As Long As I Don’t Wear Tights or Spandex, Issue 7 — GOTHAM CENTRAL

1 Oct

gotham-central-1

GOTHAM CENTRAL by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Kano, and Stefano Gaudiano (DC / collected)

Its hard not to feel bad for the police department of Gotham City.  Like any big city, they have to contend with a good amount of crime on the streets, but unlike most cities, a majority of those crimes aren’t being caused by abnormal or superpowered criminals.  And then there’s that vigilante who patrols the streets dressed as a bat that they have to sometimes rely on for help.  Like I said, it’s hard to be a cop in Gotham.

The beauty of Ed Brubaker (Captain America, Criminal, Fatale) and Greg Rucka’s (Lazarus, Queen and Country) work on the short lived Gotham Central is how little that pesky Batman shows up and how it focuses on the detectives handling their lives in such a high-stress environment.   Sure, every cop has to deal with the unexpected when coming to someone’s front door on a bust or just asking questions, but here that danger also includes the possibility of having someone like Mr. Freeze behind that door.  The detectives of Gotham PD don’t have any gadgets or powers of their own, which leaves them at a disadvantage when it comes to the kinds of crimes committed in Gotham.  And they are less interested in asking for help from the Batman, especially since they legally can’t (although, they find a nice loophole around that by having a civilian hired to turn on the Bat-signal), and like most brotherhoods of cops, want to break these cases on their own.

Thanks to circumstances in the Bat-books at the time, Jim Gordon was no longer the city’s police commissioner, and the spotlight had to fall on the cast of the time, which was made up of Renee Montoya, captain Maggie Sawyer (a transfer from the Superman books), and several other detectives created for the book, like Crispus Allen (Allen would take  on a big role in the whole DC universe later on in a turn best left kept unspoiled).  Like any good cop drama, the book fed off of the interpersonal conflicts of its core cast, and was as much about how they dealt with working in Gotham as they did trying to solve a big case.

The great thing about Rucka and Brubaker’s storyarcs is how they spotlight key characters, while still maintaining an ensemble feel to things.  One arc (“Half a Life”) deals with Montoya, and how her life gets turned upside down by an unknown adversary.  What keeps it interesting is how it seems to be a snowball of personal and private events in Montoya’s life start colliding to make her life an emotional hell, both with her colleagues and her family (Montoya’s arc here is also one of the more recent mainstream books to deal with a main character in a same sex relationship in a non-exploitative light).  Its one of the book’s more potent arcs, and certainly one that doesn’t come to a tidy conclusion once her nemesis is revealed (and here’s a hint: the title might clue you in to that villain).

This probably happens way too regularly to be of use to anyone.

This probably happens way too regularly in Gotham to be entertaining anymore.

Then there’s one arc (“Soft Targets”) that in retrospect, feels like an influence on The Dark Knight, especially in its handling of The Joker.  The Joker is committing a series of seemingly random crimes over the holiday season that drags the Gotham PD right into his line of fire.  While Batman appears to help in brief bits, this is all about how normal people deal with a full blown psychopath, and all the danger that comes with it.  Its easy to see the parallels that pop up in “Soft Targets” and Dark Knight, especially in one terrifying confrontation inside the detectives’ own offices, where one or two fatalities happen when the Joker manages to escape custody.

And the danger of being a cop in Gotham is evident throughout the entire run of the series, with several characters sometimes meeting with less than heroic ends.  Even the end of the book (it was cancelled after 40 issues), where Montoya leaves the force after being unable to bring in the killer of her partner, is a downbeat note to end things on.  But it’s a noteworthy comic, Batman books notwithstanding, showing the street level things of what happens in these metropolises that make up comics today.

  Plus the artwork, by Michael Lark (who would later work on Daredevil with Brubaker and now with Rucka on Lazarus) and others is perfectly gritty and realistic for a book involving the occasional super villain.  It hews more towards the work done on Miller and Mazzucchelli’s seminal Batman: Year One than any of the Bat-books of recent memory.  Villains like Joker and Mr. Freeze look a bit more realistic than other versions of these Bat-villains, but they still fit into this world visualized by the art team.

The book recently has been collected into hardcovers (over four in all) by DC, and is available in single issues via their digital comics website.  And its worth checking out if you’re into the current grounded take on Batman  shown in the Nolan films, especially with the news of a Gotham crime-centric TV show being developed for Fox coming out recently.  While this proposed TV show will deal with a young Jim Gordon, and will probably be sans Batman (but we’ll see how that goes after a few seasons if it gets that far), this may be another example of how Gotham Central has influenced the Batman-books, let alone adds another notch to its belt of being one of the few mainstream non-superhero comics of recent memory.

Are we going to get the gritty Batman-related cop show we wanted after reading Gotham Central?  Time will tell...

Are we going to get the gritty Batman-related cop show we wanted after reading Gotham Central? Time will tell…

 NEXT ISSUE: Prepare yourself for a blending of magic and music unlike any you’ve experienced before with Kieron Gillen and Jaime McKelvie’s vibrant examination of pop music, PHONOGRAM!

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One Response to “As Long As I Don’t Wear Tights or Spandex, Issue 7 — GOTHAM CENTRAL”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. ARROW Season 4×13 recap, “Sins of the Father” | NerdLush - February 11, 2016

    […] –Comic book connections: The reference to Rucka street is one to one time DC writer Greg Rucka, who is the co-writer of a book reviewed here, Gotham Central. […]

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