Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Gotham Central #1 - DC Comics

GOTHAM CENTRAL No. 1, February 2003
First identified in Issue Four of “Batman” way back in the winter of 1940, the metropolitan area known as Gotham has always been undeniably and intrinsically linked to the Caped Crusader. The fictional American city is his home and anyone picturing its statuesque Art Deco rooftops will predominantly also envisage its night-time skyline being lit up by the glare from the famous Bat Signal. The Dark Knight’s Rogue Gallery is also legendary, featuring some of the most popular villains in the history of “DC Comics” if not comic book fandom per se. So why would the publisher ever want to produce an ongoing title which involves all of the above except for one thing… the costumed crime-fighter himself?

“In The Line Of Duty” answers that question exceptionally well, as Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka follow the exploits of a handful of officers from the Gotham City Police Department as they go about their daily duty to ‘Protect and Serve’. Pitched as a “police procedural comic-book” the series gets off to a frantic start as two hard-working detectives follow up an apparently hopeless tip as to the whereabouts of some kidnappers, and end up confronting IGN’s 67th ‘Comic Book Villain of All Time’, Mister Freeze. Needless to say events do not go in the investigators’ favour. But it is genuinely fascinating to see just how powerful and terrifying one of Batman’s greatest enemies is in the eyes of a normal cop. As the wounded detective shivers “Think we’d walk into a room with… y-you in it… with no b-backup?”

What follows is a detailed look by collaborators Brubaker and Rucka at just how the everyday police force of Gotham City deals with such a uniquely powerful criminal, starting from the insensitive removal of the corpse belonging to ‘one of their own’, through some ‘backroom bitching’ over promotion, and ending with an alarmed street flatfoot discovering another potential victim of Doctor Victor Fries.

Perhaps more enthralling however is how the writers depict the hostility and resentment some of the officers have for Batman, including a somewhat impotent Police Commissioner. Detective Driver’s venomous rant as to how ineffective the Bat Signal actually makes them all feel is wonderfully power stuff; as is his viewpoint that the G.C.P.D. know they must arrest the insane cryogenically-suited scientist before dark… otherwise they’ll lose the ‘collar’ to the Caped Crusader and “it’s just not fair…” Such a viewpoint, one where Bruce Wayne’s alter ego is actually reviled and disliked for his ‘perpetual interference’ in police work, is refreshingly unique and thought-provoking.

Slightly disappointingly Michael Lark’s pencils are not quite as good as the pleasingly real dialogue and drama which this book contains. However the American artist still produces some competent compelling illustrations, most notably that of Mister Freeze himself; who despite his somewhat cumbersome and clunky outlandish attire, still exudes the sinister threat of a cold painful death.
Writers: Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka, and Artist: Michael Lark

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