Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Gotham By Midnight, Volume 1: We Do Not Sleep Review (Ray Fawkes, Ben Templesmith)

Gotham by Midnight is apparently a spinoff from the weekly Batman series, Batman Eternal, but I’m not sure how. Jim Corrigan, aka the Spectre, was in the first volume of Eternal, teaming up with Batwing to investigate the weirdness at Arkham Asylum, going up against Joker’s Daughter and the newly resurrected Deacon Blackfire - but then he disappeared and I don’t think he was in Eternal Volume 2. 

He’s reappeared now as the leader of this sub-section of the GCPD, known alternately as the Detailed Task Force/Precinct Thirteen/the Midnight Shift, a branch Gordon apparently authorised. They’re the spooky division who investigate the paranormal side to Gotham crime (the ones that Batman doesn’t get around to at least). 

In this introductory volume, Corrigan’s team are being audited by Internal Affairs while they’re on the trail of missing kids, shadow monsters, and an evil that threatens to engulf the city. Why do ordinary people live in Gotham again? Who knows - maybe the house prices are permanently rock bottom because of all the chaos! 

I know we’re way past the point of pretending that the New 52 is all about attracting new readers but it still would’ve been nice if there had been some kind of explanation of Corrigan’s powers. He’s not the most famous character and I’m sure there are going to be a few readers wondering what his background is/how he became the Spectre (broadly, he’s an odd hybrid of Constantine and Etrigan). But even though he’s the “big draw” of the series (showing you how far down the character ladder DC are now), there are dreary origin stories to a couple of the new characters, Sister Justine and Detective Lisa Drake. 

The latter is a pyro, much like Liz Sherman in Dark Horse’s BPRD, the series that I kept thinking of when reading this comic. The whole arc made me think of an average BPRD story with a couple cameos from Batman thrown in. Gotham’s cursed, evil spirits lurk in the shadows, and monsters abound in the hilariously named Slaughter Swamp State Park (just on the outskirts of Gotham apparently!). Yup, your usual supernatural horror comic - this one’s even drawn by Ben “30 Days of Night” Templesmith! 

Templesmith’s art is suitably grim and gothic for the most part and he’s a good choice for the main artist of this series. Some sequences though are a bit messy and confusing like in the first issue. It’s unclear exactly how Corrigan defeats the swamp monster and saved the kids. How does holding up a phone defeat it? Were the kids inside the swamp monster? How did the resulting explosion not kill the kids? How did being consumed by a monster not kill them? What was going on in that scene!? 

Ray Fawkes’ uninspired supernatural police procedural/corny horror BPRD-lite didn’t grab me. It’s derivative, the disjointed story doesn’t gel together well, the dialogue was cliched, and the characters weren’t very interesting. We got to see the Spectre at least which is more than we did in Eternal. Maybe fans of Gotham Central looking for more of the same with a spooky twist might enjoy this but for me this was another Batman spinoff that failed to excite.

Gotham By Midnight, Volume 1: We Do Not Sleep

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