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A Second Glance: ‘Gotham by Midnight’ (2015)

Popular Culture is an impossibly large and ever-growing thing.  It’s impossible to see everything and as a result, some things fall through the cracks.  Maybe a book or movie or game was critically panned, maybe it was a commercial flop, maybe it just didn’t make a lasting connection at the time.  Whatever the case, these bits of pop cultural refuse are forgotten and overdue for A Second Glance.

Last Time on A Second Glance: Splinter (2008)

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Gotham by Midnight is a comic series from midway through DC’sNew 52” revamp.  The book is a horror series taking place in Gotham City, it concerns a division of the Gotham Police that deals with supernatural crimes.  The series ran for twelve issues, and one annual, before cancellation.  Though it didn’t last long, Gotham by Midnight is one of the best books of the New 52.  Gotham by Midnight is well-written, unique, and deserves to be seen by more people.

Despite what innumerable message board posts say, Batman can’t beat everything.  The Dark Knight is endlessly resourceful but even Bruce Wayne can’t do much about ghosts and demons.  Precinct 13 is a special division of the GCPD that specializes in the weird stuff that even Batman can’t handle.  The precinct is staffed with weirdos and misfits that have all had run-ins with the otherworldly prior to their placement in Precinct 13.

Lieutenant Weaver heads the precinct, he was assigned by Commissioner Gordon after witnessing a paranormal happening on a case.  Lisa Drake is a woman with faerie blood who is a “Bain Sidhe.” She’s a harbinger of death that lets out a mournful wail when death is near though she can’t be clear if the scream causes the death or the death causes the scream.  Szandor Tarr is a forensic scientist who moonlights as a paranormal investigator and searches out the root causes of many of the cases.  Finally, Jim Corrigan is a murdered police detective brought back from the dead as the vessel for God’s Spirit of Vengeance, The Spectre.

The first story arc concerns an Internal Affairs agent auditing the precinct due to their high budget and nearly nonexistent arrest rate.  Corrigan invites the auditor along on a case, which just happens to be a big one.  It would appear that the angry spirits of those who have died unjustly in Gotham since its founding (for those of you who have never read Batman or All-Star Western, there are a lot) are preparing to take vengeance on the living.  The sins of Gotham’s past take corporeal form and attempt to kill everyone.

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With Gotham by Midnight, Ray Fawkes has essentially written a Spectre book.  Jim Corrigan is the team’s heavy hitter and much of the series focus’ on his problems dealing with the literal embodiment of God’s wrath living within him.  Even though Spectre is prominent, Gotham by Midnight isn’t a superhero book.  Corrigans’ alter ego is treated more like a curse and often times it makes more trouble than what it fixes.  The characters are the focus and they’re all multidimensional and interesting.  In many ways, the characters hold more appeal than the various spirits and monsters encountered throughout.

Gotham by Midnight, unfortunately, does not get to explore a lot of unconnected cases.  Just about every instance of supernatural problems in the series is tied with the evil spirits of Gotham.  What cases we do see are weird and grotesque, gothic and Lovecraftian.  These sensibilities are amplified by the series’ two artists.  I’m not generally a fan of Ben Templesmith’s smudgy over-inked style but this book shows some of his strongest linework.  The characters are still done a bit rudimentary but they’re expressive and dynamic.  Juan Ferreyra picks up where Templesmith left off in issue six with a dark but still very vivid color palette of ghostly greens and bloody reds.  Ferreyra’s art is beautiful and his tenure features a great many grotesque splash pages that are worth hanging in an art gallery.

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Gotham by Midnights’ one major flaw is that, like most series’ that were cancelled early, it has a rushed ending.  The central threat of the book is addressed and taken care of in a suitably climactic way, but the fate of the precinct itself is left unsettled.  What’s more, a major development with Jim Corrigan and The Spectre is never resolved.

It is disappointing that Gotham by Midnight ended before its time, but it’s still a very satisfying read.  Batman even shows up a few times, most notably in the finale when he arrives in Iron-manesque armor to pacify zombies.  If you’re a fan of the DC universe, horror stories, and especially both, then seek this book out.  Gotham by Midnight is currently available in two inexpensive trade paperback volumes.

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