This fourth volume in the Gotham Central series sees it well and truly back on form, with three stories that are closer to the original format of the excellent first book.
Although the presence of Batman hangs like a shadow over Gotham and its police force, in this volume he barely makes an appearance. Instead it’s the police who are the stars, particularly focusing on Detectives Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen, who are left to solve crime and attempt to maintain order in a deeply chaotic city. One story is just about the dismantling of the bat signal, a deeply symbolic gesture by the Gotham Police Department, who are struggling to believe that they’re even on the same side. Another deals with a corrupt CSI intent on making a fortune dealing in superhero memorabilia on eBay. The third story is the longest, and involves the police needing to get the help of a supervillain in order to help a fellow cop, contrary to Batman’s unasked for advice.
The detectives’ lives are explored more deeply in this book, with Montoya’s homosexuality and resulting breakdown of relations with her father taking centre stage. Rucka writes it empathetically and without unnecessary sensationalism, adding an extra element of human interest and ensuring that, despite their occasional dealings with the extraordinary, these police officers are grounded by earthly issues.
Lark’s artwork continues to help play down the melodrama, with a subtle but gritty style that brings out the shadowy corners of darkest Gotham with finesse.
There is one slightly daft supervillain moment in the stories collected here but we can just about overlook it for the sake of what is otherwise a very sophisticated and well executed cop drama – if you like the current crop of American police shows on TV, you surely can’t help but fall for this.
Other titles in the Gotham Central series:
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