Review by: Tork

Size: pages
Price: 29.99

If you are among the unlucky that did not grab this book when it was coming out, this week is a lucky one for you.  Heck, if you DID grab it, you know full well this week is a lucky one for you, too.  The often acclaimed, hardly recognized Gotham Central is out this week.  Yes, I know, it’s 30 bucks and Secret Invasion 6 is like a 1/10 of that price.  However, given the quality of work this series maintain in its 40-issue run (including the first ten in this hardcover) was about 400 times the quality of anything in Secret Invasion has put out (including this week’s addition), you’d be foolish not to pick this up.  In fact, I could probably give 3-1 odds your wallet would come to life and slap you for such an atrocity.

Gotham Central is the tale of the Gotham City Police Department, particularly of the “Major Crimes Unit” or MCU written by Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker with art by Michael Lark.  As I’m sure we all realize, Gotham City is the home of the Batman.  I’m pretty sure we are all aware of his rather large collection of foes as well.  However, since Batman is only one man, this means that he can’t be there to solve every problem.  Bats might be saving the day from Ra’s al Ghul’s nerve gas, but then who’s to stop Killer Croc from his jewel heist across town?  That unenviable position falls in the hands of the GCPD.  Unfortunately, unlike Batman, there’s no Crispusmobile or Montoyapod for the cops to unleash upon the likes of the Mad Hatter or Two-Face, just pistols, the occasional shotgun and a lot of brass ones.  Naturally, this means even the lower of the Gotham underworld such as Firebug or the Black Spider make for impressive game for the GCPD.  Laughs about Firebug aside, when you’re a cop, a guy in a flame suit is a guy in a motherf–king flame suit.  And God forbid if a big leaguer like the Joker or Two-Face shows up…

Instead of the main star being Batman or even now retired James Gordon, the cast is filled with virtual no-names, Renee Montoya being the only truly well-known cop before the series.  At first, she is the officer we once knew from the animated series, kind yet competent.  However, in the third act of this hardcover, events spiral out of control that lead Montoya down a dark path of violence and boiling rage she may have never truly recovered from.  Her partner, Crispus Allen, is the other half of the partnership that became the stars of the series.  Allen is cool, collected, and devoted to his job and the ethics it entails like no other.  However, my personal favorite of the series is Detective Marcus Driver.  Marcus isn’t often mentioned alongside Renee and Cris in talks about Gotham Central yet his character kicks off the series in a chilling moment (no pun intended) that sets the tone for the rest of the series and gives the reader a character in which to identify with as an everyman stuck in a world of ghosts and goblins.  The rest of the characters, from Romy Chandler to Sarge to Stacey, the team of Rucka and Brubaker makes you care about these poor folks like no other.

That’s not to say Batman never shows up.  The Dark Knight makes not only a sparse physical presence here and there (no less than three times in the Hardcover itself), but his metaphorical presence is all around.  Given our saturated and well-covered relationship with the Batman, it’s terribly easy to justify his activities in our heads.  Yet, Gotham Central gives something I’ve hardly seen in comics beyond some lip service here and there: genuine questioning on the productivity of the Batman.  Given his excessive and flamboyant nature, escalation was sure to happen.  However, the Batman has bred a culture of superhuman evil in his town that he can’t always contain.  As such many of the characters, such as Marcus and Cris, feel his presence makes for more harm than good, Cris especially bothered over Batman’s illegal vigilante status.  The series from beginning to near end holds this theme in its stories.  We know of the viewpoint of the Batman as he swoops in to gash the Joker in the head and save the day, but what of the cops mourning their dead friend that Joker strangled on his way out because the clown wanted to prove a point to the Bat?  How do they feel when he later saves the day at the last minute, making them look like a bunch of fools?  It’s that kind of honest grit and deep introspection Brubaker and Rucka bring that makes this book more than just a Batman side book.

I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention the art.  At a point when storytelling was as important as pretty pictures in comic art, Michael Lark pulled it off in spades.  His characters are emotional, his tones earthy and his movements wonderful.  Lark manages to pull off intensely suspenseful horror (see the cliffhanger of issue one for example) to perfectly captured quiet scenes.  All in all, this series was a masterpiece, the first ten issues simply the tip of the iceberg.  I honestly cannot recommend this collection enough.  Seriously, if you like Batman, cop shows, comics, or just a really darn good story, might I present to you Gotham Central?

Story: 5 - Excellent
Art: 5 - Excellent


  1. Great review.  Marcus was also my favorite when I read the series.  He particularly shines in that first arc.

  2. I freaking love this book.  I already have all of the trades, so I didn’t pick up this HC.  But I’m glad to see others finding the glory that is this series.  Nice review Tork.

  3. I’m one of the unlucky that didnt pick this book. But judging from the reviews and hype I should be kicking myself for not picking it up. Definitely gonna give this a look when my book store gets it.

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