Writer Ray Fawkes and artist Ben Templesmith unleash the Spectre in “Gotham By Midnight” #5. The issue opens with a tale of woe as our narrator laments that millions of people are slated to die.
The stakes are certainly high from the first page of this comic as Ray Fawkes unleashes the wrath of the Spectre. Unfortunately, we have to take our narrator at his word, as the only people anywhere in this comic are the regular cast of “Gotham By Midnight” plus the Caped Crusader. That’s right, millions of lives are at stake, but only Jim Corrigan, Lisa Drake, Sister Justine, Szandoor Tarr, Lieutenant Weaver, Sergeant Rook, Batman, the Spectre and Ikkondrid are present. Presumably, everyone else is locked away in fear or has already evacuated, but the bulk of “Gotham By Midnight” #5 solely focuses on the Spectre’s battle and the humans who might prove capable of stopping him.
Tightening the spotlight is a smart move by Fawkes and Templesmith, but the scale gets lost a bit under the oppressive beings dominating the landscape. Spectre grappling with Ikkondrid over Gotham’s skyline is a striking image, elevated to near-epic proportions by the lightning and debris scattering the skies around them. Templesmith goes so far as to add distinguishing appearances in the residue surrounding Spectre from that around Ikkondrid. His damp, water-color art soaks into the pages and makes the issue a totally different experience from any other comic on the stands. The dampness enhances the uncomfortable, desperate tone of Fawkes’ story. While one-fifth of “Gotham By Midnight” #5 is consumed by splash pages, there are a number of other panels that seem almost as large. Templesmith’s backgrounds are descript but not finely detailed and he makes the Spectre fill the panels he appears in. The dynamic faceoff between the two mystical beings is impressive and oppressive. The narrator was right; things look bad underneath and around these foes.
Templesmith and letterer Saida Temofonte collaborate tightly, with the sound effects appearing like chalk scrawl over the art. No fancy colors are used on the effects, just pure white, which pops those noises off of the panel more intensely. Temofonte uses a wide range of balloon styles and colors. Spectre’s dialogue is distinctly separate from Ikkondrid, and the humans all have their own tenor and pitch. The only fault in the letters is that Corrigan’s caption boxes are a bit of a challenge to read with the blue-green center of the gradient hitting the densest part of the caption. It’s not impossible to read, but it could be improved.
Fawkes balances the gigantic scale with the personal, which is natural, given Corrigan’s connection to the Spectre. The events of the Spectre’s fight are reflected in the cast’s struggles, as one character doesn’t survive to the end of “Gotham By Midnight” #5. Fawkes and Templesmith make this comic a gripping, spooky read that is equal parts procedural, horror movie and heroic adventure. Batman’s appearance doesn’t derail the story at hand, but it does tether it ever so tightly to the rest of Gotham. The final image of this comic is a punch in the gut, as Fawkes and Templesmith set up intense drama for the months to come.