Today brings the debut of Gotham by Midnight by writer Ray Fawkes and artist Ben Templesmith. Gotham by Midnight #1 at times feels like a Vertigo book, bringing a gloomy atmosphere and horror to the Gotham cityscape. There’s a building undercurrent of tension that continues up to the climax of the book which fully sells the concept to the reader.
The plot introduces readers to Gotham City Police Department’s Precinct 13 via Sergeant Rook from Internal Affairs. Rook is looking into Precinct 13 as they tend to take cases that don’t lead anywhere, at least that the GCPD can tell. Rook meets with Jim Corrigan, the detective that leads many of Precinct 13’s investigations. The contrast between Rook’s skepticism and Corrigan’s eerie assuredness play nicely with each other on the page.
The supernatural elements of the plot, build slowly, from the way Corrigan determines if a case is supernatural or not to the way a serial killer’s body turns to salt. It all crescendos in the issue’s climax, a final image that immediately conveys the horror element of the book and sets up the next issue.
Ben Templesmith’s art here is fantastic. Decidedly different from DC’s house style, it’s a beautiful array of washes that add to the murkiness of Gotham by Midnight’s story. From the dusty grays and blues to the precinct itself, to the ghastly greens created by a flashlight in the dark, the art makes for an ethereal comic. The lines of the book are not always sharply defined, and the proportions bend in places. This is intentional however, and the subtle ways things meld together only adds to the book’s ambience. The union of Ray Fawkes’ moody dialogue and Ben Templesmith’s art is what really helps to sell the book. Fawkes has always had a deft hand for portraying the supernatural and the hardened personalities that circle its edge. The dialogue here is realistic and moody, and the story’s pacing allows the Templesmith’s art to really shine.
If there is any real negative to Gotham by Midnight #1, it is that some of the characters come off a tad one-dimensional. Other than Corrigan and Rook, we don’t spend much time with the other members of Precinct 13, and so they come off more as caricatures rather than characters in their own right. There’s an awkwardly overenthusiastic forensic scientist and a nun that works from the religious angle, and neither of those characters really gets beyond those one-note descriptions in this issue. However, there’s plenty of time for Fawkes to develop them in future issues.
Gotham by Midnight #1 is one of the better comic debuts over the past few months. Fawkes and Templesmith make a great team and really bring out the supernatural underbelly of one of DC’s most storied cities. Some of the characters are on the shallow side, but the book makes up for it in spades with its atmosphere and focus on its apparent leads.