Current Reviews


Gotham Central #6

Posted: Sunday, April 20, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Michael Lark

Publisher: DC

The book opens with a private detective who has been hired to gather information on detective Renee Montoya, taking some photos of her, and he looks to be rather pleased with whatever he's captured on film. We then join Montoya the next morning as she is served a summons, as a criminal who managed to slip free on a technicality is suing for her for damages. We then see her and her partner manage to get themselves involved in a six month old robbery case, that snuck its way onto their case files because of the rumored involvement of a super-villain. As they manage to make pretty quick work of this case with the brother exposed as the thief, we see as her partner is busy sweating out a confession, Montoya is off to have dinner with her parents, who are concerned that their daughter hasn't found herself a husband & settled down. As a dejected Montoya heads for home, she decides instead to make a call & set up a date with a mystery friend. We then join her the next day as she is visited by a couple of detectives who are investigating the murder of a P.I. who was investigating her, and Montoya isn't exactly willing to admit to where she spent the night. The issue then ends back at the station where we see a compromising photo of Montoya from the P.I. files has found its way onto the squad room wall.

I'm not all that familiar with Renee Montoya, as about the only time I got to see her previously was when a big event story line from the Batman series strayed into the pages of the satellite titles that I do collect on a regular basis (e.g. Nightwing, Robin, Birds of Prey). So when this issue gets around to revealing its big surprise on the final page, I suspect regular readers will been thrown for more of a loop than I was, as to a new fan like myself this is simply an additional bit of character development, than a huge surprise. In fact to tell the truth I was a little underwhelmed by the revelation, as I had been expecting the revelation to be that she had the photos & evidence that had been collected by the private detective, and by extension this would connect her to the murder of this man. As it stands it would appear that the person who was responsible for the murder is toying with Montoya, as they made their way into the police station to put up a photo that effectively reveals a secret that it's clear Montoya didn't want to get out. In any event this action makes it clear that the murder wasn't committed to protect Montoya's interests, and that the likely suspect is out to continue his vendetta against her, by using the evidence collected to effectively ruin her life. In fact I imagine her parents will be receiving a similar photo in the mail.

This issue also has itself a throwaway plot that gives us a pretty good look at how the Major Case Unit of the GCPD is viewed by the rest of the police department. I mean one does have to wonder what the other squads think of a group of their own who regularly receive aid from what most would consider a vigilante, and in a city that is constantly besieged by the activities of costumed baddies who many would suspect are drawn to the city because of this same vigilante. Now this issue would seem to suggest that the other officers have come to view the Major Case Unit as a dumping ground for all the cases that they believe involve the costumed element of the city's criminal community, and based on what we've seen thus far in this book this does look to be the cases that this group of detectives seem to find themselves working on. In fact based on how quickly the detectives manage to solve a simple theft that was passed off as a case involving Catwoman, one does have to view this group as being a little higher on the ladder when it comes to the crimes they face, with Batman & his group of allies sitting even higher on this same ladder. Still I have to say that this case was a little too simple, and robbery should've been able to handle it without any help.

Michael Lark continues to impress the idea that he's the ideal fit for this series, as his work does have a nice sense of realism to it that ties in quite nicely with the basic idea that this book's characters are ordinary joes & janes in a world populated by amazing heroes & villains. From the cute bit of misdirection where the mugger in the park is revealed to be a process server to the fact that the police station is a regular hub of activity, the art does pretty much everything one could ask from it. It also handles the little details, from the visual cues that we get to show us the suspect is a drug user (e.g. the sweaty hands during the handshake), to the establishing shot of Montoya's parents place which also acts to tell us what these two do for a living. I also like the fact that none of these officers look like they aren't what they seem to be, as they have adopted a similar style of dress, and the women all have rather simple taste in their hairstyles/accessories. I know it's not a huge detail, but I do like the idea that the look of these characters is impacted by their environment. There's also some solid little moments, like the scene where Montoya spots the private eye that is dogging her tracks, which in turn left me believing she had taken action that would land her in trouble.

Final Word:
I suspect the ending to this issue will pack a greater punch among readers who are more familiar with the character of Renee Montoya, but if nothing else this issue acts as a pretty solid introduction to the character, and the trials & tribulations that she is facing. The focus on a single character certainly helps one get a greater sense of what it's like to be a police officer in Gotham City, as we get a pretty good look at how the relationship between a segment of the GCPD and Batman isn't seen as a good thing by other elements within the department. This issue also offers up a pretty good example of how effective the members of the Major Case Unit are, as they make pretty quick work of a case that robbery couldn't solve in the six months that they had been working on it. The main selling point of this issue though is the telling look at the character of Montoya, as her problems are pretty interesting, and one is curious as to how she'll deal with the latest obstacle that enters her life on the final page.

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