I’m not ashamed to admit there are certain kinds of stories I’ll shamelessly check to see how they end before I even get started. I like to see if the boy and girl will get together and whether the person with a dark past will find redemption or relief. The luxury of a story is you can see how it ends, and it’s nice to exercise that godlike power every now and then. But I never—well, almost never—skip ahead in a mystery. I rather love getting snarled around its many possibilities, the quiet thrill of getting rocked in one direction, then another. It’s almost better the longer the journey happens to be, and sometimes disappointing when you do finally reach the end.

I had strapped myself in for just such a journey with this opening arc, and now all of a sudden I find myself jerked from my window-gazing and staring directly at the enemy we’ve been facing all along. To be sure, Fawkes conceives a pretty ugly beast and drives up the suspense rather high in such a short amount of time, but that doesn’t hide the fact that all the juicy stuff gushes out in one long stream of exposition.

What’s annoying is none of this does anything to round out Tarr’s or anybody’s characters. He’s just screaming one-sidedly into the phone while Jim goes all Spectre, so all he has to say is for our benefit, no one else’s. Rook, Lisa, Justine, and Weaver don’t even really participate, and Jim’s distracted getting his god of vengeance on, so you might say this issue is a showcase for Tarr that fails to display any of his personality, much less his appeal. Unbridled panic in a crisis is hardly unique.

Fear accelerates Tarr’s rate of revelation, from the average, provoking clues (“…I just wanted to tell Corrigan about the swamp. Strange things are happening there, chemically speaking.”) to more direct hints (“It’s asking you if you know what Gotham is! …You said judgment…I think that’s what these things want!”) to full-blown bean-spilling. I’ll spare you the details, but I guarantee that Fawkes leaves very little to the imagination by the time the issue’s over.

It’s unfortunate, because if it wasn’t for the needless rush of information, Fawkes would have a nicely crafted plot on his hands. It’s clever, the way he uses Jim’s alter-ego against him, turning the team’s biggest asset into their biggest liability. That’s been the case all along, ever since Justine witnessed the Spectre’s uncontrolled effects on bystanders in #2, but here, Fawkes expands the scope of Jim’s destructiveness to truly scary levels. It’s significant that the final page shows the Bat-signal nearly torn apart by the power the Spectre unleashes against his foe; there can be no clearer reminder that there are bigger things in Gotham than Batman.

Templesmith can’t totally lift the text-heavy script, but provides as much support as he possibly can. I can’t help comparing his style to Frazier Irving’s—even though appearances-wise, they have nothing in common—because both have a skewed, occasionally grotesque way of drawing their characters that immediately draws a sense of horror around them. As Tarr and Lisa experience the overwhelming terror of the Spectre’s growing presence, their faces and mouths become wider, more elongated, as if their bodies are being stretched into the abyss.

Some Musings:

– I can’t wait to see what Weaver’s planning to do with that gun of his. It’s comical, really.

Grade

B-

Conclusion

A strong concept, powerful tone, and fitting art are almost ruined by hasty pacing.