Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Gotham By Midnight #1 [The New 52] - DC Comics

GOTHAM BY MIDNIGHT No. 1, January 2015
It is clear, straight from the eerie and distinctively Ben Templesmith cover art, that “DC Comics” want this particular title to evoke a sense of supernatural foreboding and dread within its readership. In fact I’ve seldom encountered a comic which is so rank with the effort to portray a demoralizingly gloomy, dark and sinister world of the paranormal.

Certainly the book’s writer, Ray Fawkes, would seem an obvious choice for the publisher to have selected to script the storyline. Previously responsible for “Justice League Dark” and “Constantine” the Toronto-based author clearly has something of a pedigree when it comes to writing about ‘situations deemed unfit for traditional’ police work. Fawkes also uses the tried and tested technique of starting “We Do Not Sleep” from the perspective of an outsider to the Midnight Shift; a sceptic from Internal Affairs whom the reader can relate to and accompany, as Sergeant Rook encounters the various “…guys who handle the strange stuff” and faces the horrors of their latest macabre investigation. There’s certainly plenty of unsettling ‘spooks’ throughout this first issue with which to unnerve the reader and these provide some genuine spine-tingling moments; especially as Detective Corrigan and Rook approach Slaughter Swamp State Park and the Attwood girls increase their frantic babbling in a long dead language.

Perhaps most disconcerting (and thus successful) of all however is Fawke’s use of The Spectre, which is masterfully underplayed despite there surely being the temptation to attract attention to the title by ‘showcasing’ one of the most iconic anti-heroes in the “DC Comics” universe. This story is predominantly centred on the character of Jim Corrigan, the human host, and his ‘down to earth’ fellow officers facing terrors from beyond the grave. It is not supposedly a super-powered tale of the spirit of justice obtaining his vengeance upon the criminal fraternity of Gotham City. As a result there’s a genuine vulnerability to the fears and concerns of the cops in the story, including Corrigan, and that simply adds to the unease of the reader as the supernatural events unfold.

All of these happenings are reasonably well illustrated by Ben Templesmith. But the Australian Comic Book artist’s scratchy, almost child-like scribblings, though quite fitting and ghost-like for such a title as this, are only truly effective because of his tremendously impressive application of colour to each panel. Indeed his stark contrasting use of browns and blues for ‘safe’ and ‘sinister’ scenes, whilst superb at conjuring up a disquieting atmosphere of trepidation, arguably demonstrates Templesmith’s creative abilities are far better suited to ‘one-off’ posters, trading cards and motion picture concept work, than for the ‘heavier’ multiple-panelled pages of a comic book.
The variant cover art of "GOTHAM BY MIDNIGHT" No. 1 by Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiolo 

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