"Constantine" #15 is a splendid introduction to the world of John Constantine following the events of "Forever Evil" and "Blight." Writer Ray Fawkes, artist ACO, colorists Richard and Tanya Horie and letterer Taylor Esposito combine to deliver a comic book with solid visuals and a compelling confrontation between Constantine and Graceful Moon.
Fawkes handles this title like an old-school comic book, with an underlying subplot that strings along ready to pay dividends later, but in the meantime an entire story unfolds throughout the panels of "Constantine" #15. Readers need be armed with nothing else prior to opening the cover. Fawkes shares Constantine's perspective with the readers and makes a discernable effort to avoid relaxing into passive storytelling, choosing action within the panels rather than narration in text. The writer emphasizes Constantine's knack for finding trouble and his penchant for wriggling out of it in the showdown with Graceful Moon. All the way along, Fawkes shows readers bits of the world Constantine inhabits and makes it quite clear it isn't just there when Constantine looks for it, but it lurks in shadows, under ground and even right behind the reader. If this issue were a pilot for a show, there would be no doubt a season order would be placed.
The visuals from ACO are captivating. While many comic book artists strive to fill the page and expand beyond the confines of the paper these stories are printed on, ACO puts ink to paper and adds significant borders to every panel, save for the double-page splash where readers are introduced to Graceful Moon, her pearl monkeys and crimson silk banners. Those borders come in handy throughout the story, giving readers a chance to pause and digest, but also giving the story levels to break through. The Hories' colors are stunning and radiant, kicking up the visuals when Constantine finds himself facing a Qilin, and never letting down. "Constantine" #15 would not be complete without the lettering of Taylor Esposito, who practices economic placement and judicious application of word balloon and caption box. ACO's artwork is so lush with detail and filled with strong linework that covering any of it seems like a misstep, except for the fact that a story such as this gains new meaning when words are included.
"Constantine" #15 is a concise, well-executed example of what modern mystical/horror comic books can be with the right creators in place. There is no doubt Fawkes and ACO are right for Constantine and their presence here elevates this title's readability tremendously. Constantine is on his own here, but that doesn't mean he is alone as the creators continue to add depth to the cast that already includes Sargon, Tannarak and Mister E. Now is as god a time as any for readers to check in and jump on John Constantine's bandwagon, especially when the stories are this enjoyably riveting.