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Gotham Central #5

Posted: Monday, March 17, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Michael Lark

Publisher: DC

Plot:
The book opens with the detectives questioning the suspects they captured in the previous issue. In the Bonnie Lewis murder case the detectives learn the homeless man who lives in the park never saw Bonnie the night she disappeared, while in the Firebug case we see the original wearer of the Firebug suit claims he sold the suit, and while he doesn't know the man's name, he does know what he looks like, as he met with him to show him how to operate the suit. We then see the police are stuck wondering what they should do next as both of the cases looked to have gone about as far as they can go. However, we see one of the detectives on the Bonnie Lewis case suddenly makes a rather inspired deductive leap, as Driver comes to believe that the two cases are connected, and that the one of the witnesses that they questioned last issue is Bonnie's murderer & this killer is also the new Firebug. He then tests his theory by bringing in the original Firebug to look at this suspect, and when they receive a positive identification, they execute a search warrant on the man's home. When the Firebug costume is discovered, both cases gain a sense of closure, as DNA traces on the suit pretty much confirm Bonnie was killed after she discovered the hidden costume.

Comments:
It's an interesting plot twist that brings both of the cases that were running through these pages to a close, but I do have some difficulty with how the linking element between these two cases was established. I mean the only element that I can see linking the two is that the homeless man in the park stated that someone tried to burn down his home. To me this isn't enough to have Driver making the sudden leap in logic that he does, and while it all ties together quite nicely, Ed Brubaker needed to add something else to the mix to link these two cases beyond having one of the detectives suddenly realize they are. Now perhaps if I was to go back over the earlier issues I would spot the various clues that allowed Driver to arrive as this rather remarkable intuitive leap, but the general rule in most mysteries is that if a character solves a case by making a rather noticeable intuitive leap then it's the writer's responsibility to go back over the story and offer up a final scene where this character explains what clues allowed them to make this leap. I mean in the ever famous parlor room scene that is a staple in most mysteries, its entire function is to afford the writer the opportunity to dazzle the reader with the clues they were offered up, that hopefully they failed to catch.

On the other hand though I did enjoy how neatly these two cases dovetailed together, as Ed Brubaker does a wonderful job making these two cases into a single case, especially when one considers how different they appeared to be on the surface. Now I do think the book held its cards a little too close to the vest, as one would think that instead of dumping the body, one has to wonder why he didn't use his suit to burn it beyond recognition, or place it inside one of the buildings that he had targeted, so one would think she died in the fire. However, I can see why Ed Brubaker would shy away from delivering such an obvious connection between the two cases, and the sequence where we learn the witness & the suspect are one and the same is a great little scene, so I'm glad Ed Brubaker stayed away from the obvious linking element. In fact the only problem I have with this case is how Driver put the two cases together, as the explanation for how they are linked is quite solid. We receive the motive for why Bonnie Lewis was murdered, and we also learn the identity of the new Firebug. There's also a clever little scene where we see the original Firebug discusses the sale of his suit, and the interplay between him & the detectives is quite amusing.

Michael Lark is proving to be a pretty solid fit for this book, as while his art doesn't leap off the page, the simple truth of the matter is that it doesn't really need to. In fact given the stars of this book don't have any superhuman abilities to draw upon, it's good to see the art doesn't really feel the need to deliver any over the top action scenes that would make the reader question the idea that these are ordinary police officers. The art also does some nice work keeping the talking heads sequences visually engaging, as a large part of this issue does center around characters piecing together various clues, and discussing the various elements of their cases with others, and none of these actions really affords the art any opportunity to deliver the easy exciting visuals. In fact the art deserves a great deal of the credit for the final scene where the new Firebug learns that the police are on to him, as one can see the panic start to build on his face, and in a nice flash of action, we see he attempts to blast his way to freedom. There's also a solid little rooftop meeting between Batman & Driver, and the art does a nice job of playing up the idea that Batman is almost a mythical figure, who appears & disappears out of the shadows. I also like the teaser element the covers for this series deliver, as they show enough to catch your attention without spoiling the surprise.

Final Word:
I have some reservations about how the one detective made the connection between the two cases, though I do have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how well the two cases meshed together, and managed to compliment each other by filling in the gaps. Still Ed Brubaker needed to establish a stronger scene so that when the character does realize the cases are linked, the reader understands how this character could've made this leap, and if the ground work was laid out in the previous issues, then he needs to take a moment to explain where the clues are located, if only to lend credibility to the idea that this little twist was planned from the start. In any event the issue is quite entertaining, and it manages to insert some clever nods to continuity in other titles, such as the underground auction house in Keystone City. The book also includes some solid detective work, and the interrogation scene is nicely done, as one can see the detectives pushing the man into doing something stupid.



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