Page 45 Review by Stephen
My mistake: I thought this would be two more softcovers combined but it's the softcover of the previous volume four with its two absent issues, #26 and 27, reinstated. Yes, I'm sorry guys, but the previous softcovers left out some issues. Together they are 'The Freak Beat' and I cannot believe they were omitted, as Detective Marcus Driver joins his partner Detective Josie McDonald at the 45th-floor, two-million-dollar Penthouse apartment where there's been both a burglary and a murder:
"Meet the late Reverend Burford Pressman."
"Wait, the televangelist guy?"
"Got it in one."
"I hate that guy."
"Cool, got my first suspect already."
The crime scene seems straightforward: the Reverend's been shot, his safe's been broken into and there's an emerald necklace on the floor. Oh yes, and he has three claw marks down the side of his cheek. Catwoman...? Only thing is, Catwoman is a professional cat burglar and she'd know the apartment was sound-proofed, so she's not about to take fright and flee without the necklace she came for in the first place. If that's what she came for. No, Josie is convinced the necklace was planted. Is this gut instinct, or is it something else?
These two issues are slapped out with real panache by Jason Alexander (ABE SAPIEN etc.) although you'd be forgiven for thinking it was Kent Williams (BLOOD, THE FOUNTAIN etc.). At least, I hope so, because I thought it was him! But as ever with GOTHAM CENTRAL it's the time spent setting up the personal lives of the precinct's various detectives that sets this apart: evening meals that seem inconsequential to the plot but tell you more than you know about what to expect from whom, either now or later on.
As to the meat of the book, it's one of the finest sequences of all from Rucka and Brubaker's gripping precinct drama: three stories focussing on Detectives Crispus Allen and Renee Montoya, the poor woman so atrociously written in 52 that it's easy to forget that here she's probably the most compelling woman in DC Universe history. Think of her as Bendis' Jessica Jones in uniform but instead of a drinks problem, she's increasingly prone to rage. Oh wait, and booze.
In the first, Crispus is subjected to an internal enquiry when two thugs he didn't shoot claim that he did after he tore off a couple of rounds to save Renee's life. The problem is that one of those rounds has gone missing. There's a market for them.
In the middle chapter Gotham's latest Police Commissioner has finally had enough of Batman after all the recent casualties, and takes the signal off the precinct's roof, smashing it in the process. Expect harsh words.
And in the final, grimmest of grim stories, a police officer trying to save a young boy falls prey to an alchemical trap courtesy of a conscienceless criminal holed up in a Keystone city jail, turning him into a rampaging monster. Batman insists they cannot negotiate but Allen and Montoya negotiate. They then wish they hadn't. Here's some of that 'negotiating':
"I think I'll ask the screw to return me to my cell."
"Do that and you lose your chance to prove how much smarter than us you are."
"Oh, very good. You've kept me in the room, well done. Quid pro quo, something for something. But that doesn't buy you answers."
"Then what does?"
"You ask your questions, then I'll ask mine. Honesty breeds trust, detectives. But you lie to me, and I'll lie to you. And I will know if you are lying, believe me. You go first."
"The experiment of transformation or whatever you want to call it... Can it be undone? Can you undo it?"
"That's two questions, detective. The answer to both is yes. Hmm... Look at you... Fresh scar tissue on your knuckles and around your eye... You seem to have developed a taste -- if not a delight -- for violence recently, detective. I also note the double Venus pendant you're wearing at your throat... Gay pride is such a wonderful thing..."
"Just ask your damn question."
"It's a known fact that incidences of domestic violence in same-sex relationships is quite high. It's also quite high amongst police officers. So my question is this: do you beat her, detective dyke?"
The reason I quote so extensively from the so-called superhero books I like is that I'm not remotely interested in the fights, just the depth and dialogue and it's only in the last ten years that there's been much of the former and any of the latter worth quoting. The domestic piece in the first story, for example, where Crispus' family come round to lunch at Renee and Dee's, is both natural and touching, and makes what's to come down the road all the more awful.