For a moment there, I thought it was going to be a week full of crazed man-hungry tigers (see Batgirl No. 43) as this installment, “The Jungle”, sports the image of a tiger among the the Midnight Shift team members in the issue opener. The tiger here is more metaphoric even though it’s literally present in a brief scene with Kate Spencer.
The jungle metaphor serves this issue well as it explores media, its impact on celebrity, and its impact on the viewers. Naturally it’s all overblown and demonization of the point/counterpoint style of news commentary is quite literal, but Ray Fawkes continues to write great characters, so the familiarity of the plot and its somewhat predictable outcome is more satisfying than dismissible.
And there are surprises here. Especially when you consider last month there was some discussion about the rhythm of action becoming a bit rote.
We’ve had a lot of heavy interaction between Corrigan and Drake lately (and she was featured heavily in Gotham by Midnight’s first annual, so it was nice to see her get sidelined early in the book by a riot in downtown Gotham. Not because I want to see her get hurt, mind you, just because we’ve got a whole team to explore and others need some limelight. We do learn one salient bit of new information about Drake: she’s got a boyfriend (who makes a mean steak apparently). Where in other books I might roll my eyes a little at this development, Fawkes handles it all with welcome naturalism and it makes sense. So we can kick any speculation of romantic involvement between Corrigan and Drake off to the side. At least for now.
Doesn’t mean they still can’t be great teammates!
Fawkes is doing a great job, too, with building layers into the story. Kate Spencer is showing more of her colors (and they’re not good). The black flowers have returned and they are taking on a deeper meaning perhaps. We also have a chance to connect Tarr’s survivor’s guilt from the Sister Justine incident into his present behavior, which is nice carryover. Especially since he’s unclear how Corrigan’s relationship with the Spectre works, and is flying on blind courage (go Tarr!).
Who knew the nebbish Dr. Tarr had it in him?
Well, blind courage at the outset–then he gets taken over by the hideous evil lurking in the studio.
Juan Ferreyra’s work continues to bring this book an otherworldly density in which color, light, and shadows are integral characters along with the Midnight Shift themselves. From the hazy pink and blue hues of the opening riot to the dim GCPD headquarters, this is story driven by mood as much as action and every scene is suffused with atmosphere. I especially love the panels of red hot rage that punctuate the final battle, and the multiple uses of a blur effect for things in the foreground (Spencer looking at the tiger, Tarr’s reaction to the creature in the studio).
Ferreyra especially outdoes himself on the design of the revolting thing that gets revealed in the climactic battle. Seriously: look at that awful piece of a work. It has toenails. So many toenails. It takes a lot to gross me out, but Ferreyra conjures something quite nightmare-worthy. Much to my delight, I might add. A book that can actually scare me is nothing to sneeze at and this one was cinematically terrifying, even if only for the briefest moment.
I have to add (on a personal note) that I read this issue first thing this morning before I had seen the news about the senseless shooting at WDBJ, Virginia. I immediately felt squicky for enjoying this book so much, given the tragedy of these two real journalists. It’s so easy to vilify the media because they are easy targets. Unfortunately, too easy.
Just nits that need a bit of picking:
- Rook is giving me a bit of whiplash in this one. There definitely seems to be more than meets the eye with regard to the manner in which the Internal Affairs review is blowing wide open, but the way he turned on the team was strange to begin with, and now he’s flipping again. He’s like a banked fish flopping all over trying to get back into the water. Hopefully we’ll get some insight into what’s going on with him soon.
- Visually I feel like we needed a more compelling reason that Corrigan couldn’t get back into the studio with Dr. Tarr. Did Tarr lock the door (there was a wee little click, but it seemed sort of harmless)? Did he bolt the door? Barricade it? It’s a minor detail, but one I think we could have really used in that moment. Otherwise, there’s Corrigan doing a banked fish impersonation of his own in the hallway for no particular reason.
- Agent Casimiro looks waaay too much like Kate Spencer at first glance.
Lastly: is it just me or has Ferreyra shaved ten years off of Corrigan’s countenance? He seems to be a bit on the younger side in this issue.
- You like a side of social consciousness with your comics: nothing too heavy, but likewise not mere cheap commentary.
- You’re a fan of John Carpenter’s The Thing (who isn’t?).
- Rich character interaction is your favorite cup of tea.
Sergeant Rook has his hooks in the Midnight Shift, but once again his allegiances are fluid as sand: one minute he’s calling down the fire and the next he’s hedging caution. I feel like there’s something more going on with him, but we’re going to have to wait this part out patiently as Fawkes is playing a long game with that particular part of the plot. Meanwhile, IA is ramping up the investigation regardless of Rook’s misgivings, and the team itself? Well, they’re still not very cohesive since Sister Justine’s death, but their dedication to one another and the job is without question. This book delivers action, pathos, and some pretty gross-out horror. If you’re not reading it because you think it’s not your thing, your “thing” needs serious expanding because this book is truly terrific.