Writer Ray Fawkes and artist Jeremy Haun deliver an atmospheric book with Constantine #19. This installment of the series slows the plot down to a halt as John drives a car along a deserted highway in the hopes of tracking down his Earth-2 counterpart. The issue establishes its bleak tone almost immediately with images of burning vehicles, empty roads, and severed heads.
With desolation on all sides, Constantine attempts to remain indifferent by reminding himself repeatedly that this world he’s in isn’t the “real” one. When he is passed by a vehicle with a family of three on the run, he assures himself that they are not real. It’s very depressing stuff.
Ultimately, Constantine is forced to act, driven by the hopelessness of it all, when he passes by the family’s car to discover the parents dead, and the daughter missing. The climax to the issue is brutal and only adds to the heavy tone of the book.
It’s risky in a monthly comic to take the time to set an atmospheric tone. It can leave the issue feeling flat and devoid of content. Ray Fawkes does an admirable job of it though, and gives readers a downer of an issue that still feels complete. This is largely in part to the way Fawkes employs the captions. In this issue, readers are given a good look into John’s head as he traverses Earth-2. This not only helps to compliment the artwork of the issue, but helps to control the pacing of the book for the reader, making sure that the book has an even feel with a lingering sense of despair.
Jeremy Haun’s artwork also does a great job of conveying the horrors, as there are tons of establishing shots of the world around Constantine. Most of the panels that feature John are tightly framed, creating a claustrophobic feeling, while the panels of the exterior of his car tend to focus on some horror in the foreground while the car drives by. This adds to the feeling of slowly going through a hellish landscape.
While a powerful atmosphere is fantastic to see in a monthly comic, the issue doesn’t add much at all to the development of the arc and is much slower-paced than the previous issue. If the pacing were similar, it’d be easier to determine what type of story this Earth-2 arc is going to become, but right now the story seems unfocused.
This is more an observation than a true criticism, but the cover to Constantine #19 has nothing to do with the contents of the issue inside. Normally I wouldn’t bat an eye, but the cover is so utterly different from the story within, it makes me wonder if it spoils a future plot point in the arc.
Constantine #19 is a tricky book to judge. It clearly wants to be a more meditative tale, focusing more on establishing its tone and style than forwarding the plot. And so the contents of the issue itself are strong, delivering a story with a quieter focus. But its overall place in the arc remains to be seen. As of right now, it doesn’t seem to match both the previous issue and where it seems this arc is headed. Still, a good issue is a good issue.