Gotham Central: In the Line of Duty

May 27, 2008

There is just one big idea behind Gotham Central, and that’s imagining police life in comics’s most unstoppable magnet for all shades of criminal experimentation, Gotham City. The real challenge behind such an idea, though, is to strike the right kind of balance between being exciting and being mundane, that is, ironically, being boring.

Only Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker, among known comics writers in the US, could have concocted such a balance, and this series proves it. (Can you imagine what a circus it would have become if Grant Morrison or Geoff Johns were to touch this?) The dialogues here are incredible — gritty, tense, suggestive, and deep. The noir background means that, while the pace runs like a painfully uneventful day at the office, miss a page and you’re out of the loop altogether. Much of what happens later won’t make much or any sense to you at all. The planning is that tight.

This inaugural volume begins with a parachute drop straight into Batman’s Kafkaesque urban night where a wrong turn means that you end up cold, courtesy, in this case, of Mr Freeze. The puzzle the Major Crimes Unit needs to solve before it is too late is the reason for Mr Freeze’s sudden emergence in Gotham.

The second story achieves the same difference: bridge the world of superhero antics with our world of greyer and more unknowable possibilities with baby-sitting, eBay, and teenage peer pressure. For that evening you spend reading this book, you’ll find yourself finally convinced that Gotham is a real-world city and that its seediness is the natural quality of our souls living together.

Gweek would give this volume 9 thumbs up, if that were possible and not rude.

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