Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 68

Gotham Central

by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Michael Lark
Genre notes: crime, superhero subversion
967 pages
ISBN: 1401261922 (Amazon)

We pretty much all know by know that I am not at all a fan of Marvel/DC superheroes, right? Like, I think the structures of the genre and its market expression actively thwarts the emergence of decent storytelling and characters that matter at all. It's a bad scene. So much squandered potential, so sad.

BUT! There *are* occasional gems. Alias, Bendis's Daredevil, Langridge's Thor, Ultimate Spider-Man (to some extent), Simonson's Thor (to some extent). And Gotham Central.

Every character in Gotham Central, a book about precinct detectives in Batman’s Gotham, is at odds with the DC Universe. These are detectives trying to solve cases in a world where Batman can seemingly solve any crime so long as he’s given enough time (there is only one of him after all). So really, less than being the only way that families and loved ones can gain closure after a terrible crime, these detectives really just find themselves stuck in a sort of game of Cops and Batman. The goal of the game is of course to close cases before Batman does. The detectives pretty much rely on the fact that Batman will get the collar if they’re too lazy or too dense or too unlucky or too overmatched, so the book tends to play a lot on their frustrations with a game that is rarely tipped in their favour.

Of course, most of this is subtext and Rucka and Brubaker rarely get mired in that aspect of Gotham Central's world, but it’s always there, always present. And it goes a long way to explain these detectives’ short tempers and overtly competitive feeling toward Batman. They all seem well aware of the idea that were there more Batmen, they would all be obsolete, unnecessary relics of that brief period of law-enforcement history when there were no indefatigable costumed vigilantes.

And because this foundation of the story generally remains in the shadows—much like the Bat himself, only appearing at opportune moments to assert his presence and remind us of just whose city we’re visiting—Brubaker and Rucka are able to tell some just plain good crime stories without having to worry so much about heroes and villains. Of course Batman has to make his appearances and of course his rogue’s gallery is bound to take their part as well, but Gotham Central succeeds in keeping a lot of that noise off-screen, where we’re aware of its presence but can pretend alongside the detectives that its the normal people, the citizens, victims, and detectives who are the ones who matter.

It’s all part of the game and Rucka and Brubaker are happy to help us play along.

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