Today, Michael and Patrick are discussing Gotham By Midnight 12 , originally released December 16th, 2015.
Michael: The finale: the final act of a story, the climax and conclusion, the final word that creators have with a set of characters that they have been working with. There are countless variations on the classic finale recipe (a different kind of examination for another day), but Gotham By Midnight 12 is a very specific finale: the publisher-induced cancellation finale. Ray Fawkes and Juan E. Ferreyra are saddled with the task of punctuating the tale of Gotham City’s resident ghost chasers.
Ikkondrid has returned to Gotham and reanimated the wrongfully deceased as the spirit of Sister Justine holds The Spectre at bay. Being one of Gotham’s wrongfully deceased himself, Jim Corrigan is also under the sway of Ikkondrid, leaving Detective Drake with little choice but to kill Corrigan to end Spectre’s threat. A gun in the face helps Corrigan come to his senses a bit and better understand the anger and disappointment behind Ikkondrid’s attack. In a bout of group therapy, Drake, Corrigan and Sister “The Nun of the Narrows” Justine come to the realization that Ikkondrid wants justice for his dead. Justine and Spectre use their powers to ensure that the dead get their due justice by being forever remembered in the hearts of those still living in Gotham. The dark storm clears the sun rises and the Midnight Shift live to fight another day.
The fact that Gotham By Midnight 12 is a cancellation finale was at the forefront of my thoughts upon my first reading. This knowledge definitely colored my initial read of the book, jumping to conclusions that everything that happened in the issue was due to Gotham By Midnight’s cancellation. The true intent behind the main conflict is revealed and our heroes simply talk the conflict away because a conclusion demands some resolution. As always, my snap judgment was… a little judgmental.
Ray Fawkes’ scripting in Gotham By Midnight 12 makes me think of the most poignant episodes of Joss Whedon finales (Buffy and Angel in particular spring to mind); the monster metaphor is stripped away and the writer lays down some universal truths about living this life. Gotham By Midnight’s final issue is so much more poignant when looked at through that lens. Ikkondrid wants justice for the Gotham deceased who have been senselessly and needlessly killed. Justine and Corrigan come to the conclusion that the only way to get this justice is to honor them in their memories. It is a simple resolution, but in the best way possible. Fawkes beautifully uses the metaphor of ghosts and monsters and immortality – the only way to immortality is living on in other people’s memories.
When Corrigan tells Drake that Ikkondrid is “unsatisfied,” she goes into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Juan E. Ferreyra highlights and heightens Drake’s disbelief by having her give herself up to the ridiculousness of Corrigan’s statement – she drops her weapon and is willingly taken by the zombies. Ferreyra underscores Drake’s little monologue about the brutal pain of living by showing all of the heroes of the Midnight Shift very literally fighting back death in order to survive. It’s a cinematic moment, a rallying cry that unites everyone – characters and readers alike – and it really sold me. Maybe I’m a sap, but sometimes a resounding “we are all the same” message can be extremely effective in execution.
“Life is a struggle” and “nothing lasts forever” are clichés, but clichés are clichés because they’re true. Regardless of religious beliefs, we try to do something worthwhile with our short time on Earth. The life of a comic book series is just as fleeting as the life of a human being. The creative team behind a comic book wants to try to accomplish something with an even shorter amount of time that is even more uncertain. The Midnight Shift was the underdog of the GCPD and Gotham By Midnight was the underdog of the Batman titles, so it’s oddly fitting that the book is cancelled by the powers that be. Fawkes’ final word on the underdog of the GCPD is that despite everything, they did some good. I think that the creative team behind Gotham By Midnight did some good as well.
Patrick! Happy Holidays mon frère! What did you think of the Gotham By Midnight finale? Was it poignant in its cliché or over-the-top? What do you think the final word is on the Spectre/Corrigan relationship? Is Corrigan driving or is it left intentionally vague? And was it ever made explicit what kind of power Doctor Tarr was tapping into?
Patrick: Good point about Doctor Tarr! I think that’s something we can file away under “stuff we could have explored further if the series had been allowed to continue.” Or Tarr is tapping to the science-y end of the supernatural world because the series has always embraced it’s similarity to Ghost Busters — even introducing city-sized monsters (and heroes) that demand emotional resolution instead of physical resolution.
And actually, on that note, I do think Gotham by Midnight is successful in the way it refocuses on the negativity of our human characters as the main problem of the series. Busting may make the reader “feel good” (as it were), but the real meat of this story is the living characters learning how to forgive and be forgiven, love and be loved. I’ve always found Fawkes’ gift for poetic prose to be one of the most effective weapons in his arsenal, but it is so frequently snuffed out by his stodgier writing assignments. On the flip side: when Fawkes is allowed to let the poetry dictate the form of the piece, it is always difficult to follow, and in the case of his creator-owned Intersect, almost unreadable. The spectacular climatic action sequence is scored with some of the most rhetorically effective Fawkes poetry I’ve read – it taps into Christian concepts of faith and forgiveness, but also accesses a universal self-doubt and offers a prescription for such doubt. It’s really pretty, so I’m capturing it all here:
“Because I don’t know why I survive my mistakes and other’s don’t. Because I’m ashamed. Because we’re all freaking animals to each other and we sin and we hurt. Forgive me. Forgive us all. We don’t have to believe we deserve it. We don’t have to believe in ourselves. But we can’t go on denying the pain we’ve caused or the pain we’re holding on to. We can’t keep burying our guilt or lashing out or killing each other… forgive us.”
It’s a moment of absolute surrender, and I’m particularly struck by the acknowledgement that “we don’t have to believe we deserve it.” This is a powerful, powerful idea – one I was reminded of during Christmas Eve Mass. Salvation doesn’t ask for work or violence or any forcible act, but for surrender. I was raised Catholic, so that’s the mass we went to, and the pre-communion prayer raised this point directly. The whole congregation mutters “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the words and I shall be healed.” It is not in the power of person praying to become worthy; the only agency implied there is in willfully letting go.
So, I guess I’d issue the standard disclaimer that this issue — and by extension, this whole series — worked particularly well on me because of my background and the beliefs I was raised with (and which are still kicking around in my head in one form or another). But I’d also put forth that Juan Ferreyra’s art work is absolutely stunning throughout. Again, he’s tapping into all kinds of potent images and ideas in this issue. In the first half of the issue, he establishes Ikkondrid and Sister Justice as the devil and angel on the Spectre’s shoulders. He’ll even toss in the imagery of that struggle when the scene at hand is about something else.
When Ikkondrid is finally dispelled, albeit through some non-literal means, Ferreyra delivers breathtakingly serene panel of the Spectre at peace with his connection to God.
Is this all a metaphor for being cancelled before your time and surrendering to the powers that be or a religious allegory? It’s both, of course. Like Michael said, we all find purpose and meaning in different places, and comic books are as good a structure for faith as anything else. There are fascinations with morality and with exploring things we cannot understand. Most importantly, there’s a weekly ritual and a community that values the same mythology. Few comics end up drawing that parallel so completely, but Gotham by Midnight was always something special. It’s just nice to see it go out as uniquely as it came in.
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?