Ray Fawkes and Ben Templesmith show masterful storytelling in Gotham by Midnight #4 by anticipating reader expectations and letting the story subvert any real guesses the reader had, allowing the feeling of the unknown to amplify the horror of the series.
The previous issues of Gotham by Midnight had developed a formula in which readers would be given a dual narrative: one in the present, and one in the past of a member of Corrigan’s unit. This issue changes the template a bit opening on the slower side as Corrigan and Rook booze up at a dive bar with an extensive past in Gotham City. Corrigan has made his way through several drinks, putting Rook on edge. This clearly isn’t the Internal Affairs agent’s idea of a good time.
Things quickly heat up though when a demonic entity emerges from the bar, targeting both Corrigan and Rook. In true thriller fashion, the issue cuts away from this moment of tension and brings readers to Dr. Tarr and Detective Drake. Under the template of previous issues, one would anticipate this being a flashback to some past event in Dr. Tarr’s life, but Gotham by Midnight #4 stays in the present day. From the perspective of Tarr and Drake, readers learn that it isn’t just Corrigan’s team being attacked, but an entire section of Gotham City as the demonic forces rise up. And Corrigan can no longer hold back.
As chaos ensues around them and the supernatural presence grows, Corrigan is overtaken by his alter-ego, the Spectre. Wrathful and to-the-point, the Spectre quickly does away with the demon and it becomes clear that the Spectre is dealing with something far older than anticipated: the souls of those slaughtered in the founding of Gotham City.
There’s not much that needs to be said about Templesmith’s art. It’s an extraordinary asset to the series, instantly setting the tone with its colors and line work. His Spectre here is frightening, a true force of nature. And the way Gotham’s most famous caped crusader begins to appear here is an excellent use of foreshadowing.
Ray Fawkes’ writing is right at home in this series. The dialogue at the beginning of the issue helps to set the stage in subtle ways. Corrigan comments on the age of the bar, and those touches of history add to the feeling of ancient powers at work. The appearance of Corrigan’s alter-ego, the Spectre, has been something that’s been part of the anticipation of this series since the beginning, and the long wait has made the reveal even more impactful. The Spectre is treated here as a doomsday-protocol, something you don’t want to appear unless it can’t get any worse, and that dimension helps to escalate the tension in the series.
Gotham by Midnight #4 is a superb issue that averts the potential flaws it might have had by changing the pace of the narrative. The issue avoids the pitfall of merely repeating the same structure of previous chapters by trying something new. One does have to question if bringing in Batman so early in the series is necessary, but he’s an essential part of Gotham City and entirely ignoring him and his presence would be a mistake.
Gotham by Midnight is a sensational series, and unless you are truly averse to the supernatural, it’s a book that should have your attention. Issue #4 is another great step forward for Fawkes and Templesmith, as the series looks to a clash between the Spectre and Batman in its climax.