Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Gotham by Midnight 10, originally released October 28th, 2015.
Patrick: Opinions very pretty wildly on whether or not Quentin Tarantino’s contribution to Grindhouse, “Death Proof,” works. It’s a talky flick, even by Tarantino’s standards, and the film’s sharp divide between two discrete halves makes it kind of an endurance test for the audience. By the time the movie reaches the final chase sequence, viewers are either totally bored or totally invested in the characters and the mythology. Those that invested during the first 80 minutes are rewarded with a harrowing vehicular action sequence, which would no doubt be impressive on it’s own, but which means tremendously more for all the groundwork laid before it. Gotham by Midnight 10, continues the talkiness of the interrogation-heavy ninth issue, but ultimately rewards them with — you guessed it — a thrilling car chase. It’s a testament to Juan Ferreya’s impeccable visual storytelling skills that this sequence it’s every bit as explosive and exciting as the most white-knuckle chase scene in the movies.
Of course, we’ve got to get to a place where it makes sense for Drake and Corrigan to go into full-on Grand Theft Auto mode and lead the cops on a 5-star chase throughout Gotham City. Covered in the viscera and gore of the cops the Spectre just vaporized, Corrigan has basically played his entire hand – there’s no hiding or explaining away the fact that he’s possessed by the living embodiment of God’s vengeance. Ferreya is no slouch during this portion of this issue, playing a lot of low angles, and wide lenses to disorient the reader just as Corrigan’s grasp on reality seems the most fragile.
Man, and look how Ray Fawkes juxtaposes this confusion with the cops making some pretty black and white statements. I can’t think of much more of a loaded accusation than “cop killer,’ except possibly the follow-up of “we don’t know what he is.” Corrigan — or The Spectre, but let’s not split hairs here — is a monster of biblical proportions, and Ferrya wields his camera appropriately.
Sometimes I worry about using the vocabulary of film in comic books. They’re not the same medium, as Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Watchmen reminds me every time I watch it. What works in film and what works on the page are two entirely different things. The wide angle lens, for example doesn’t have quite the same effect on a still image. If we were watching the above scene play out in motion, the warping of characters and shapes as they moved toward the periphery of the frame would add another layer of psychological effect. Ferreya is referencing that effect here – relying on the reader’s experience watching movies and hoping that their imagination fills in the rest.
When we reach the final chase, however, Ferreya throws out the filmmaker’s handbook altogether. And that’s when the issue goes from an imitation of spectacle to some of the best action I’ve read all month. And make no mistake, the appeal of this scene is entirely in the action; Drake and Corrigan have already wrapped up their differences of opinion, and the only thing that matters now is how those cars maneuver on the streets of Gotham. Ferreya lets the motion of the car dictate just about everything about these six pages.
The first set of pages is my favorite, though they’re all incredible in their own rite. Probably the most effective trick on the page is when Ferreya uses a sharp right turn to reverse the direction the reader’s eyes are traveling across the page.
I love anything that naturally makes us read from right to left, but this serves an added function of putting us in the passenger seat. The reader’s perspective snakes around the page, like we too are winding through the streets and alleyways of a big city. After that second 180 degree turn, Ferreya and Drake cram in a whole story — 8 panels worth — that’s essentially the whole issue in miniature. Drake realizes that their flight from the law is going to put people in danger and then performs the heroic tasks necessary in order to save innocent lives. And, even within that tiny story, Ferreya is leveraging the specific strengths of the medium to make it more engaging. Check out those panels that are bathed in red – there’s no way to know what order to read those in. In all likelihood, it’s all happening simultaneously.
That’s the kind of thing you can’t do in film. I mean, you could — split screen is a real thing — but because you have a fixed amount of time you can spend showing an image, there’s no guarantee the audience will be able to process each image before switching to the next. This is action presented in a way that only comic books can.
Taylor, I know you were digging the more patient nature of the previous issue, but this one kicks it all up into high gear. Did you fall in love with the car chase as much as I did? Also, what do you make of the shrine to Sister Justine that the little Narrows kids are keeping for her? What if she ends up being some kind of anti-Spectre?
Taylor: I thought the entire car chase sequence was absolutely brilliant! The movement of the cars was just so palpable and kinetic. Like you, Patrick, I couldn’t help but compare this sequence to something we would see in a movie. Except the entire time, I was just thinking how much better this car chase is than anything I’ve seen on the screen in a long time (save for maybe Fury Road). In particular, I loved how Ferrya substitutes normal black or white motion lines with lines created by the car lights. It creates a cool effect like seeing a long exposure picture of a busy city street. And really in general all of the panels were just so movement oriented. The entire time I truly felt on the edge of my seat.
Even though I was in suspense for the entire car chase, I should have known all along what was coming. After all, Ferrya telegraphs what’s going to happen before the chase even begins. When Corrigan and Drake exit the police department Ferrya draws a panel that distinctly shows what the focal point of the issue will be.
Here, our heroes’ car dominates half of the panel and looks imply gigantic. Given what comes next after this it’s no surprise that our first glimpse of the car is so dramatic. This is Ferrya’s way of telling us this thing’s damn important. Ferrya creates this impression by setting the horizon line of this panel by setting the horizon line very nearly at the bottom of this shot. This is a wonderful use of forced perspective that enhances a story in a meaningful and entertaining way.
Ferrya and Fawkes also foreshadow elements of their story earlier in the action. When Corrigan first leaves the bloody interrogation room he’s assailed with questions and accusations. His reaction to this cacophony is not so much incriminating as it is damning.
After being accused of killing the internal affairs agents Corrigan yells that it wasn’t him as he half transforms into the Specter. Brilliantly, Ferrya and Fawkes have staged this scene so we view Corrigan and the Specter as inhabiting the same body. This makes me consider just who and what the Specter is in light of recent developments. Is the Specter actually a something Corrigan controls? Is it something that lives in him? Or is it actually Corrigan himself? Later in the issue Corrigan claims to have died and given life again by God, with the charge to carry the Specter as a price. But if Corrigan died, does that mean whoever, or whatever, we think Corrigan to be is actually something completely different from the man who supposedly died? Questions abound and the line of where Corrigan ends and where the Specter begins promises to be an interesting thread for the duration of this series.
Further making the issue of death and rebirth of central importance to the comic is the curious case of Sister Justine. Even though she’s dead, people of the narrows have been making shrines to her. They also claim that she appears occasionally if something is left at her shrine. Her impact is so strong that down-on-their-luck kids even sings songs about her.
What stands out to me about this song is the last line: “we’re here because she died.” Could it be that these kids feel that Sister Justine actually helped them by dying? If that’s true, how exactly does this work? And is it the act of her death that has helped them or is that now being a spirit, she can better offer them her aid? All of these questions abound but I think one thing is clear: Sister Justine is like Corrigan in that she has died and now come back to life. What’s different in this case seems to be that whereas the Spectre/Corrigan goes around killing people in the name of vengeance, Justine appears to help them. In both cases the theme of death and rebirth, which seems to allude to a certain well known religious figure, takes center stage. And when this is taken into consideration with Corrigan’s claim that he was given a mission by God, the allusion becomes all the more concrete. In any case, death and rebirth is now being established as a central theme in this series and I for one love it. It promises to keep things creepy.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?