The original Gotham Central book was superb because it offered a glance into the lives of a bunch of Gotham police, working around the city’s famous vigilante – the Caped Crusader. This second volume focuses on just one of Gotham’s cops – Renee Montoya. She’s tough, she’s immune to corruption and she’s got a long history of successfully fighting crime in the city.
In fact, we’re introduced to some of this history before we get onto the main event. Two Greg Rucka stories featuring Montoya, republished from the monthly Detective Comics and Batman Chonricles comics precede the main Gotham Central action, to help fill us in on Montoya’s background and her relationship with the main villain of the story: Harvey “Two Face” Dent. Those thinking they’re spending their hard-earned cash on 164 pages of Gotham Central could feel themselves short changed by losing 50 pages to two stories with a very different feel.
Montoya’s character gains depth and sophistication as we pass through the stories, perhaps partly because the sophistication of the intended audience increases as we pass from Detective Comics, clearly aimed at a younger audience, through to the highly sophisticated Half a Life story from Gotham Central. With them all squashed together like this, however, her development seems almost frenetic, with little time to establish one element of her character before we have another thrust upon us. Treat the early Montoya stories as self-indulgent backgrounders though, as the main event is more of a treat.
Because of the nature of the story, there’s a little less routine detective work and a bit more superhero/supervillain involvement, which is a bit disappointing after the relative scarcity of fantasy characters in the first volume. However, it’s still a superior treatment than most, and both Batman and Harvey Dent are treated with relative respect – Batman really could be nothing more than an intelligent vigilante detective with a few tricks up his sleeve, while Two Face has nothing more super about him than a disfigured face and a volatile schizophrenic personality.
The style of the artwork is another victim of the various sources this collection comes from. Lark’s Gotham Central stuff is as moody and subtle as the first volume. Pearson and Smith’s work on the Detective Comics story is typically inkeeping for a younger audience and fine in its own way, but is bold and brash, starkly contrasting with Lark’s work and again, disappointing for a fan of Gotham Central‘s gloomier mood.
Still, Half a Life remains the main feature and it’s a treat that’s worthy of consumption, while only a third of the book is given over to the background work. However, the way this is collected is a bit disappointing as a result.