Doing Their Job
Tripwire continues its 100 Graphic Novels You Should Read While Stuck Inside with its ninety-eighth choice, Gotham Central: In The Line Of Duty by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka and Michael Lark and reviewed by Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows…
Gotham Central: In The Line Of Duty
Writers: Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka
Artist: Michael Lark
Colours: Noelle Giddings, Matt Holingsworth and Lee Loughridge
Letters: Willie Schubert
Today’s choice is the third Brubaker and the second Rucka collection in the list. Gotham Central ran for 40 issues in the early 2000s and it focused on the police of Gotham and the problems it encountered living and working in the city of Batman. This collection reprints the first 10 issues and contains three stories: In The Line Of Duty, Motive and Half A Life. The first story is written by both Brubaker and Rucka while Brubaker writes Motive on his own and Rucka handles Half A Life solo.
These are very clever stories, using Batman’s home city as a springboard for them but focusing on the police themselves.
The introduction by none other than crime writing legend Lawrence Block puts everything into neat context. Gotham City is New York and so Gotham Central is basically like TV’s Law And Order with a little bit of a superhero twist.
In The Line Of Duty is a brisk tale that features Mr Freeze as its villain and Batman does save the day. However we can see even at this early stage the ambivalence that Gotham PD feels towards the Dark Knight Detective with some of them resentful of his presence, stealing their thunder. It sets up the whole series very smoothly.
Motive by Brubaker feels like it would fit nicely into his Batman run, as it deals with supervillain Firebug but also with the disappearance and murder of a young girl. It does point to the writer’s eventual move from mainstream superhero comics like Batman and Captain America to his sizeable run on crime and detective comics with collaborator Sean Phillips.
The final tale, Half A Life, deals with Detective Renee Montoya who is outed as a lesbian and finds herself having to come to terms with dealing with the truth of her life as she has been living it. Rucka has always been a very sensitive writer when dealing with human emotions but he doesn’t shy away from the more hard-hitting consequences of the story.
I haven’t mentioned artist Michael Lark yet but it is his art which ties it all together in a noirish bow. His simple lines create mood and atmosphere like very few other modern comic artists. Visually he comes from the same school as Batman Year One’s David Mazzuchelli but he does have his own voice as an illustrator. Each colourist also brings their own colour palette to each story to suit the specific tale.
Attention will be returning to Gotham Central in the wake of the announcement that The Batman film director Matt Reeves may be teaming up with former Boardwalk Empire producer Terence Winter to make a show set in Gotham’s police stations. It is a wonderfully rich, vibrant and cinematic series offering a different take on the city that Batman calls his home.
Here’s links to the other graphic novels reviewed so far