Gotham Central, Vol. 1: In the Line of Duty by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A fascinating take on the world of Batman, Brubaker and Rucka’s gritty police procedural takes you down to street level in Gotham City as the police try to juggle villains like Mr. Freeze and Two-Face with the more usual police fare of robberies, kidnappings, and murders. Two aspects of this ten-issue collection resonated with me the most. The first is that when a Batman story is taken down to street level, everything becomes much more brutal. It’s fantasy when Batman fights Mr. Freeze. It’s terrifying and tragic when cops try to and, more often than not, die horribly in the process. The human toll of Batman’s world has never been made clearer. The second aspect that really stood out for me is the psychology of the GCPD detectives themselves. They don’t like Batman because he pretty much solves all of Gotham’s major crimes before they can. They know they only have until sundown to catch the bad guys before Batman comes swinging in to take the collar from them. It drives them to work harder, but it also makes them angry and insecure. Alas, I’m not that big a fan of Michael Lark’s art here. It reminds me too much of the cramped artwork from newspaper comic strips, and I prefer clearer visuals. But that’s only a small caveat. I really like the idea behind this series: Batman stories without Batman (although he does make occasional cameos, and through the POV of the detectives he often comes off sounding like an asshole.) It’s got a lot of potential and a lot of promise. If the forthcoming Fox TV series GOTHAM is anything like this, I’ll be tuning in.
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