Constantine has been through the ringer in this final arc. Escaping with his Earth-2 counterpart’s family back into his home universe, Constantine isn’t out of the woods and Constantine #23 opens up with John being confronted by Earth-2 Maureen over the loss of her Constantine. The issue quickly cuts back to where the previous issue left off with Darkseid reaching outward from the portal trying to grasp onto Constantine and the living universe.
Constantine knows that he can’t successfully protect his native universe without casting a spell to keep Darkseid at bay, and all spells have their costs. And the cost here will mean the lives of many of those he saved. As Constantine considers the price he must pay, the narrative cuts back to John on the English coast, on his knees, clearly worn out by the turmoil he’s been through. But due to his actions, the family he’s saved is not thankful. The father of Earth-2 Constantine laments that he would rather be dead than live with his wife and son gone. And with Maureen still armed from their confrontation with the armies of Darkseid, Constantine finds himself looking down the barrel of a loaded gun.
The narrative cuts back to the confrontation with Darkseid, as John faces off against the god. His spell is a gamble, hoping to trick Darkseid into believing he’s entered another dead universe rather than a living one. The risk pays off and this section of the book connects back into the conflict between John and the denizens of Earth-2, where John finds himself without words. The Earth-2 family is alive, but that’s all he could give them.
The synergy between Ray Fawkes and Jeremy Haun has made this arc a true pleasure to read, and Constantine #23 is no different. Haun’s artwork captures the agony of Constantine’s father as he considers pulling the trigger on a man who is essentially his late son’s doppelgänger. It’s as painful as it needs to be and Fawkes’ script helps to build the mood properly.
The issue makes a smart decision in placing the climax in the conflict between Constantine and the Earth-2 family rather than against Darkseid. The human conflict has truer stakes and its nice to see the series stick to those rather than a conflict with DC’s Big Bad.
The formatting of Constantine #23 does leave something to be desired. While the issue’s climax is appropriately focused on the emotional conflict between John and Earth-2 family, the juxtaposition between the fight between Darkseid and the arrival on Earth robs the former of any tension and makes one long for a lengthier exploration of the latter. It’s not a total misstep, as both pieces payoff well and have their own turns that make for a nice read, but it doesn’t always work to the narrative’s advantage.
Constantine #23 is a powerful finale to the series. Ray Fawkes is in fine form here, and Jeremy Haun’s art excels at both the cosmic elements and the unstable emotions experienced by the protagonist and the people he tries to save. Fawkes and Haun took a risk in focusing on inner turmoil rather than external forces for the finale to Constantine, but with the final issue they’ve proven why that was the right choice.