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Gotham Central #18

Posted: Monday, April 26, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Greg Scott

Publisher: D.C. Comics

The Plot:
As the secondary detectives on the accountant murder case decide to invest their energies in the case, we see one of the detectives in this duo has a secret that has him wanting to take a closer look at the case. However while he's busy chasing this element of the case, we see his partner is busy solving the case as she's able to put together a pretty complete picture simply by looking at one of the victim's desks, though it certainly helps matters that the killer isn't exactly calm and collected when they pay him a visit.

The Good:
I did like the idea that the book was able to include a guest-appearance by one of Gotham's costumed crime-fighters, but that this hero doesn't rush in to solve the case when the book arrives at its climax. In fact while the solution to the mystery is a bit underwhelming I will give the book credit for a smart bit of misdirection as for most of the issue the book looks to be heading down one path before it pulls back and offers up a decidedly less complex solution to the murder mystery. I also have to give the book credit for offering up yet another engaging player into this book's ever expanding cast, as Detective Del Arrazio come complete with a questionable past thanks to a family connection to a prominent crime family, that he's actively kept hidden. This also serves to give him a nice link to this issue's guest-hero, as she shares a similar back-story, and presumably the same desire to distance herself from her family ties. As for his partner, the issue doesn't spend much time on her, though she does look to be a pretty solid investigator, as she's able to zero in on the solution to the mystery in pretty short order. The character does earn a strike against her thanks to the cliché revelation that she lives on a house boat, which every other detective in films seems to call home. I do like the way that this issue manages to neatly line up the clues though, as there's a great quiet moment where Detective Bartlett looks over various items at the desk of one of the victims, and she's able to form a solid little picture of this woman's life, as are the readers.

It's not a huge deal but given most comics offer up picture perfect characters who could easily be walking the runways, I love this title's willingness to offer up characters who look downright ordinary. I mean the down-to-earth feel of this title is helped considerably but the fact that the characters look like people one would expect to find in a police station. The art also does solid job on the quiet moments, as there's a great little moment where the solution is explained, and Detective Del Arrazio is beaming with pride as all the loose ends are tied off. I will say there are a few moments where the art looks a bit like a letterbox film that has been squished to fit within the confines of a television scene, as the characters suddenly gain narrow faces, and look a little too confined by the panel borders. Still the art manages to do a nice job of mirroring to look and feel of the book's regular art, which is always a welcome touch.

The Bad:
This issue spends most of its time and effort taking readers down one path, that doesn't really pan out, and while I applaud the book for its willingness to chase after red herrings, I did find myself a bit annoyed that the book spent all it's time getting us to focus on the complexities that the right hand was engaging in, while the left hand was busy solving what ends up being a pretty routine case. In the end it feels like we've spent the issue chase after shadows, but on the final page the butler is revealed to be the killer. I also have to take issue with the idea that the killer would chose such a risky method of doing away with his intended target, as there's no way to be certain that he wouldn't kill off everyone in that office. One also has to question the logic of using such a rare chemical that would lead an investigator right to your door, as while it makes for a nice tidy little mystery, it makes our killer out to be a little slow on the uptake. Than again I guess one can't expect all criminals are going to be masterminds. Still I have to question why a chemist wouldn't know how to erase the trace evidence of the poison on the candy jar? I mean if anyone would know how to do it, one would think our killer would be at the head of the class. Still he's asking for a lawyer before our detectives can even get the first question out, so again one is left with the sense that this guy isn't exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. I also have to continue to express some concern that this book's cast is starting to get a little too expansive, as each arc seems adding to the group.

The Poison's In The Vessel With The Pestle:
A solid bit of misdirection, and a pretty solid character study to boot as our detective with questionable ties to a crime family makes for a engaging character, and I hope this element of becomes an issue in a future arc, as this chapter just scratches the surface of the idea. The book also offers up a solid display of detective work as we see one of our characters manages to put it all together in a single page. However, the solution to the big mystery that has acted as the central plot for this arc is a bit of a disappointment, as it requires the killer to have left a trail of clues that leads right to him, and when the attention turns his way he collapses like a cheap tent. Still, I do like the pair of detectives that we're introduced to in this arc, and while the cast of this title is starting to feel a little too large, I will say that each arc does a pretty fair job of making its lead characters into engaging creations that I'd be happy to see again. Still, if any book could use a Secret Files one-shot it would have to be this title, as having a reference title that I could pull out at the beginning of an arc would be a welcome addition to my collection.



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