Gotham Central: Half a Life

June 11, 2008

The arc in this volume transforms Gotham Central from just another smart police drama into a wide-ranging critical observation on the gap between deviancy and social freedom. It achieves an amazing intellectual high which the series never quite gets a chance to reach again.

Writer Greg Rucka examines the dilemma of a double life by showing how its exposure to the public eye does not necessarily return one to a more normal state of being. Given entrenched social prejudices and the pressures of tradition and mainstream values, it can conversely force a person to fold back on his- or herself in self-torment and live the titular half a life.

There are, to be sure, 2 double lives in this multi-angled story. One is that of notorious Batworld villain 2-Face, who finds himself struggling anew between normalcy and criminal insanity after the events of No Man’s Land, chronicling a devastating earthquake in Gotham City and its aftermath. What is normal for 2-Face becomes ironically defined by a neurotic love for GCPD top cop Renee Montoya, the only one since Batman to have touched the Harvey Dent inside — and that was a pretty long time ago.

This choice for 2-Face between law and crime, sanity and lunacy, self-love and love for another, is made perversely more complicated by the fact of Renee’s own double life: she is a closet lesbian. When this secret she jealously guards is revealed to all at her workplace and, most heart-wrenchingly, to her traditional Latino family, new lines of allegiance must be drawn as an old friendship’s complicity in new troubles becomes clear. Rucka has easily created here the masterpiece of a non-Batman Batman story, a great twist to the theme of being careful who you trust.

Gweek gives this well-executed volume 10 unambiguous stars.

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