Welcome to Recall Reviews, the column that features yesteryear’s classic series!
This week, we’ll be taking a look at a fan-favorite “Batman” title, Gotham Central
. I parenthesize Batman because while the this series takes place in Gotham City, Batman has very little to do with the goings-on of most of the stories. He’ll pop up every now and then, but it’s never for more than a couple pages at a time. This series mostly focuses on the Gotham City Police Department, specifically the Major Crimes Unit.
Without further ado, let’s begin!
GOTHAM CENTRAL Pt. 2 of 4 #11-22
Issue #11 “Daydreams and Believers”
Written by Ed Brubaker; Art by Brian Hurtt & Lee Loughridge; Cover by Michael Lark
One thing that makes a great series is the ability to break form. So far, we’ve seen standard police procedural drama; a crime is committed, the cops look for clues, catch their crook, and hopefully justice is served. In this particular issue, instead of a story on the day-to-day life of a cop, we get to become closer acquainted with the station receptionist, Stacy. She’s writing a letter to a friend of hers, detailing her life in Gotham.
Stacy works for the G.C.P.D. through a temp agency, so she’s not technically a city employee. This allows her a special privilege no one else in the M.C.U. has; the ability to turn on the Bat-signal. As she explains, cops are not allowed to turn it on themselves; if they do, they admit the existence of and assistance from a known vigilante. Officially, police say that the signal is used to further the urban legend that is “The Batman” and to scare off the superstitious and cowardly. But really, we all know it’s to call Batman when they need help.
Details like these are one thing that made this a stand-out series. Few other stories, in my opinion, made Batman and Gotham this realistic.
Issues #12-15 “Soft Targets”
Written by Ed Brubaker & Greg Rucka; Art by Michael Lark, Lee Loughridge, Stefano Gaudiano; Covers by Michael Lark
The city is under panic as a sniper is tearing up the streets. He seems to be going after public officials, and the detectives soon find a clue directly pointing to their culprit. I was going to try to avoid spoiling who it is, but we find out in the first issue who it is and the covers of this arc also give it away, so I’ll just say it: it’s the Joker! He quickly proves that he has control over the city as he shows detectives live footage of several streets in the city accompanied with a countdown clock. Once again, the detectives will try to finish this before Batman can get to him, but no one is sure if they can make it in time.
This topic was particularly relevant at the time, as the Beltway Sniper, who struck between Virginia and Maryland had been caught only one year before. Whether these events influenced the writers, I’m not sure, just an observation.
This story identified major problems the police can have with the public panic, especially when the media becomes involved. Everybody wants answers, but the police can only work so fast. It doesn’t help when media start speculating on events, causing many citizens to begin fleeing the city, leading to gridlock in most bridges and tunnels.
A very well thought out arc, showing these police dealing with one of the toughest events a city can face.
Issues #16-18 “Life Is Full Of Disappointments”
Written by Ed Brubaker & Greg Rucka; Art by Greg Scott, Lee Loughridge; Covers by Michael Lark
To shine a spotlight on other characters, we now turn to Detectives Tommy Burke and Dagmar Procjnow, following up on a poisoning case. We learn a little bit about Procjnow’s personal life as her son is a professional musician playing his first concert as she takes on more work. Meanwhile, there’s a new shift commander in M.C.U., and another detective gets a visit form one of Gotham’s other vigilantes. This is a quick, lighter arc compared to the last, which is a nice break, given recent events. I mean, it’s still murder, but there are plenty of character-building side stories to let you catch your breath.
Issues #19-22 “Unresolved”
Written by Ed Brubaker; Art and Covers by Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, & Lee Loughridge.
At this point, the name “Harvey Bullock” has come up a few times, and for readers and detectives unaware it may be confusing what’s happened to him and why people get sad or upset when he comes up. Most readers familiar with the Batman universe know of Bullock, but not all may know about events leading up Gotham Central. Well fear no more, it’s all explained in these issues. I won’t spoil it here, so you’ll just have to read it yourselves. Or, read the story arc “Officer Down”, as most events took place during that.
After a strange reunion with a former friend, Detective Driver reopens an unsolved bombing case from eight years before, one that Harvey Bullock worked. After finding some misplaced evidence, Driver and MacDonald have a new lead. They consult Bullock on the case, but they may learn that will prove unwise.
It was good to see Bullock again, even if he is in a darker place. With him off the force, and Gordon retired, this series begins to take on the “new generation” type role, but not forgetting where it came from or those who got them there.
That’s it for now, but Gotham Central #23-31 will be up next week!
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