Quick show of hands, who here ever read the magnificent crime thriller “Fell”? Put your hands down! Of course you didn’t read “Fell” by Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith because if you did it wouldn’t have been canceled you selfish pricks. But worry not because you can make up for not buying “Fell” and buy “Gotham by Midnight” instead, for they are essentially the same thing. One is about a detective who specializes in solving the creepy weird things that crawl in from the edges of reality in a dirty city on the decline and the other is set in Gotham.
“Gotham by Midnight” takes place in Gotham, specifically it takes place in a taskforce within the GCPD assembled to deal with the strange and haunting things that plague Gotham. And I am very pleased to announce that this has as much to do with Batman as Keith Richards has to do with sobriety. Sure, it’s brought up in casual conversation but then everyone has a good laugh and gets on with their day. Batman does actually make one token appearance in the book but then he moves to the side because it turns out the weirdest thing in Gotham is not a multi-billionaire jumping over the rooftops. It shifts the focus to the grim and creepy part of Gotham, a part only Detective Jim Corrigan can delve into.
The book starts off with a man from Internal Affairs coming around to see what this specialty task force is up to. Yeah, it’s a hackneyed troupe for starting out a police procedural but the point is to get the ball rolling on this balls to the wall horror fest as quick as possible. And boy does it come out of the gate swinging. The case they’re working on is children disappearances around upper class Gothamites but the twist is the kids came back. But they’re creepy Children of the Corn children. Corrigan quickly makes a connection and brings the agent from IA on a magical journey—except when I say magical I mean gross and terrifying and when I say journey I mean “Ahhhhhhh!” Even the IA agent stops showing any bravado instead opting to get into the fetal position like any sane person would do.
This book speaks to a problem at DC. When “New 52” was launched, it was launched under the guidelines of grim and gritty, everything had to be covered in a sheen of oil and dirt in a back alley. Gone were the feel good stories and the cartoonish adventures, here to stay were douche bags trying to be super heroes in a “realistic” world. This did not work, no argument, no debate, this was a terrible idea and DC has suffered for it. However, they needn’t have suffered, this book proves that some books do work in the grungy shades of brown that DC was trying to make standard. Ben Templesmith draws Gotham not in how everyone imagines it but with a skew to it as if he’s giving you a glance at the city’s soul. He highlights the horror in a way that made me look up from the pages to make sure an ax murderer wasn’t waiting to split me open. And even though this is his specialty, I still want to point this out to DC. This is how you do it: you find someone who is good at the thing you are trying to accomplish with your book.
I’m going to break with tradition, instead of comparing this to “Invincible”, I’m going to compare this book with “Fell”. Both books share a lot in common but the slight differences are there if you look for them. First, “Fell” was about a fish out of water, a man stranded in a situation he did not like or understand. “Gotham by Midnight” in contrast is about a man well versed in the weird and peculiar, a man who has seen the darkness and wants to protect others from the things he saw there. Detective Jim Corrigan also has a whole team of people who are supposed to aid him in these cases. Of course Jim Corrigan is/was/will be the Specter (they don’t really clarify this) so he can just use nebulous “Ghost” powers to solve the crime anyway. But all in all, the book is absolutely outstanding, something I thoroughly recommend, and makes me pine for Warren Ellis to come back—Come on! Just one more issue! You left so many hanging plot threads!