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Gotham Central #1

Posted: Tuesday, December 17, 2002
By: Jason Cornwell



Writers: Ed Brubaker & Greg Rucka
Artist: Michael Lark

Publisher: DC

Plot:
The book opens with a pair of Gotham City police officers investigating a tip that they received, that they hope is linked to a recent kidnapping case. However, they soon discover the reported suspicious behavior isn't linked to the kidnapping case, but this doesn't keep them from unearthing a criminal, as Batman's cold based villain Freeze is waiting for them inside the apartment, and he's more than prepared to deal with them. We then jump to the station house where we see the night shift in giving way to the arriving day shift, and we see two officers have yet to report in. However, when the call comes in that an officer is down we see the GCPD converge on the apartment where Freeze was holed up, where they find the shattered remains of one of the officers, while the other has his hands and feet frozen. As the homicide detectives go over the crime scene, we see the question of why Freeze left one of the officers alive comes up, and we see a theory is floated that this random encounter was actually a planned hit, and that is why Freeze only killed one of the officers. We also see the surviving partner has a request to make of his Captain, as he doesn't want Batman called into bring in Freeze, as he feels this takedown should be done by the GCPD.

Comments:
This is one of those issue where the creative team rather than the concept made me check out this first issue, as not only was I not looking for another monthly title to add to my ever growing list, but with this book set in Gotham it's already penciled in to take part in every single crossover that the core Batman titles decide to cook up. On the other hand with Jeph Loeb & Jim Lee keeping house on the main title for the next year, perhaps we won't see an multi-part crossover stretch it's tentacles into the satellite titles during this time. This opening issue does make it clear that Batman will be playing a role in these pages, as the main villain of this opening arc is a member from his rogues gallery, and a key conversation in this issue is directly centered around the idea of getting Batman's help on this case. I'm sure that several of these police officers that look to be the stars of this series have been seen in the pages of the Batman books, as the two homicide detectives that are brought in do seem quite familiar. However, this opening issue is thankfully free of continuity elements that would have me backing away from this title, as all one really needs to enjoy this issue is a basic understanding of Batman's unique relationship with the Gotham City police department.

There's also the idea that Ed Brubaker & Greg Rucka have latched themselves onto an idea that does look to have some legs to it, as police officers have been a staple element of most comics, as one could say they act as a clear indicator of how a particular hero is viewed by society in general. Spider-Man is continually driven off which reinforces his role as the thankless, self sacrificing hero. We have the Flash who almost seems like an honorary member of the police, thanks in large part to his predecessor's role in the department. We have a sense of awe when they deal with Superman, or Captain America. Then we have Batman who manages to walk the line between unwanted vigilante, and necessary operative. This series looks to be turning the looking glass upon the police officers of Gotham City, and while their jobs automatically place them into situations where writers can easily generate a sense of excitement, this series also has the added bonus of being set in Gotham City which has itself a vigilante with a grade A rogues gallery they can have encounters with. The idea that they will constantly be the underdogs in these encounters also sounds quite appealing, and I've always been rather fond of the police procedural.

Michael Lark looks to have a style that is well suited to the material, as it has a nice sense of realism to it, but when the larger than life moments do hit these pages, the book manages to step up to the plate and deliver. Take this issue's encounter with Freeze, as not only does this encounter establish that these cops are outclassed, but when we see what was done to the one officer later in the issue one can't help but be a little disturbed by the message Freeze was looking to send. There's also a wonderfully chilling shot of a second victim that acts as a cliffhanger visual. The art also has a good eye when it comes to simply telling the story, as the sequence on page seven where we move in closer on the station, and are immersed in the chaos of the setting, acted as a great introduction to the environment. There's also a nice little moment in the locker room where we see the surviving police officer is dealing with his partner's death. The book has also done a pretty solid job of making it's police officers looking like cops, as they all have a harsh look about them that conveys the authority of the position they hold, and even their off duty clothing conveys a don't mess with me tone.

Final Word:
A pretty solid opener to what looks to be a promising new series. It's also nice to see the Astro City syndrome has finally hit the DCU, as finally we get a series that is going to look at a section of the DCU from the perspective of Joe & Jane Public, as the stars of this book don't have superpowers, but they do exist in a world where costumed crime-fighters are a common occurrence. The city of Gotham is also a delightful setting for this new series, as while I've never been a big follower of Batman, I do recognize the quality of his rogues gallery, and out of all the fictional cities in the DCU, Gotham City is easily one of the most distinctive environments out there (though Opal City is far and away my favorite). This opening issue is also quite friendly to the newer reader, and while the cast could stand a bit more fleshing out, the threat provided by Freeze does a very nice job of playing up the idea that these characters are the clear-cut underdogs in this fight.



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