Writer: Steve Niles
Artist(s): Scott Hampton
Publisher: DC Comics
Plot: Our dead, patchwork boy gets “killed” but not for long.
Commentary: I smell a cancellation on this book already. I liked the first issue, I did. It’s just the odd way they keep marketing the thing that makes me wonder how long this series will be around. Last issues cover boasted, “Gotham’s Other Protector” and this one screams, “The Phantom of the Gotham Morgue!” This leads me to believe one of two things. DC is trying to reel in readers who don’t like Steve Niles or horror comics by relating this to Batman’s Gotham City or, they don’t have enough confidence in the product to let it stand on its own. After being shot nine times while trying to stop serial killer Eddie ‘Machete’, Simon is taken to the aforementioned Gotham Morgue. He doesn’t stay there long enough to even be considered a phantom. Phantom’s lurk around places for a long time and only hint at their existence. Simon is laid out before Beth and the detective on a slab and his strange nature is evident for them to see. He’s a teenage boy sewn together in haste who has a penchant for vigilante style decapitation. It would have been better had Simon become a lurker in the morgue for an issue or two but it seems this issue was designed to provide Simon with those who would hunt him and those who will become future allies. In what seems to be less than an hour Simon is up off the slab and fleeing back to his ramshackle abode.
The art this issue suffers like the first issue from indistinctness. It could be because all of Hampton’s male and female characters seem to look alike. Or, it could be because Chris Chuckry’s dark colors (in an effort to sustain a murky horror atmosphere) are just too muddy. The art team needs to give some more definition to the goings on and characters especially considering the big reveal at the end of the story. It’s hard to tell that this is the detective on the case at first and once again I have to back up in the story to make sure it’s who I think it is. The last page makes me think that Nile’s got his inspiration for Simon Dark from novelist Dean Koontz’s unfinished ‘Frankenstein’ horror series. Niles seems to be heading in the same direction that Koontz has with multiple mad experiments running around on two legs. This is ok for now since Nile’s has acted on the Muse’s of other classics of the horror genre and most likely will continue to do so.
One thing is for certain. Nile’s villains are a nasty bunch. They do things like pluck their own eyes out and stick them in walls to “keep an eye” on folks. They also have no problem shooting old homeless ladies between the eyes just for fun. Nile’s understands that for a horror “hero” to work his enemies have to be even more horrible and in this case; they are. Cleaning up the art and giving us some explanatory captions would actually help this mystery and not hinder it. I’m waiting for the inevitable involvement of Batman in these pages. I really wish it wouldn’t come down to that but being in Gotham and DC’s apparent lack of faith in Simon to stand on his own I don’t see how else to avoid it other than getting Simon, his allies and hunters out of Gotham in the next few issues. Somehow I don’t see that happening though.
Final Word: This could be a solid series if editorial and marketing would just get out of it’s way and Batman not show up at all.
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