It's been a year since I last checked in with "Constantine," with a promising first issue having quickly fallen apart. But with a little more time and a chance to grow, could "Constantine" have pulled itself back together? Reading "Constantine" #16, as it turns out the answer was yes.
Ray Fawkes and Edgar Salazar's story is set in the Black Forest of Germany, where Constantine hopes to find someone that can remove Zatanna's spell compelling him to be a "better person." Unfortunately, true to form, there are also mystical assassins on the same job, in this case from the Cult of the Cold Flame. The end result is a race with multiple double-crosses, and a potentially change for Constantine.
The story from Fawkes is good; even without having read the preceding issues that detailed the spell in Constantine's head, or his current arrangement with the Cult of the Cold Flame. Fawkes is careful to update the reader without dumping exposition on them, and he does it on the fly as to keep the story from grinding to a halt. It's an entertaining story, one that you can see just as easily appearing in an issue of "Hellblazer" back in the day; until the conclusion shows up it's hard to judge it too much (since this is part of a larger picture) but it stands on its own well enough.
Salazar and Jay Leisten's art is all right but feels like it could use a little tweaking. Constantine's face in particular holds some of the issues; it's unrecognizable on page 2 in the big splash, for instance, and when you turn the page it feels almost like a different person. Some panels (the third on page 3) nail Constantine's look perfectly, while others (the fifth on page 3) seem strangely wrinkled and puffy. It also feels like some of the bigger moments don't quite have the punch that the script wants, either. The big reveal on page 8 with the opening of the door into the secret lair has the entrance so large that it swallows up too much of the background. That doesn't sound like an issue, but when the punch line is seeing how the door doesn't mesh at all with its surroundings, failing to see the surroundings loses the impact. Fortunately, there are some good moments in the art (like Der Chirurg trying to act like an innocent old man in the face of assassins) to help balance things out. On the whole, there's potential.
"Constantine" #16 feels like the series has gone through a lot of improvement over the past year, which is nice to see. At this point, it feels like the overall path of "Constantine" is back on track, and that's good with a new television series just around the corner. If fans of the show decided to pick up the comic, I think they'd find themselves welcomed, and that's a good thing.