In Review: Midnight Mystery: City of Ghosts #1

A classic detective crosses paths with the supernatural and has me wanting more.

The cover: Detective Zeke King is standing before the reader with a confident look on his face and his hands in his pocket. He’s in a room with a large clock behind him. Composed of glass, the numbers are on the inside of the structure that contains it, though the city can be seen outside. Entering this wooden room are two ghosts, one on either side of King. The one on the left is the bed sheet variety, a hand reaching out as it wails. The one on the right is much more sedate: it’s Maggie and she’s floating off the floor. The colors are dominated by cool, otherworldly blues, though the ghosts are a luminescent yellow. I like the stripe of red at the bottom with the cool/retro text. With mystery and ghosts in the title, this cover from Bernie Gonzalez seems fitting. Overall grade: A- 

The story: In a large, fairly empty, warehouse, Zeke King is asked several questions by a dark skinned with an eyepatch who says his name is Ambrose. He wants to know about his “stranger cases” and why he hasn’t gone before the press to proclaim that ghosts are real. He brings up another detective named Gus that gets a reaction from Zeke. “Gus’ wife…she’s gone. He’s looking for answers anywhere he can get them. So I did what I could because that’s what friends do.” Ambrose then has Zeke recount the case involving Roland Blackwood’s son Conrad Crane. The detective does so and then Ambrose tells him why he’s been hired: “Someone very important to my employer…now your client…is gone. You’ve been hired to find out why.” Page 6 has Ambrose put an interesting spin on this VIP. The person’s name is Willie and Zeke leaves to follow his first lead. I like the banter between him and the woman on Page 9 which had a classic noir feel to it. The last two panels on 10 are cool. Backstory for Zeke is given on 11 – 15 involving Gus and Maggie. I didn’t read the previous limited series, so this was all new to me. I like how writer Bernie Gonzalez gives some clues to his backstory, but has the reader make assumptions about Zeke that may or may not be revealed in this series — very much like a classic detective tale. Another lead takes Zeke elsewhere with no luck. The detective’s employer is briefly revealed on 19, but that might be the wrong verb. On Page 20 Zeke witnesses a gathering that takes a violent turn, before it turns toward him. The action of the last four pages is creepy and cool, with the cliffhanger wanting me to see how Zeke gets out of his situation. This was a solid read. There’s a four page “Meanwhile” after the main story that focuses on two characters that were mentioned on Page 4. This was okay, but because I didn’t read the previous series, they didn’t have too much of an impact on me. Overall grade: A-

The art and colors: Bernie Gonzalez is also the artist and I’m assuming colorist, because there’s not a specific credit for the colorist. The style is very angular and I like the way it looks. The first panel of the book is a good way to introduce the reader to the protagonist by having a close-up of his face within a dark blue warehouse. His mouth is open in shock. This is followed by an extreme close-up of Ambrose whose face is shown only from the nose up. His eyepatch dominates, instantly giving him a sinister feel. I like how Zeke has regained his composure in the third panel and Ambrose’s face is fully shown, looking disgusted by what he has to do. Page 2 is composed of five equal sized horizontal panels with both characters gesticulating and Ambrose moving closer to Zeke. The last panel on 3 pulls back to show that the two men aren’t alone and to show the warehouse, which is revealed as some type of facility with huge pipes. I really like Page 4 because it’s composed of nine equal sized panels and (seemingly) sums up the events of the previous series. Page 6 is a full-paged splash showing a new character. I like the layout, with the light source drawing the reader’s eye to this individual. The new character on 9 has a classic bad girl look with her dress instilling this in her. I like the reel to reel tapes that are used on 11, providing a visual clue to how Zeke works. The bright oranges on 12 – 14 are terrific for highlight the actions that occur. The pain in the sixth panel on 13 is well done. I love the locale introduced on 16, again being classical. The harsh oranges 19 are great, intensifying the individual shown. I loved the confrontation on 20 – 21, with the reaction in the middle panel on 21 outstanding. Pages 23 is also a full-paged splash, showing Zeke’s progression up the side of a building. It’s a little difficult to follow because of the others and not being able to see where they ended up, with the exception of two characters. The last four pages are Gothic due to the weather, location, and the use of grays to color a character. Neat. This book has a definite style and I liked it. Overall grade: A

The letters: This book’s text includes dialogue, the book’s credits, and signage. All are created by Wes Locher. There are a few exclamations in this issue, but they’re done in italics rather than a different font. This was fine, but did make for a quiet issue. This is actually a fairly quiet issue as Zeke searches out a man’s background, so all that Locher does is appropriate. It’s not visually exciting, but that might change with more supernatural events occurring. Overall grade: B

The final line: This was an enjoyable read. A classic detective crosses paths with the supernatural and has me wanting more. I like the classic gumshoe vibe and a supporting cast with some questionable motivations. The visuals are very stylized, but I like the way they look. The colors are also terrific, with blue and orange dominating, each punctuating a scene. Plus, this is only $1.50. Are you kidding me? I’ll give any book a try for this cover price. Based on this one issue, Alterna Comics has me actively looking for more of their works. I’d definitely recommend this book. Overall grade: A-

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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