Overview

Batman: Gotham After Midnight #1

Review

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Batman: Gotham After Midnight #1

Credits

  • Words: Steve Niles
  • Art: Kelley Jones
  • Inks: N/A
  • Colors: Michelle Madsen
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: May 28, 2008

Gotham after dark is peopled with horrors of all types and one Dark Knight. Now the horrors are trying to destroy the Knight.

Writer Steve Niles is well known for mixing horror with noir but for Gotham After Midnight he takes a slightly different tack, mixing in a Gothic air. This first issue of the maxi-series, however, feels familiar in some rather unexpected ways.

The Scarecrow is pulling a heist to steal a Hand of Glory but nothing about this job, including the object, fits Scarecrow’s usual M.O. The Batman is convinced he is being lured into a trap but who is setting it? Why? And most of all, will Batman step into it?

Back in the 1970’s, writers and artists like Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers and others were responsible for re-injecting the Batman character with the trappings of the strange, the supernatural, the outré and the gothic. Niles goes back to those roots with this series and the antecedents are very clear to see. Wisely, Niles keeps the hints of the supernatural in the background for this first issue and that serves to make them seem even creepier. Those elements become the feeling that someone is watching you when no one is there; the shadows in the corner of the room. Unfortunately, Niles’ voice for the Batman seems a little off from time to time – there are attempts at dry humor which miss the mark and an almost childish petulancy that sits ill on the Dark Knight. The plot also seems a bit unfocused as readers have the Scarecrow, a Hand of Glory, and an apparent ambush all thrown at them with no real sense of the how or why behind them. Niles also introduces the main villain for the series – Midnight – and then does nothing with him. A single splash page tells the readers nothing about Midnight or his aims.

Some readers may recognize artist Kelley Jones from his work on the Batman/Vampire Elseworlds series. No vampires here but he still brings his heavily shadowed, dark style to bear. His Batman and his Scarecrow are exaggerated and given slightly horrific overtones. Jones seems to take particular delight in rendering Batman’s cape. The object becomes impossibly long and even seems to move with a mind of its own. In fact, if anything, Jones turns the cape into another character.

Batman: Gotham After Midnight #1 has bags of potential and yet the issue seems to just misfire on all cylinders. Despite the problems, however, this reviewer still holds out hope that the second issue will see improvement. There is so much to love here from the chapter breaks with little title cards, the Gothic atmosphere with the hint of the supernatural, the hearkening back to some of the greats of past like Adams/O’Neil and Englehart/Rogers, and Kelley Jones’ over-the-top but deliciously dark and atmospheric artwork, it is impossible to completely condemn it. Here is hoping that Niles gets the engine tuned and gets this series roaring like the Batmobile….on a dark and stormy night.

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