If you’ve read any of my comic reviews over the past few months, you know that I have shyed away from covering DC Comics for the most part. I talked previously about how I feel that since the New 52, most of the titles and the company as a whole have been missing something. Missing the heart that used to permeate from its characters. With the exception of books like Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man or Geoff Johns run on Aquaman, the stories feel hollow and a pale comparison to the rich history of the old continuity. If you read my last DC Comic review, you know that I am always looking for a glimmer of hope. DC has some great characters and I hope to see them shine again. Thankfully, two characters have already been battling back against mediocrity. Both Grayson and Batgirl are kicking butt and taking names story-wise. It’s renewed my search for new and exciting titles from the house that Supes and Bats built. If this first issue is any indication, I believe that Gotham by Midnight will bring us yet another glimmer of a brighter tomorrow……even though it takes place mostly in the dark.
Gotham by Midnight #1
Written by Ray Fawkes
Art by Ben Templesmith
Gotham by Midnight takes to the dark and scary streets of Gotham….or more appropriately, the side of Gotham that only comes out at night. Our story begins with the arrival of Sgt. Rook (of the Gotham Internal Affairs Unit) to GCPD’s thirteenth precinct. There he meets Lt. Weaver, the head of command for Gotham Police’s Detailed Case Task Force. Rook is there because he thinks that the Task Force is a sham, set up for accounting fraud purposes. He’s giving them a couple of days to show him what it is they do and then he’s going to shut them down. Weaver, who doesn’t appear spooked by Rook’s intentions, introduces him to the 4 persons (2 cops, 2 consultants) the Task Force has on staff. The consultants consist of Doctor Szandor Tarr (a forensics expert) and Sister Justine (an expert on the bible and all things spiritual). The two cops on the payroll are not onsite as they’re off “finding” a new case. This finding consists of meeting up with Batman to “get a feel” for his files and see if any have a basis in the supernatural. Of the two detectives, only one of them gets to meet with the almighty Bats – Jim Corrigan, aka The Spectre. His partner, Detective Drake, has to wait in the car. This is because no one of the Task Force actually knows he’s The Spectre. When Corrigan and Drake make their way back to the precinct, Rook is thoroughly unimpressed by everything he’s seen. So Jim offers to take him out on the case they’re working, betting that Rook will change his tune after just one night. This is when things take the expected turn for the weird as Corrigan, Drake and Rook go to check out a kidnapping case where the children have already been returned and are now speaking in an unknown language. While Drake keeps and an eye on the kids, Corrigan takes Rook to where he thinks the source of the problem is – Slaughter Swamp State Park. In the closing moments of the issue, I’m pretty sure Rook sees all he needs to get that accounting fraud isn’t the problem.
Let me start by saying that I loved this issue. It’s exactly what I felt it should be. The right mix of the supernatural with a good, old fashioned police procedural. This is a revamp I can get behind. Out of all the characters in the DC Universe, one of the characters that has benefited the most from the New 52 has to be The Spectre. In the old continuity, there had been multiple folks taking up the mantle of the Spirt of Vengence (and even more than one Jim Corrigan). Streamlining the continuity and bringing back the OG Spectre for the modern era was the right move. Now we get to see a police detective trying to keep the power inside him in check while being God’s spirit of justice here on Earth. The set up of his team is handled well as all the bases are covered. You have the understanding superior (Weaver), the partner trying to prove herself (Drake), the oddjob scientist (Tarr) and the spiritual connection (Sister Justine). And then you’ve got the big skeptic, Rook, who asks the questions we the audience are wondering and reacts the way we would. The dynamic is there instantly and doesn’t need to be explained. It’s too soon to tell what will come of this first case but I feel that we’ll get to see Corrigan pushed to more then a few limits as the story unfolds.
The artwork by Templesmith is the perfect compliment to the atmosphere that Fawkes is trying to invoke. Mixing stark and slightly deformed backgrounds with spooky yet childlike forms, Ben turns on the instant creepy factor. His history with horror books is on display but not too overpowering as we still feel like we’re in a relatively recognizable environment. The key is that he doesn’t over do the imagery and lets the storytelling guide his artwork. For such simple looking characters, Templesmith shows off a range of emotion and insinuation, not wasting a look or a glance. His colours do a great job of intensifying the mood of each scene, using a wash of colour over everything. The outside is cold with a cool blue that drapes the night. The interiors have a stuffy, edgy feel with a yellowish brown as its base. What I find most amazing is that like Fawkes’ dialogue, Ben’s layouts ride the line between cop book and horror book perfectly.
My only real complaint for this issue was the appearance of Batman. I know, I know, I’m biased. But it isn’t my hatred of the Bat that fuels my argument here. I know this is Gotham and we’re bound to see the caped crusader appear sooner or later. But did it have to be the first issue? Does editorial think they need Batman to show up or the book won’t sell? I’ve had that problem with the Grayson book as well. It seems that everybody needs Batman’s help to do their job. I feel the appearance was unnecessary and any info in the scene could’ve been introduced in another way. But aside from that small scene, the book was a solid first issue.
If you’re looking for a comic that’s set in the DCU but doesn’t feel like your typical DC fare, this is the title for you. I look forward to see where Corrigan and his team will take us as they face off against the things that go bump in the night.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!