The revolutionary rethinking of the Batman line continues with another new series, following on from the likes of Arkham Manor, Grayson and Gotham Academy, and the revamp of Batgirl. So after the villain comic, the spy comic and the school comic, line editor Mark Doyle brings on the spooky comic.
And very spooky Gotham by Midnight is, with its tale of little girls lost, found and lost again. Julie and Francine Attwood, kidnapped from Gotham Heights, are home, but strange ... distant, speaking in an unknown language. Detectives Jim Corrigan and Lisa Drake investigate, taking along Internal Affairs guy Sgt. Peyton Rook, who's planning to shut down the GCPD Detailed Task force. Will demonstrating what the cops and consultants of Precinct 13 actually do persuade him to change his mind? Maybe ... if he survives.
Gotham by Midnight immediately justifies its slot on the shelves with a Gotham story like no other. The mood is eerie, but not vague - there's a sharpness to the characters and scenario. Ray Fawkes' script sketches them in so efficiently that new players such as Lisa and Rook, forensics man Dr Szandor Tarr, expert '... in these things' Sister Justine and chief Lt Sam Weaver grab the attention as much as the rather more established - 75 years more - Jim Corrigan. The latter's other self, The Spectre, doesn't appear here, but there is darkly amusing evidence of his presence in the shape of a pillar of salt propped up in the squad room. I hope the Spirit of Vengeance doesn't appear often, as a glowing green god makes everyone else pretty redundant - happily, it looks as if Fawkes will play it so Corrigan bids to keep the unpredictable Spectre at bay.
The book's structure is pretty traditional, with the new guy's first day motivating introductions to characters and set-up, and it works well - a straightforward entry into the world before the weirdness really kicks off. And there's a page one 'trailer' pitching the set-up to any TV producers out there wondering if Constantine was the best idea. I'd buy it.
Ben Templesmith's art is a massive boost for this series, making it look like no other Gotham-set book. His full-colour illustrations bring that round-midnight tone; figures are exaggerated just enough to be off - check out the sisters' stick-thin arms - while even suburban homes become as threatening as swamp cabins. One issue in and I can barely imagine anyone else drawing this series, though I fully expect Doyle to have some eminently suitable subs in his Rolodex (Frazer Irving, for example, whose work on the much-missed Xombi has a similar feel).
Gotham By Midnight, while merely skirting the edges of the Batman's world - so far as appearances by the man himself go, a page worth of panels is pretty much it - will hopefully be sampled by the legion of bat-fans. And by anyone else who wants something different from DC Comics, an engrossing drama starring the people who see the world at its scariest, but fight to hang on to their greatest weapons - faith, idealism and a belief in redemption.