Fish and Cherries Productions

Creative content from a mad mind.


Ronin Reads – Gates of Midnight (issues 1-4)

Title: Gates of Midnight
Author: Debbie Lynn Smith
Artists: Amelia Woo (comic), Mirana Reveier (colors and cover art)
Type: Comic Book
Genre: Fantasy, Noir

The world is not what it seems and combat medic Raven Moon found that out the hard way. Her father was a police officer that was killed in the line of duty, but something about the death just didn’t add up. Soon, she found that her father was in charge of guarding the mundane world against magical creatures that breach in through portals and hold their ka (the source of their magical power) in a safe place. Now the task has fallen to her and not a moment too soon, as portals have started opening outside of their normal zones. With new allies, new weapons, and a new hellhound puppy, she has to take on the monsters and crazies as the new Gatekeeper.

This story, at its core, feels like a supernatural noir. We’re not given all the details right off the bat and we discover them as Raven does, slowly unlocking the mystery. Raven even feels like a detective that once could have been portrayed by Humphrey Bogart; she has a very serious outlook on life that borderlines on “hard-boiled,” she doesn’t take anybody’s crap or games, and she has a past that haunts her, manifesting in this case as PTSD from her tour in Afghanistan as a combat medic. Rarely does she smile or make merry and sleeps with a knife next to her as a way of feeling safe. In a way, it brings the hard-boiled detective into the modern age and updates it to deal with an important topic.

The noir feel also comes through in the color scheme, which is grayed out except for anything magical, which comes through in full color. It’s a novel idea, but also a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it conveys the atmosphere very well and makes the magical elements stand out even more. On the other, I found it a total eyesore and very wearying to put up with for eighty-some-odd pages. I feel a little weird criticizing someone for exercising artistic license and working outside the norm. To its credit, it also serves to make the characters racially ambiguous, adding to the levels of progressivism this comic strives for. It’s just that when you have nothing but browns and grays to look at with occasional spots of color, it gives a feeling of overall dreariness and puts a hamper on investment and enjoyment.

We can talk about themes and color composition all day, but let’s focus on the million-dollar question: did I like this book? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. The trouble is that I never felt intimately close with the characters and the story, either through panel construction or character art. I can relate with their emotions and their struggles, but I never felt them internally like I can with other comics. I’m certainly intrigued, but I don’t know how interested I am in the whole thing. To be honest, I kind of feel bad that I’m so harsh on it because this is the only comic in this cluster that has a female lead and I really want that to become more prominent in the industry. I don’t think there’s anything bad about it by any means, I just feel that it needs a bit of polish.

So will I pick this up when more issues come out? Probably. The intrigue is definitely there for me to keep digging and the whole thing has a hypnotic Fables kind of vibe. I can tell that there are some good people behind this, it just takes a little digging to find the heart. The tackling of PTSD is certainly good and the prose is strong with that one, but I feel that it could be made stronger with more of it being told through the visuals, like if there was a close-up of a shaking hand or if flashbacks were triggered and displayed in a dynamic way on the page. It’s a tricky job, especially with the color scheme the artist has chosen, but I feel that there’s a fair bit of potential behind this work, so I’ll keep my seat until the next show.

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