Last issue we ended with a clash of titans as the Spectre faced off against the murky creature of genocide Ikkondrid smack-dab down in Gotham while a familiar Batplane zipped into the light of the fray. It was an epic cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers, so how does it all turn out? What’s the payoff? Does Batman get swatted away like a gnat? Does Spectre smite everyone within a fifty-mile radius, reducing Gotham’s citizens to smouldering ash?
Well okay, that last one is probably obviously a no, but you have to read the book to find out the rest! Don’t want to read it? You will later, but you first wanna check out the review? Okay fine, proceed, but you are hereby warned of SPOILERS ahead.
There’s a lot going on in this book, ominously titled “Judgment on Gotham”, as we close out the arc (we’re not done with the storyline, which looks like the clothesline for the whole series to hang on, but this is definitely the end of this particular battle in context of the larger war). Writer Ray Fawkes hits resolutions and dramatic points–some more deftly than others–but the overall effect is genuinely epic. In terms of sheer action and emotion, this has more sweet spots than black beans and very few sour notes.
Love the age-old trope of skulls in the eyes
Fawkes delivers a story with no huge surprises, but it’s hugely satisfying nevertheless. He’s especially done a great job of sustaining the tension throughout these twenty pages by cutting from one set of characters to the next within the span of a brief conversation between Spetre and Ikkondrid (when you think about it, this issue really contains but a single action). We have had a lot of books cramming a lot of storylines and characters in the same twenty pages with far less effective results.
Saida Temofonte is the letterer for this book and though I am not 100% certain who’s responsible for the scribbled sound effects, I want to call them out here because they are spectacularly well-married to Templesmith’s art (so much so, I wonder if Templesmith didn’t do them himself). And even if that’s the case, there are subtle cool things with the character dialogue worth noting, including Jim’s interior monologue from within the Spectre with its hazy dark spot, which is an inversion of the Spectre’s speaking voice. Also, I just generally like the unkempt word balloons throughout. The jagged edges are a good match, again, for Templesmith’s art and the overall tone of the book.
And speaking of Templesmith, he pulls out all the stops in this, his final issue. Several full-page and double-page spreads help demarcate the action between the “mere” mortals and the demigods. Don’t overlook the environments either. While most of the panels are just lightly ghosted in suggestions of backgrounds, they convey the grime and decay of Gotham wonderfully. And I also have to say, I love Templesmith’s renderings of cars. Cars are stupidly hard to draw and he manages to get away with black boxes and headlights to amazing effect.
The way Templesmith renders Batman is frightening and hilarious. He really looks like a creature of the night, but he’s also wonderfully emotive here in this panel where he pulls what I think of as a “Calvin and Hobbes Zomibie Face”.
Also: Batman is a lousy pilot
Lastly: Rook isn’t dead! Huzzah!
If you were expecting a thrilling confrontation between Batman and the Spectre, you might be a little disappointed. Batman is immediately less concerned with Spectre’s judgment than with trying to help defuse Ikkondrid. He’s not very successful, of course, seeing as Ikkondrid is an entity beyond his abilities, but we don’t get to see him do much outside of his initial attempts. He does show up in the aftermath to tell Jim Corrigan he’d like a little debriefing on what the heck just happened. I like that this sets up the possibility of further interaction between the characters and I also like that Fawkes kept the focus on the starring characters of the book instead of shifting focus to the glamorous guest-star. But again, you might have your own feelings about Batman’s role in this story.
Drake freaks out over her scream as a harbinger of death and it seemed a little overwrought and out of place. I don’t feel like we really know the character well enough to discern if this is her acting out of character or if this hysterical breakdown is par for the course. It was psychologically interesting that she was ready and willing to shoot herself to prevent someone else from dying, but everything happened so fast and the behavior felt weirdly out of place given everything else that was going on.
Unlike the June solicitation for Gotham by Midnight , I’m dropping this under a cut: SHOW SPOILER ▼
- You want to get started with this title. This issue actually makes a good jumping on point for new readers; you might not know all the characters, but it sets up what will likely be the ongoing war for the souls of Gotham.
- You enjoy a side of Batman with your horror comics.
- You’re a fan of mega-monsters!
Ben Templesmith closes out his art duties on Gotham by Midnight (sadly) with this issue, but he makes sure it’s a doozy of a visual spectacle. The Spectre makes his first major move and Ray Fawkes writes him beautifully: full of brimstone fury without sounding like a street-corner preacher. If you’re looking for some spice to add to your pull list, this book has the best of all worlds: dynamic art that wonderfully unsettling (as the genre should), a great writer who understands how to temper magic with horror, and a powerful underlying story populated with interesting souls.