The Batman books have been busy lately, rolling out several series revamps as well as a handful of new titles getting added into the fold. This week debuts the last of the new series (for now), Ray Fawkes and Ben Templesmith's "Gotham by Midnight" #1. And after you read this first issue, you'll find yourself wondering why it took this long to have a horror-themed comic involving the Gotham City Police Department, because the fit is so natural.
"Gotham by Midnight" #1 introduces us to GCPD Precinct 13, a small task force with a Lieutenant, two officers, and two consultants on the payroll. Fawkes uses the tried-and-true method of walking us through the setup through an outsider; in this case, Sergeant Rook from Internal Affairs who's there to report on what's happening and potentially shut the group down. But of course, what Rook expects to find and what he actually sees are two radically different things.
Rook fits in well as the skeptic in the room who isn't used to the darker side of Gotham. He's the one who gets surprised, who serves as the voice of the reader that isn't intimately familiar with everything that Precinct 13 goes up against. We're as much on his journey towards understanding why Detectives Jim Corrigan and Lisa Drake go after the cases they tackle, and what supernatural forces are embedded within Gotham's bones. It works because this is as much a procedural book as it is a horror story; some parts are unorthodox (like how Corrigan is able to determine which cases are supernatural-themed), but other parts follow a more traditional line of investigation. Noting the strange markings on the house, interviewing those connected to the case, following clues to a new location -- it's familiar territory.
It's the supernatural part that makes "Gotham by Midnight" #1 stand out so well, though. Early elements like a glowing hand, or the remains of a serial killer that have been transformed into a pillar of salt are different, but at the same time carefully ease you into this world. The consultants to the police also work well, with one foot in the mundane and one in the dark. While there's only a glimpse of the new characters, I'm already eager to find out much more about the cast over time. Once readers see the affected children who were kidnapped, though, or journey outside of Gotham entirely, the story gets darker and fully grabs your attention. Fawkes and Templesmith come up with some great imagery here to focus the story; the creepy, slightly tilted shack in the swamp is a great example. The blue-green saturation of Templesmith's art gives it an eerie cast; it makes the entire page look like it's glowing slightly as the police officers head towards it. With holes in the roof, a shattered window, and everything just a tiny bit off-kilter, Templesmith makes this look like a place you'd never want to go inside.
More mundane elements of "Gotham by Midnight" #1 also have a deliberately off-putting manner to them. Julie and Francine's faces as they speak the strange language are a mixture of pleading and confusion; it fully sells the Fawkes' story. I also love the different colors that Templesmith uses depending on the scenes; brown inside Precinct 13, blues and grays amidst the statuary, green in the lush and high-end Mayfair neighborhood. It's a great look for the book, and Templesmith nails every page. Add in a strong final page moment where it's the depiction of what's inside the shack that sells the surprise, and you end up with a perfect choice on who should draw the comic.
"Gotham by Midnight" #1 is another strong new series for the Batman family of titles, and it's great to see the line continue to reinvent itself so well. The Corrigan-and-Batwing storyline in "Batman Eternal" was a lot of fun, and getting something along that same vein as an ongoing series is a real treat. Fans of moody, dark comics will eat this book up. Highly recommended.