Last month I predicted that Gotham by Midnight was following a split-narrative formula of advancing the plot incrementally while introducing us to the origins of the Midnight Team and this month’s issue, titled “We Become what We Fight” confirms it. This go-round we get the backstory on Lisa Drake, who fulfills the role of abrasive punk-chick. We find out new and curious information about her, though: that she has supernatural powers of her own.
We left off with infected children babbling in tongues and now Drake goes to Gotham Hospital at the behest of Doctor Patel, who has a child in quarantine with another possibly even more virulent psychic disease. Drake’s encounter with the child at the hospital and the outbreak that ensues is intercut with her first meeting with Jim Corrigan (he’s tied up in the trunk of the car of some not-so-nice drug dealers).
The sight of which makes Drake hrALf
This book is very deliberate. The pacing, the artwork, and the characters feel very solid and plotted and developed, which is not something I feel about many “team” books where the characters are often just colorful men and women (or boys and girls) with a variety of powers and mostly interchangeable personalities. Could be the deliberateness makes for a slow burn that might frustrate readers, but I feel like I am still fully engaged for three critical reasons:
- I like Jim Corrigan. He’s always been one of my favorite characters in the DCU, so I am enjoying hanging out with him. He feels more laid back here than previous incarnations in which he was a very Irish hothead, but it’s a good development: he feels older and wiser (if there is one thing he has never been in his previous incarnations, it’s wise).
- I like the unconventional supernatural horror genre, in which this is well-seated. I don’t like Vampires. I don’t like Zombies. But I do like creepy crawlies, ghosts, afterworld stuff and this is chock full of all three.
- I’m a fan of Ben Templesmith on comprehensive art duties.
So why the big pitch? I don’t think many people are reading this book (in fact, after the December sales numbers, I know not many people are), and I think it would be a shame if this book didn’t make it because it does offer something unique to the DCU (and the Batverse) in that it focuses on a police team working apart from Batman and his clan. And okay, they’re not exactly normal cops and they’re working on extra-ordinary cases, but I have been a fan of almost every non-Batman Gotham book (and there have been many), and I think building on the mythos of the city is a cool and wonderful thing. This book is ghoulish and weird and for me really sort of crosses the Batman mythos into Vertigo territory.
About this particular issue: The balance between the two storylines is very good. The rhythm is maybe a little predictable, but I’m okay with a little formula storytelling as it helps to ground the narrative. Given Templesmith’s unique style and how it inclines to bleed and warble and distort perception, the predictability of the formula and the tonal shifts of the coloring are what keep the book from getting muddy and confused. Because even I will admit that you can’t always tell who the characters are and what the environment is, so we need all the clues we can get. Ray Fawkes and Ben Templesmith handle this beautifully, though. There’s a lovely clarity in the imagery and in the course of the action that has nothing to do with what sometimes amounts to no more than a range of scribbles constituting the figurework.
Fawkes also includes a great moment in which our expectations are subverted with regard to the shadow-virus that’s possessing the girl at the hospital.
I loved it when Tarr attempts to communicate and it talks back! I love that interplay and how it all nonetheless goes sour, and yet buys enough time for them to figure out a solution to the death and havoc it’s wreaking (even if only a temporary one).
That guy just got totally splutched
Lastly, I haven’t mentioned this before, but I really like the opening four panel introduction that has been consistent so far through these first three issues. It always nicely sets the tone and loosely reintroduces the Midnight Team (the way a TV series opening credits might). It’s just a nice touch that puts the reader in the mood.
If you’re just waiting for the Spectre to make an explosive entrance, it may not be for some time yet (Corrigan’s still holding him down). That might frustrate some readers, though I feel like there’s plenty of meat and marrow on the bone to chew otherwise.
While I think the formula works and there are nice surprises in it, I’m glad there’s only one character left to introduce (Doctor Szandor Tarr). I’d really like to see this book open up on the throttle before Convergence. I want to have a strong sense of the full cast before we go into hiatus, otherwise I’ll have to start making charts like Brandon. This is a large population for me to try to keep track of personally; my preference is always for a more intimate affair. How are you all doing with it?
Lastly, a nitpick: I like the cover for this issue, but it doesn’t really go with the content (would have been better suited for issue no. 2). The inclusion of the bloody bat tempered me a bit against it as well and I blame that on the editor who doesn’t trust this to find an audience.
The only ugly in this book is Ikkt, the shadow-rot thing that slithers around leaving a pile of bodies in its wake. Knowing full well of the horrors Templesmith is capable of conjuring, however, I’m sure the worst is yet to come.
- You like something to scare you before bed at night.
- You want to see how Lisa Drake got onto the team.
- You like stories about the broader world of Gotham that aren’t necessarily about Batman.
Three issues in a lot of crazy stuff has happened, but we’re clearly still just ramping up. I look forward to this book every month and I hope others enjoy it too; it’s not your standard fare and maybe has limited appeal for traditional Batfans, but it’s full of cool characters and the creepy plot doesn’t shy from preying on some of our primal fears: demons, disease, and scary-as-all-get-out children. If you’re looking for something on the edge, give this a try; it’s not too late to get on board for this opening arc.