The apocalypse arrives as Constantine meets with his Earth-2 counterpart and his family. Constantine #20 opens in medias res, with Constantine being faced by an armed officer. The issue quickly cuts back to the cliffhanger from last issue, as John enters the home of his Earth-2 counterpart.
The interaction between Constantine and Earth-2 Constantine highlights the contrast between the two characters as John realizes just how much he’s lost by looking at what his alternate self still has. In Earth-2, John still has his parents, his friends, Maureen. The two men almost instantaneously engage in physical combat, though they are quickly pulled apart by their company. As Constantine relays who he is, the temporary peace is broken as the outside world comes crashing in.
Realizing they must leave, the family embarks on a road trip to find someplace safe. On their way, they face panicked civilians, police launching tear gas, and burning buildings. Finally, Constantine instructs his Earth-2 companions on how to inscribe magic, and explains to them the cost of what he plans on doing: transporting them back to Earth proper.
Ray Fawkes and Jeremy Haun have nailed the dismay of a world turned upside down. It’s truly an attack on two fronts as Fawkes’ captions work in tandem with Haun’s atmospheric artwork to create a dour mood. The pacing here is exquisite at building mood. The slower pace adds weight to each moment. The actions of the people around Constantine and his family only grows darker as the book progresses. This issue, especially when read in tandem with the previous chapter, forms a slow march toward doom. Fawkes imbues his scenes with subtle character moments: as Maureen tends to a wound on our Constantine, Earth-2 John looks onward with distrust and a tinge of jealousy.
Haun’s artwork is strong as always. With the Constantines now face-to-face, one can clearly see the difference between the two men. Our Constantine is weathered, whereas Earth-2 Constantine appears quite a bit younger due to the lack of physical and emotional damage. It cannot be left unsaid that the images in Haun’s artwork take on additional weight in light of recent events in Ferguson. The panels of Constantine being hit with tear gas and people throwing bricks gain a much more harrowing bleakness that only adds to the book’s dour tone.
Some readers will find this pacing to be agonizingly slow. Constantine #20 is an issue that leans heavily towards character development and atmosphere over plot, and that’s likely to throw some readers off, especially as the previous issue was also a slow burn.
Constantine #20 is a near perfect issue. Fawkes and Haun have doubled down on the atmosphere from issue #19, but now that Constantine and his Earth-2 counterpart re together, there’s plenty of subtle character moments. The consistency in pacing from the previous chapter to this one also helps solidify the arc, and a final page reveal suggests that the tension that’s been building is going to pay off in a big way.