Gotham by Midnight #4 review

Gotham by Midnight 4

You thought you were just going to get another installment of “how the gang got together” highlighting Dr. Tarr, didn’t you? Ray Fawkes and Ben Templesmith pull a fast one and overturn a whole box of toys in this issue entitled “We Fight what We Become”. No need for a mad scramble, though: everything dumped out is good stuff!

We start with what feels like more slow burn as Corrigan and Rook toss a few back in a seedy bar, but things go wildly out of control by the time we hit page three and midway through the book: the moment many have been waiting for. That’s right, Corrigan loses his grip on the Spectre and unleashes him on the perfidious evil that’s been rotting away at Gotham.

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Just a couple of off-duty cops getting good and soused

The Good

This book has the perfect balance of action, humor, and terror. Corrigan’s coolness under pressure (when he grabs the spiny critter in the bar) is awesome. Drake stomping on the bug in the street made me laugh outloud, and the Spectre is strikingly terrifying. There’s one small panel on page 17 of of him striding among the buildings, towering above them in which he looks so calm and mysterious it’s unnerving.

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Spectre grapples with the evil sphincter

One of the great things Fawkes has played on since the beginning is the uncontrollable nature of the Spectre’s wrath. Corrigan keeps Spectre in check because his judgment too often lacks mercy (remember: Spectre is an “Old Testament” avenger and requires tempering or else he’s likely to level whole cities–men, women, and children–for the sins of the majority). So once he’s out and the team knows it, it’s great to see them tremble with fear for their own lives as much as everyone else’s.

The question is whether this evil, this half-plant, half-intestinal-looking monster they are chasing is so insidious that it warrants a far-reaching judgment. They have identified it as the vengeful accumulation of past spirits, but can it be exorcised? And am I the only one who kind of feels sorry for it? It recognizes the Spectre (see the panel above), so I’m kind of hoping for a miracle: SHOW SPOILER ▼

Last month I wibbled about the cover: loved the design, but thought it was a bad match for the content. This month’s cover (again by Templesmith) is dead-on perfect. You get exactly what it promises (and more!).

Finally, for those of you who wonder whether maybe this book is too peripheral to Batman-News.com, there was a bit of mad joy in seeing the Batsignal, and, on the last page, the promise of Gotham’s favorite son arriving on-scene (well who else is going to deal with the Spectre, right?). So if you’ve been waiting for another appearance of the Dark Knight since his brief cameo in issue no. 1, issue no. 5 will be sure to satisfy!

The Bad Mostly Just Questions!

There was a little confusion for me in the opening pages when the bartender is revealed bubbling up Amodr at the bar. Most of Templesmith’s characters are unique and immediately identifiable, but the bartender actually looked too much like Rook and at first I had to make sure they weren’t the same person before I could continue (easily solved because Rook is wearing a suit, but still it stopped me mid-read).

Speaking of Rook: SHOW SPOILER ▼

I’m also curious about seeing Corrigan still in the bar with Rook after the Spectre goes out to open up a can of wrath. The “rules” of their relationship have not really been established yet,  and this is a departure from the Spectre of old (pre-New 52), who needed Corrigan’s body physically and lived inside his soul/mind, swapping places (so that Corrigan was present in the Spectre’s soul/mind when he was out and about). Not so much a criticism as an observation/question. Sticking a pin in it, as it were, for future discussion.

Lastly, a nitpick: the yam-looking evil amalgamation that rises out of the swamp (whose name, I’m guessing. is Ikkondrid) was less scary than I would have hoped for, but i think that’s a deliberate choice and will payoff in the next issue.

The Ugly

The street is littered with corpses, but this has actually been the least creepy (and yet the most intense) of all the issues so far.

Recommended If…

  • You want to see the Spectre! We’ve been building to this point for the last three issues!
  • You haven’t been reading but you want to see the lead-in to what should be a Batman/Spectre face-off in issue no. 5.
  • The above two ought to be reason enough!

Overall

I’m going to miss Ben Templesmith on this book, but it’s nevertheless going to continue to be a rollicking good read. It offers a unique perspective on Gotham City and has a cast of characters who are interesting, nuanced, and even fun despite the horror-factor that they are perpetually dealing with! I’m excited to finally meet the Spectre in this incarnation and will be eagerly awaiting the next installment!

SCORE: 9.5/10

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