Gotham By Midnight Annual #1 opens on a romantic scene as lovers Eleanor Weir and Jim Craddock embrace and look toward their future. Their evening is interrupted, however as Detectives Lisa Drake and Jim Corrigan burst onto the scene, pursuing Craddock on multiple cases of robbery. As they pursue their suspect, it is revealed that Craddock is supernatural in origin and he has some powerful seduction powers to boot.
Craddock is revealed by Corrigan to be the Gentleman Ghost, a character attentive DC readers will recognize. Corrigan is able to connect Gentleman Ghost to several crimes throughout the ages, and so it becomes paramount that he and Drake capture him and prevent him from continuing his streak. When they corner him on a train, however, they learn that there is more to his recent theft than expected.
Whereas most of Gotham By Midnight has been an atmospheric horror story, Ray Fawkes uses the annual to switch gears and prevent a story better resembling a police procedural. The change in style is a welcome one as it shows the range the series can have moving forward. Fawkes also demonstrates great control over the characters that make up Precinct 13. Corrigan and Drake are the key focus outside of Gentleman Ghost and Fawkes uses the narrative to emphasize the differences in their investigation styles. This also allows for some brief moments of humor, which is nice to see from a series that has been preoccupied with the dourness of supernatural crime.
The artwork by Christian Duce is a very different style from either Ben Templesmith or Juan Ferreyra in the main series. The more traditional style and heavier lines used for shadows give the issue a noir tone, making Gotham By Midnight Annual #1 feel more like a detective tale than a horror one. Considering the story in this issue, it’s a good fit, and gives the issue a tone that feels distinct from the regular issues.
Color artist Lee Loughridge had a daunting task in trying to match the quality of regular artist Juan Ferreyra’s atmospheric color palette. Fortunately for readers, Loughridge meets the challenge at hand but not by trying to emulate the work of those before him, but by bringing his own talents to the table to match the story presented. The ethereal blues and oranges that have come to define the series are eschewed in favor of purples and greens that maintain a supernatural feel while lending a noir tone to the issue that aids the story.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t quite pack the emotional punch that one may have come to expect from Gotham By Midnight. While the inclusion of Gentleman Ghost is a nice reintroduction of an obscure character, the way that his origin is presented is lackluster. The emotional hook for his character is relegated to just three pages late in the issue’s third act, whereas had it been given more time, readers would have been able to better empathize with his desire for the necklace and more investment in the proceedings. As it stands, the issue feels a bit too routine in its direction, focusing on the chase and capture of Gentleman Ghost rather than what drives him to act.
Gotham By Midnight Annual #1 is an entertaining issue, but ultimately stumbles in its presentation. Christian Duce’s artwork and Lee Loughridge’s colors give the issue a unique style compared to the art the series normally has and this matches the tone of the annual. But while Ray Fawkes’ dialogue and character work is still strong, the delivery of information in the story doesn’t quite meet the potential of the premise. Readers of Gotham By Midnight will likely enjoy this issue, but newer readers looking to get a feel for the series would be better off trying any of the previous chapters.