While the second Gotham Central book felt the urge to include stories from other comics to help set the scene, the third book doesn’t stray off course. Instead we have two complete stories from the series, originally published in issues 12-15 and 19-22 of the monthly comic.
The first, Soft Targets, sees the Joker go on a murderous spree of terror, sniping and bombing his merry way around Gotham City. The second, Unresolved, drags in both the Penguin and the Mad Hatter, as the Gotham police find new evidence in an old case that had never been solved.
As usual with this series, it’s the police who are the stars of the show. Like most televised contemporary police drama, the force is a unit that, while it might have its ups and downs, gets things done through teamwork and hard graft. Although Batman’s presence is referred to several times by the characters, he only shows up a handful of times, and these are brief visits that provide little help to the police.The villains are mostly handled well – neither the Joker or the Penguin are seen to have any particular special powers. The former is portrayed as a sick psychotic, the latter a crime kingpin with a legitimate business front to hide behind. The only super-heroics in the book come from the Mad Hatter, whose magic hat allows him to control the minds of others, but even this isn’t as straightforward as it might originally seem.
What started out as a great series stays high up the ladder, but it has lost something of its power over time. Where the first book stood out as something very different – a police drama set in a superhero universe – the mixing of styles in the second book detracted from this a little. With this third we’re back to sophisticated cop drama throughout, though the slow but sure cycling through the pantheon of Batman foes reduces some of the first volume’s refreshing impact.
Other titles in the Gotham Central series:
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