When we left the Midnight Shift back in March, a cataclysm had occurred. The team had come up against the evil consciousness of the wronged early inhabitants of Gotham who had been systematically destroyed by early settlers to make way for the colonists. Though they managed to save Gotham from the wrath of both the beastie and the Spectre, it was at the cost of team member Sister Justine’s life. She sacrificed herself for the greater good–a cost the Midnight Shift must now live with going forward in this issue titled “Return on Investment”.
Let’s talk about the art first, because that’s the most exciting thing about this book (sorry Fawkes, we’ll get to your story presently). First off, Bill Sienkiewicz gives us a nice cover that establishes the new tone of the art of this ongoing direction of Gotham by Midnight. It’s a “let’s all pose” shot, but quickly reminds us of our cast of characters, and introduces Kate Spencer to the team (more on her later as well).
Juan Ferreyra does the honors of the interiors: drawing, colors, effects, and all. Ferreyra’s art process is a complex one using pencils, ink and paint washes, and then a deeper layer of digital color and effects. The combination of physical and digital media help give his environments the kind of painterly depth you find in concept art for films and video games. I’ve seen a range of Ferreyra’s work over recent years, having first noticed him in the Dark Horse series Colder, though he’s probably more well-known for his work on Prometheus. Either way, his work has exactly the right combination of luminosity and darkness to help make the transition from previous artist Ben Templesmith’s work in a way that maintains a continuity of palette despite their wildly different style. I think a lot of people will really enjoy this (and especially if you struggled with Templesmith’s work). My only concern is whether the monthly will burn Ferreyra out (no sense of how long he’s contracted for the book as yet).
If I had any criticism for his work here, I’d say that maybe he draws Drake’s neck too thin now and then, and that one panel at the bottom of page 3 is baffling. What is Corrigan throwing into the car? It’s not the car key (which is the only thing he’s had in his hand–and which wouldn’t make sense), and it’s not an umbrella–he’s the only one who’s stood through the ceremony without one. Anybody have any guesses?
These are minor minor minor nitpicks, however. Overall the look of the book is perfect. The funeral is gloomy, the church glowers with candles, the not-Apple corporation has that sterile electrical buzz about it, and our one-shot ghostie is rendered deliciously bloody. Another thing worth appreciating here is the weather: it’s raining in Gotham. And raining. And more raining. There’s not a dry scene in the book. Even when the characters are indoors, you can see the rain outside the windows from every angle. Little details like this make me squeal like a fangirl. Gotham hasn’t been moody enough for my tastes in a long long time.
It’s interesting to read this book and Fawkes’ Constantine because of the similarities of the principal characters, JC and Corrigan. In the past, I’ve felt like Fawkes has kept them significantly specific to their books and personalities, but I confess they look a little muddier between the relaunch of Hellblazer and this book–maybe because Corrigan is in a bad mood over the death of Sister Justine, and so he’s not exactly his comme si comme sa self. He’s downright itchy, in fact, which I found a little surprising though not without justification. Admittedly toward the end he talks about hot dogs and things seem back to normal, so I think it’s going to be all right and he won’t develop that cynicism so particular to that other magician/exorcist.
Dr. Tarr is also taking Justine’s death poorly
This is a great book for the newcomer. Again, if you couldn’t palate Gotham by Midnight because of the eccentricity of the previous art, Ferreyra’s work is very easy on the eyes and you should jump in because this team is an interesting one and the possibilities for storylines are endless. Though we’ve lost Sister Justine, I’m hoping her spirit will continue (maybe even literally) as we go forward. In the meantime, this issue concludes her contribution to the book (for now), and gives us a one-shot ghost story to invite a new audience in. Unfortunately, however. Lieutenant Weaver is hardly used at all here, and the group feels deeply fragmented at the moment (and not very supportive in the aftermath).
In terms of series development the only thing readers from the start get are two bits I found surprising and a little disturbing (not necessarily in a good way).
The first thing is that all this time I believed that Corrigan and Drake had an understanding about each others’ powers (not privy to the rest of the team). Turns out Drake had no clue, nor even understands her own power. I found this a strange revelation and feel a bit let down that these two aren’t as close as I originally believed. Drake asks if Corrigan intends to keep her secret, which I also found peculiar. He has until now, hasn’t he? Oh well, room to grow, right?
The second point I’m dropping under cut because it’s revealed on the last page, which, incidentally, is the first time we actually see Kate Spencer (so we don’t really get to know he much here):
Sergeant Rook is totally throwing our team under the bus!
This feels like it’s coming completely out of left field. I mean, I know he was sent to investigate, but I was pretty sure he’d come over to their side once he saw what they were up against. I like Rook as a character and was horrified when I thought he might have been killed off. I hate it even more to think Fawkes might be making him the bad guy.
The ghost story at the center of delivering what’s otherwise lots of exposition is pretty run-of-the-mill. An evil corporation responsible for the death of one of their employees is haunted by his poltergeist and requires some “encouragement” to make things right or pay the consequences in a big way.
Very very big
I feel like Fawkes was going for deeper meaning on the idea of the “Return on Investment”, paralleling this ghost story with the sacrifice of Sister Justine, but if that was the case, it doesn’t really work except superficially. Maybe that’s enough, but I was hoping for more.
- You are a fan of both True Detectives and Constantine; this continues to be their lovechild.
- You love the things that go bump in the night (and occasionally tear people’s heads off and eat them–that sort of thing).
- Off the beaten path in Gotham sounds like your dream adventure.
- You haven’t yet picked up an issue of this and want a one-shot to decide whether it’s your cup of tea.
Don’t let what seems like a low score scare you: this is a great book. I mostly docked points for the not-terribly-creative corporation plot, though it’s executed brilliantly by Ferreyra and makes for a fine, fun read. This is definitely a transitional issue full of transitional information (great for newcomers, mostly), though all of the characters are behaving a little bit “off”–presumably on account of recent events (the death of one of their partners). Nevertheless, with the introduction of Kate Spencer and the ongoing threat of the consuming evil that underlies Gotham, I can’t wait to see what comes next (and am especially excited to see Ferreyra’s work on the Spectre himself).