Have you ever considered what it must be like to be a police officer in Gotham? It’s no secret that the city is notoriously crime ridden, and thanks to Batman, there are plenty of costumed nutters for the average cop on the beat to deal with as well as petty crooks. So what is it like to fight crime in the city with the worlds most violent criminals and a masked vigilante stalking the streets? Well wonder no more.
Gotham Central was a 40 issue comic book series which first hit the shelves in 2003 and is now available in five graphic novels. It is at heart a police procedural story, drawn in the style of a 1940’s detective comic with a modern twist. It was created by impressive writing talent too, Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka. Both have worked on a lot of Batman titles in the past, so know Gotham intimately, and Brubaker’s background in writing detective novels before he moved into the superhero genre is clearly evident. All in all this adds up to a fascinating read that is by no means just for Batman fans. If you are a fan of crime novels or detective TV shows, it is definitely worthwhile giving Gotham Central a chance.
Batman’s well known rogues gallery pose no real threat to the Dark Knight in regular comic continuity, but that isn’t the case here. Readers get to see just how terrifying men like the Joker and Mister Freeze really are to regular folk. Forget the comic folklore – these are truly scary villains, worthy of any gritty cop drama. And the officers who have to deal with them are average people, normal police officers, not super powered aliens intent on heroics or rich playboys with a penchant for capes, and that takes centre stage. Rest assured, Gotham Central is not about Batman. In fact, Batman hardly features at all, just the mess he leaves behind for GCPD to clean up.
I won’t spoil any of the story arcs. There are 15 interconnecting stories in all and each one is riveting. All the police drama staples are here – murdered partners, missing children, the wrongly accused trying to prove their innocence. The addition of an over reliance on the Bat signal when things get tough and the oppressive presence of a masked vigilante working outside the law adds a new spin on a familiar concept. Batman is not always welcomed by GCPD and it is fascinating to see the other side of the coin. The art is dark and dirty, just like Gotham itself, and may put some people off. But once you get into the story, you’ll forget you’re even reading a graphic novel.
Comic writers create an entire world for their heroes to occupy, and too often the human realities of that world are never really considered. For that reason alone, Gotham Central is worth a read. This is an engrossing read, steeped in realism that is accessible to even the most vociferous of comic book naysayers.
Welcome to Gotham City. Hope you enjoy your stay.