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Evil Geek Book Report – Gotham Central, Book One: In The Line Of Duty

I like Batman, but I don’t care about him and I never have. I realized this as I recently read through Scott Snyder’s first work on Batman, 2011’s “The Black Mirror”. While I devoured the trade and certainly enjoyed it, I was more drawn to the back up, secondary story ‘Skeleton Cases’. This involved the return of James Gordon Jr. to Gotham (who was barely mentioned in 24 years since 1987’s Year One storyline) and the possibility that he could be a psychotic killer. It’s an excellent story aided by the art of the great Francesco Francavilla that really probes Commissioner Gordon’s psyche.

I’ve always loved Gordon, in an insane and outrageous place like Gotham he’s the reader’s link to the “real world” and the common man. I did some research and found there was scarce little material or series that followed Gordon as the main character. Which in my opinion is pretty shameful on DC’s part. Between Batman and the Batman family there’s a billion titles, are you telling me one can’t go to Gordon?  (Detective Comics, I’m looking at you…it could be a perfect fit). I digress. However, I was able to find the next best thing, Gotham Central.

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Gotham Central details the lives and cases of Gotham Police’s M.C.U. (Major Crimes Unit). Helmed by the creative team of Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka with art by Michael Lark. The two writers alternate story lines with Rucka handling the cops assigned to the day shift and Brubaker the night shift. Being that this is Gotham City our cops and detectives have their work cut out for them.

The most interesting thing about the series is the absence of Batman. He does appear sparingly, but in my opinion he shouldn’t appear at all. In fact, most members of the M.C.U. dislike him and his involvement. They feel it makes them look incompetent since he’s always swinging in and taking care of business when they didn’t want or need it.

I was sucked in right from the beginning where we see M.C.U. partners Field and Driver checking out a lead on a kidnapping case and exchanging some witty banter (not unlike the beginning of Pulp Fiction) as they make their way to an apartment building. When they arrive they are greeted by Mr. Freeze who puts Officer Driver on ice and breaks his body into pieces. It hooked me and I was glad it did as the next issues dealt with the bum steer that led the detectives to Freeze and what his overarching plan was.

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The follow up arc by Brubaker picks up where the least story left off and deals with the outcome as well as Fields investigating an unresolved murder mystery that him and Driver had been working on before his death.  The final arc deals with Officer Montoya who is unexpectedly outted as being a lesbian making both her professional and personal life hell. While she is vulnerable she is framed for murder.

The stories while pretty standard for cop dramas are given a lift by their surroundings and colorful cast of Gotham’s whackos. That’s exactly what Gotham Central is though, a cop drama, a police procedural.  People act and talk exactly the way you would expect on a show like that. For me, I never had interest in shows like CSI or Law And Order, but I could read a comic book like this all day. The fact that this had the chance to become a TV show with Warner Brothers but was passed on because of the failure of Birds Of Prey (which is something I didn’t know existed until researching for this article) is astounding to me. In the world of police procedurals that flood TV, if this was done right it could have been a winner.

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This series is not unlike Bendis’ Alias which I liked a great deal, but I think the actual mystery and crime writing is simply done better by Brubaker and Rucka. There will undoubtedly be people who will not like this series based on the fact that Batman is not involved. I always felt that the idea of Batman was always much more interesting than the actual person. For me this book is perfect, the shadow of the Bat looms large over it, but it’s the people that matter.

*A few hours after the writing of this article the news broke that Fox will be developing a new tv show based on Commissioner Gordon’s early years on the Gotham Police force. This is shocking and unexpected but definitely has potential if done right, especially if it’s handled by Brubaker and/or Rucka. DC  seems to really be trying to branch out with their properties in their post Nolan world, hopefully this is another step in the right direction.

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About Biff Tannen

Film Noir, Pulp, Comic Books and Hitchcock.

Posted on September 25, 2013, in COMICS!, Evil Geek Book Report, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

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