Pulp #631
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Pulp #631

Have you ever been out at night in a big city, where everything feels wrong? There’s something off; every hair is standing on end, and you walk as fast as you can just to get away. Gotham City strikes me as the kind of place that would be like that 24/7, and that’s before accounting for the various villains (and bat-themed heroes) running around and messing everything up. A number of stories have brought up the notion that perhaps Gotham is cursed, down to its very core. With all of the costumed lunatics running around, you’d think that the GCPD would have enough things to worry about – hell, they can’t seem to keep some of them in jail for longer than a few days, if that – but this is a story set in Gotham; there’s always a new evil lurking around the corner, and this week’s comic, Gotham By Midnight thrives on exploring that concept.

Commissioner Gordon – being a sensible sort of guy and BFFL of the Bat – knew from experience that sometimes, the cases he worked couldn’t be explained by conventional means, and that the GCPD needed a team to deal with the things that go bump in the night and protect the people of Gotham from the supernatural. With this in mind, he established the GCPD Detailed Case Task Force in Gotham’s Precinct 13 – colloquially known as the Night Shift. They’re a bit of a motley crew; led by Lieutenant Weaver, Detectives Jim Corrigan – host to the spirit of God’s vengeance, the Spectre – and Lisa Drake are supported by Dr Szandor Tarr (forensics expert and mad doctor) and “religious consultant” Sister Justine.

They work the cases that no one else will touch; they deal with the unexplained and venture into places that scare even the most hardened of beat cops. The other cops think they’re nuts, and Internal Affairs have sent a man to shut them down. But when occult signs show that an ancient, primal evil is about to be unleashed upon the city, there’s no one else that can handle it.

I have to say, I’m really impressed. I’d heard good things about Gotham By Midnight for a long time, but never actually got around to picking it up until recently. While I’m disappointed that DC didn’t give it a longer run – the final, 12th issue came out just before Christmas – I’m not surprised that a title that actually does something a bit different (and does it well) got given the axe by DC execs (Bitter? Me? Never!)

Gotham By Midnight has the distinction of being the only comic since Severed to actually creep me out, and that’s mostly due to the dream team I never knew I wanted – writer Ray Fawkes (Batman Eternal, Constantine) and Ben Templesmith (Fell, 30 Days of Night).

Fawkes and Templesmith have excelled here; they’ve crafted a series that looks and feels like an old-school Vertigo horror title, much like the glorious days of Hellblazer and Swamp Thing. That’s no small feat, either; while DC has attempted to recapture the gory glory days with its reinventions of Hellblazer and (to a lesser extent) the Justice League Dark series, nothing has really hit the mark, or even come close. That’s partially thanks to Templesmith’s signature dark-‘n’-spooky art style, which I’ve talked about in previous columns; there’s something about it that just works, much like Justin Randall’s (Changing Ways) art style.

Realistically, old school horror isn’t really on the cards at DC right now, so if that’s your jam, pick up Gotham By Midnight and relive the glory!

Written by Alastair McGibbon

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