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Gotham Central Book 2: Jokers And Madmen s/c

Gotham Central Book 2: Jokers And Madmen s/c back

Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker & Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Greg Scott, Brian Hurtt


Page 45 Review by Stephen

The first storyline opens with the Commissioner (not Gordon, he's retired) desperately attempting to dissuade Gotham's mayor from cutting overtime in the force. The city's running a financial deficit and G.C.P.D. racks up too many extra hours without restraint, but without those hours crime is going to rocket. It's a testament to Brubaker that the conversation is riveting enough itself without the sudden burst of a sniper's bullet through the window. As Gotham Central strives to react, a superintendent is shot in a school playground, and as the officers then attempt to face off the media, secure the area then investigate the crime scene before fresh snow obliterates evidence, the stakes are upped again.

The fear and tension in this book are palpable. The political complexities aren't skipped over, the dialogue is worthy of Silent Witness, and Brubaker offers up enough contradictory evidence to make you engage yourself in solving the anomalies.

Lark's no slouch either, delivering page after page of uncomfortable urban environment and half-lit figures, making each flash of gunfire spark from the page in a couple of instances that almost make you jump. Which is quite the feat when the panel's at the bottom of an open page. GOTHAM CENTRAL is a crime series that faltered not once in its run, in spite of it being (almost nominally) set in the DC Universe, being passed between the two writers, and going through a whole bunch of artists, each of whom managed to maintain that same feeling of street-level grime.

I say "almost nominally", but there's an increasing disillusionment at the precinct in their roles as Gotham city's protectors when Batman, who barely communicates except through sideways glances, does nothing but leave unanswered questions and dead police officers in his wake - something beautifully evoked at the end of the first story here.

But it's the third tale that brings home the bacon with an elaborately constructed crime involving the unsolved bombing that slaughtered an entire High School baseball team several years ago. It's said that the vast majority of murders are crimes of passion (I don't know where or by whom), and so is this one but in an oblique way, based on a lie, and without the knowledge of the person in whose name it's carried out. I promise I've given little away there because the joy of a prime crime series on celluloid, tv, in prose or in comics (oh hell, at the opera possibly) is that the final reveal surprises the hell out of you at the time but makes perfect sense in retrospect.

As ever, the first and final words are left to the officers personally involved in their head-shaking bewilderment, frustration and anger. Highly recommended not just to superhero fans but to readers of Brubaker's CRIMINAL etc.
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