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Gotham Central #15

Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell



Writers: Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka
Artists: Michael Lark (p), Stefano Gaudiano (i)

Publisher: D.C. Comics

The Plot:
With the Joker in custody, we see the Gotham City Police begin their mad race to locate the bomb that the Joker claims he's hidden somewhere in the city. However, the Joker isn't quite willing to divulge the location of his present, and it's only the quick thinking of one of the detectives that allows them to put the pieces together, and learn why the Joker turned himself in. However, the Joker isn't one to sit on his hands when one of his plans goes wrong.

The Good:
The Joker is always good for a highly charged affair as unlike many villains the character has managed to pull off many of his plans successfully before he's brought to justice, and this is a fairly rare quality to find in a villain as most time writers shy away from having the damsel tied to the train tracks actually get run down by the train as it tends to make the hero look bad. However the Joker is one of those rare villains who is popular enough with the fans that they would feel somewhat cheated if the writers didn't have him do some damage before he was taken down, and as a result the Joker brings with him a underlying sense that something bad is going to happen. Now personally I found it a bit silly that they spent the issue treating the Joker like a regular suspect, but I will concede that the writing did manage to nicely capture the madness of the character during the interrogation scenes, and the sense of frustration that follows when it becomes obvious to them that the Joker is playing them for fools. The Joker's plan is also rather clever in the way he accomplished it in stages so that his even his capture by the police was a vital element in getting his potential victims into position. The scene where the Joker breaks free in the police station also does a nice job detailing how dangerous the character is.

Michael Lark continues to be a godsend for this title as his photo-realistic style does a very effective job of selling the idea that these characters live and operate in a decidedly less fantastic world, where the only super-powered elements are the terrifying attacks made by the villains, and the equally unsettling appearances by Batman. This issue also does a pretty fair job of conveying the Joker as a sadistic killer as when he turns on his attacker the Joker is a truly frightening figure, and when he goes on his shooting spree one can't help but feel everyone in the room will be dead by his hand. The sense of frustration on the faces of the detectives is also nicely presented, as is the sense of urgency when the detectives are closing in on the location of the Joker's surprise. There's also some solid little details like the fog of car exhaust hovering above the traffic, or the set of keys that are dangling from the belt of the Joker's attacker, which neatly ties into the scene where we see the Joker didn't bother to completely take off his handcuffs before rushing out for his shooting spree.

The Bad:
I found it extremely odd that the Joker wasn't in chains that render him immobile when they had him in the interrogation room as while there's probably some rule regarding keeping a suspect in their handcuffs and leg irons when they're in the middle of a police station, I seriously doubt any lawyer is going to argue that his civil liberties had been violated, or that the GCPD wasn't fully justified in treating the Joker like a mad dog. The way it was in this issue one would almost think that the Joker was a run-of-the-mill thug they pulled in off the street, and not the most prolific serial killer the city had ever seen. I mean when they were transporting Hannibal Lecter in the "Silence of the Lambs" his elaborate get-up left little doubt that people were actively terrified of this man, and I feel this same approach should be used with the Joker. Now I guess a case could be made that a straitjacket and chains might make the Joker less inclined to talk, but they didn't seriously expect to get any useful information out of him, so why even make the pretense of treating him like a normal suspect. This in turn makes the GCPD look like royal chumps when the Joker savagely beats one of the cast members to death, and then proceeds to go on a shooting spree in the middle of the station with a gun he took off this officer.

Jingle Bells, Batman Smells:
One of my biggest problems with this book has been that it always has Batman rushing in to save the day when things are looking a bit rough for our detectives, and while there's a scene in this issue where this looks to be the case, the scene does take a somewhat unexpected twist when we see that after the explosion Batman didn't protect the detective from the explosion. Now this may not seem like a big deal and it may annoy some Batman fans who believe the character should never be allow to fail, but frankly I rather like the fact that there are times when the detectives aren't going to be saved by Batman when the going gets rough. This issue also nicely plays up the idea that the Joker is someone that our cast isn't prepared to deal with, and while I felt they were shown to be far too relaxed when it came to viewing Joker as a threat even while in custody, the sequence where he breaks free does a wonderful job selling the idea of how quickly the character can become a truly terrifying figure.



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