Saturday, October 31, 2015

Comic Book Review: Gotham By Midnight #6

Gotham By Midnight #6, DC Comics, cover-dated June 2015.

“Return on Investment,” by Ray Fawkes, with art by Juan Ferreyra. Cover by Bill Sienkiewicz.

A funeral. In the rain. What a way to start an issue. But Sister Justine is dead, and the team is feeling her loss.
Now that the team has seen the Spectre in action, they have some questions. And Corrigan’s answers don’t satisfy.

“The Spectre is what he says he is, Okay? Divine judgment. Destroyer of sinners. Remember the story of Sodom and Gomorrah? That was almost Gotham City last Friday.”

We also learn the specifics of Detective Lisa Drake’s power. She has faerie blood, and is a harbinger of death. “You probably got swapped out as a baby.” Drake is shaken by this news, and asks Corrigan how he knows it.

“Friends in high places.”

Before they head off on to the case for the issue (a corporate ghost story), Dr. Tarr enters the church and has a few things to say to the crucifix, complaining that “it was Your name on the lips” of the founders of Gotham, on the Spectre when he was threatening to destroy the city, and on Sister Justine’s lips as she gave her life to save the city.

And we learn that Sergeant Rook is indeed working against our team. This should not have been a surprise, as this is what he was sent to do. But any hope that he had come over to their side is lost as this issue ends. As bad as things were at the start of this issue, they seem to be getting even worse as the issue ends.

This issue is the first to feature Ferreyra on art, and this change of style is noticeable. His art is still moody, and has a similar feel to Ben Templesmith, but is much less eccentric. He follows the template of what was done before, but brings a slightly more mainstream look to his work.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Alan's Christian Comic Corner

The Cross and the Switchblade, Barbour Christian Comics, 1972.
Written, drawn & inked by Al Hartley. Cover by Al Hartley.

This is a comic based on Pastor David Wilkerson’s account of his ministry work among the gangs of New York City in the late 1950s and early 1960s. These efforts were chronicled in Wilkerson’s 1963 book (written with John & Elizabeth Sherrill) of the same name.

The young minister feels called to New York City, specifically seeking out the toughest of the gangs. He eventually is able to befriend Nicky Cruz, the leader of the Mau Mau gang, who becomes a Christian and begins his own ministry. Although not part of this comic, Cruz tells the story of his life, including his interactions with Wilkerson, in his own memoir Run Baby Run.

Al Hartley is a longtime comic book professional, so the technical aspect of the book are competently done. I mention this, because professional competence is not always the case with Christian comics. The biggest problem that this comic has is that even with a full 32 pages of story, there are necessary shortcuts taken in the storytelling. But that is always the case in adapting a 200-page book into a single issue of a comic.

Hartley is most famous for drawing Archie comics, and there were moments in reading that I noted how similar some character looked to characters I’ve seen in Archie comics. But that was a minor issue. One of the oddest aspects is that the book’s most famous scene is on the cover of the comics, but does not take place inside the comic. This is when Wilkerson tells Cruz that even if the gang member cut him into a million pieces, each one would continue to love Cruz. This again speaks to Hartley’s struggle fitting all the material from the book into one issue of a comic, that he has to use the cover to portray the book’s most dramatic scene. 

As a comic, the fast pace and Archie-style drawings don’t necessarily age well. Writers of non-fiction also face the burden of their storytelling choices being limited by the actual events being told. But as a 40+ year-old adaptation of a 50+ year-old book, it’s actually … not bad.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Tyler Smith, interviewed by 3LC Publishing

Tyler Smith is someone that we consider a role model for what Dorkness to Light is trying to do. Tyler has two long-running podcast & blogging ventures. Battleship Pretension is a film criticism show in which Tyler and his co-host bring their film school background and love of movies to produce an excellent, compelling podcast about film and film culture.

His second show, More Than One Lesson, looks at movies from a specifically Christian perspective. This show looks specifically at films (mostly mainstream Hollywood fare, with a few Christian moves thrown in) to determine spiritual lessons and themes. This mix of shows, the general-interest and the religious, resembles what we try to do here and at Relative Geeky.

Recently, Tyler was interviewed by the blog 3LC Publishing. It covers how he got into podcasting, what he hopes to accomplish from it, and the good and the bad of hosting a Christian podcast. The interview is very interesting, and can be found here:

Also, he and his wife has just begun a new podcast about the TV show Survivor. The podcast is called "Worth Playing For." Check out all of his shows.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Comic Book Review: Gotham By Midnight #5

Gotham By Midnight #5, DC Comics, cover-dated May 2015.

“Judgment on Gotham,” by Ray Fawkes, with art by Ben Templesmith. Cover by Ben Templesmith.

This issue picks up exactly where the last one (reviewed here) left off, with The Giant-Sized Spectre taking on a similarly-sized Ikkondrid. As we learned last issue, swamp monster that has been tormenting the group this entire arc is the personification of the evil of Gotham City’s past, specifically its treatment of natives in the city’s founding.

So it’s a Spirit of Vengrance versus Spirit of Vengeance showdown for the right to judge a city. And since the city in question is Gotham City, Batman makes an appearance. In this story, Ray Fawkes moves from the tension of the “slow burn” he has built up for four issues to the intensity of a potential all-out city-smashing fight. A case could have been made that in the prior issues, not a lot “happened.”

All of the members of the Midnight Shift go work to protect the city, each in their own way. Including one team member pulling a gun on the comatose Corrigan. Maybe if the host dies, the Spectre stops? The team recognizes that a sacrifice of some sort must be made, that someone is going to die.

And Sister Justine does what she does best.  “Please, Lord. If I am a pure soul, as Corrigan says … please spare this city.” She stands in the gap, interceding for the city, asking the Lord to take her instead of the people of Gotham.

And as the Spectre turns toward the monster, thunder rolls, but it’s not really thunder. “Every window in the city shatters … and every living person falls to their knees.” The monsters don’t fight, which made the issue a bit anticlimactic, but the conflict does de-escalate.

Corrigan awakens, believing that they are safe. For a while. But there was a cost. The team suffered a loss. Someone had to die.

God answered Sister Justine’s prayer.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Comic Book Review - Gotham By Midnight #4

Gotham By Midnight #4, DC Comics, cover-dated April 2015.

“We Fight What We Become,” by Ray Fawkes, with art by Ben Templesmith. Cover by Ben Templesmith.

The “slow burn” of the prior four issues seems likes it is continuing as issue five begins, as a drunk Jim Corrigan tries to convince Sgt Rook from Internal Affairs that they can be friends. Or at least that maybe Rook will not pursue his case against the Midnight Shift. But that changes quickly as strange things bubble out of Rook. At the same time, Dr. Torr and Detective Drake are fighting similar beings on the Gotham streets. And as the being attacks all over the neighborhood, Corrigan knows what this means.

“Get away. Get as far away as you can … judgment is coming. Divine judgment. I can’t hold it back this time.”

And finally it happens. After teasing and tempting us, Jim Corrigan finally “Spectres out.” One of the concepts that Ray Fawkes has included in this series is that Corigan barely controls the Spectre’s wrath, and ultimately can not control it. And this is the classic “Old Testament” version of God’s wrath, which may well level a whole city if the sins therein are determined to be too great. It is a sense of judgment not tempered by mercy. Ben Templesmith's art style portrays well this disconcerting image.

But we do get some great monologuing when the Spectre arrives.

“I am the Spectre. I am Heaven’s Blade … I am the storm. And you … Abomination.”

While that fight is going on, Doctor Torr has figured out the motives of the beings they’ve been fighting since issue 1. It has to do with the sins that arose from the founding of Gotham City. The beings are “psychic reminders of genocide.” And what do they want? For Gotham City to be judged.

And the Spectre is just the supernatural being to do it.

Sister Justine is (rightly) terrified of the prospect of the Spectre wreaking havoc in the city, but she and Lieutenant Weaver must hit the streets. “A lot of people are in trouble. It’s time to earn our pay.” So by the end of the issue, the entire team is out on the streets, and the Spectre is facing down a big ugly monster.

We end the issue with two great questions. “What’s going to happen?” “Who knows?”