conduit to escape back to his own world. It’s an intriguing concept, and it will be fun to see both Constantine’s interact in future issues.
Fawkes’ grasp on Constantine’s character is what really sells the book. The character is dry, imbued with a “been there, done that” quality that makes it a fascinating read. He is pragmatic, a refreshing quality in a comic book protagonist. In addition to the strong character work, Fawkes’ pacing in Constantine #18 is fantastic. Each scene contributes in some way, either via character, tone, or towards the climax of the book.
Jeremy Haun’s artwork here provides a nice gritty feel to the book. There are some subtle differences between Constantine and his Earth 2 counterpart. John is is worn and ragged. It isn’t just the beard and the coat either. Harsh lines cover his face, scars and age lines. By contrast, Constantine of Earth 2 looks younger and less frazzled. It’s a nice way of showing the contrast between the two men.
There isn’t much wrong with this issue. The one place that may have been improved is the conflict with Wotan. The resolution to the conflict is incredibly satisfying, but the build up is undermined by one of the issue’s positives: Constantine’s character. John is pragmatic and lax enough that it reduces the tension in the issue. It’s hard to buy that the protagonist’s life is on the line when he’s putting on a front for the villain.
Constantine #18 is a solid entry to the series and the a fun start to the next arc. Fawkes’ script is smart and well paced, and the art by Jeremy Haun provides the right amount of grit needed for the series. Though the issue lacks some tension, the setup for the arc promises to deliver a conflict that may not be so easily dealt with.