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. 4 of 4 #32-40
Issue #32 “Nature”
Written by Greg Rucka; Art by Steve Lieber & Lee Loughridge; Cover by Chris F. Brunner, Mark John Irwin, & Rico Renzi
A stand-alone issue among heavy, game-changing arcs, this story focuses on two corrupt uniformed officers. You name it, they’re probably into it. Protection rackets, bribery, soliciting, and just plain stealing, not to mention colluding with other corrupt officers. But these two soon get their comeuppance when a certain Gotham “freak” seeks her own justice and punishment for their crimes. Though not a very important story for the overall arc of the series, still a good read and a closer look at the underbelly of Gotham and the G.C.P.D.
Issues #33-36 “Dead Robin”
Written by Ed Brubaker & Greg Rucka; Art by Kano, Stefano Gaudiano, & Lee Loughridge; Covers by Sean Phillips (33-35) & Joshua Middleton (36)
The title pretty much gives away what this arc is about, and it hits pretty close to home with a few DC vigilantes. SLIGHT SPOILERS! No, Robin is not actually dead. It turns out that a few teenage boys, roughly Robin’s age, are turning up dead wearing Robin costumes. Several heroes who fight crime alongside Robin turn out to assist in the investigation, including a special appearance from the Teen Titans! Meanwhile, Romy is having a hard time staying unbiased of this case, given that she still blames Batman for the death of her partner. A small confrontation later, and things aren’t much better.
This was one of my favorite arcs when I originally read the series, and rereading it now, I realize it still holds up just as powerfully as before, mostly due to its personal nature. Some of the best Batman stories are ones that affect his life more as Bruce Wayne than as Batman, so it’s great to see an event like this resonate similarly when told from another angle.
Issue #37 “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
Written by Greg Rucka; Art by Steve Lieber & Lee Loughridge; Cover by Sean Phillips
The only cross-over issue from this series, we see how Gotham and the M.C.U. are effected by the events of the Infinite Crisis! The story is mostly centered on Crispus Allen (possibly for reasons that will become apparent down the road, though I won’t spoil it here for those who don’t know Allen’s fate…) though we also see Detectives Montoya, Driver, and MacDonald. Allen’s faith has been tested during his time in the M.C.U., and he shares his thoughts on God and gods with us through an internal monologue. He and Renee also begin fighting when Allen keeps prodding about what happened between her and Corrigan (in a previous story). Another DC superhero makes a quick cameo, along with a certain dark entity who plays a significant role in the Infinite Crisis event. Some previous knowledge of Infinite Crisis may help, but I don’t believe it’s required. Major events and foreshadowing fitting into one issue: not many can pull it off this well, as we get plenty of set up for things to come, in Gotham and elsewhere.
Issues #38-40 “Corrigan II”
Written by Greg Rucka; Art by Kano, Stefano Gaudiano, & Lee Loughridge; Cover by Sean Phillips
This is it, the final arc! Only three issues, but probably the most significant of the series, as the events here will shape several things to come in the DC Universe, at least concerning the main characters of Gotham Central. However, though the events are of great importance, they are the kind of events best left out of reviews that don’t wave a SPOILER! banner. So, I’m going to let you read this finale on your own, and I will leave you with my final thoughts.
This series ended too soon. I wanted to say “way too soon” but it probably could have wrapped nicely in another well-written arc or two. Greg Rucka made the final call on ending the series, as the two other founding creative-team members, Lark and Brubaker, had left earlier and he felt it shouldn’t continue without them. (For more details, read here) Personally, I could read this series forever if it had continued. And though its life was cut short and I can’t really define the ending as “satisfying” given the events, I’m glad Rucka was able to end it on his own terms and carve a path for his characters in future stories. Having that creative ability must feel satisfying, as so many other series can be suddenly cancelled (re: most New52 cancelled titles) and leave readers with rushed finales or unfinished arcs. So for that, I am grateful.
Gotham Central remains one of my favorite series for its deep and complex writing, its dark imagery, and its presence in the Bat-universe. Though maybe not appreciated enough in its time, this really is a Bat-book in a league of its own. There have been other limited-series focused on the police of Gotham, especially James Gordon, but in my eyes there is no comparing them.
I’ve heard many people refer to the TV series Gotham as similar to this, but I feel that’s a bit misleading. While Gotham is about the G.C.P.D., they are two completely separate entities. One focuses on new origin stories of the DC characters we all know, and the other continues on the great mythos decades in the making while adding new flavor of its own. If you’ve read this series and watched the show, you should be able to see the differences. A more accurate comparison might be “if The Wire took place in Gotham City” or “The Wire meets Batman.”
Maybe someday a series like this will return, and if it does you can bet I’ll be there from day one.
Until then, this has been Gotham Central. I hope you enjoyed my review, and feel free to share your thoughts with me on Twitter!
See you next week, Batfans. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!
Tags: Batman, DC Comics, Gotham Central, Recall Reviews