Gotham Central 1 & 2

Mr. Freeze Murders A Police Officer And The GCPD Springs Into Action

I keep asking myself if its the plot that makes "In The Line of Duty" so good. The plot is certainly solid, but another word keeps getting into my head. Depth. It's the way the plot, subplot, threads and details go together to create a realistic dimension to the tale. Depth. One effect is having an immersive story; I'm drawn into the tale, interested in every detail. The other effect is being able to stand multiple readings. I have read 'In The Line of Duty' several times, each time I discover something new or have a new idea about something I've read before - and everytime I've enjoyed the read.

The first few pages of the the first issue takes us into the early morning hours just in time for the end of the night shift and the beginning of the day shift in the GCPD. You know how the end of day at work feels like - you're a bit tired, looking forward to going home. The feel of it is captured in these pages. It doesn't matter if you're reading this on a weekend or on the start of day. That particular end-of-work feel is captured by the drawn panels of this comic. That is magical.

In the midst of this overarching end-of-day mood, we go with Detectives Fields and Driver for just one more check on the streets of Gotham - a small thing at the end of their shift were they encounter the deadly Mr. Freeze. Within the duration of this encounter, we are made to experience several things:  Charlie Field's desire to go home to his wife; both officer's belief that they are investigating a dead end; the brutality of Mr. Freeze; the casual amorality of his partner Danny; the impact, on both Detectives, of meeting one of Batman's foes; the effect of the whole incident on the morning routine of GCPD; the slightly antagonistic relationship between Captain Sawyer and Lieutenant Probson because of the promotion issue or because Captain Maggie Sawyer is gay - we don't really know; Stacy's role in the GCPD and so on and so forth. Layer upon rich layer in only a few pages and panels that is indicative of nothing less than great story telling chops. Delightful but unsurprising - Rucka and Brubaker are legends in the making even before Gotham Central.

And the details, the glorious, wonderful details. Like Driver losing his shoes to Mr. Freeze's icy ray and having to put on sneakers from his locker - showing that he doesn't have backup leather shoes on hand; or how subtly careful Montoya is in questioning Driver about an incident were he lost his partner; and how Sarge's personality affords him some level of tactlessness even in such a sensitive moment and we understand why; or how Driver's mood changes dramatically from when he is kidding around with Field's at the beginning to after he sees his partner killed. It's delightfully never in-your-face but very subtle, it just sinks in as you go through the tale that Driver has been deeply affected. This is writing that respects the readers intelligence and gives layers of texture to the tale. Depth.

Ok. I have to stop myself now even though I could go on and on about the writing. Let's go into the art. Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka had to wait a year for Michael Lark. One option was to simply get another artist but no, they wanted Lark. Gotham Central wasn't going to be a superhero book, the visuals would be street level, the artist would be depicting regular people wearing normal clothes in places like precincts, shops and sidewalks. There would be lots of common stuff like cars and cabinets and guns and the artist would somehow have to convey the story by the body movements of people wearing a full suit of clothes or by facial expressions. Rucka and Brubaker knew they couldn't just draft anybody, they wanted Lark. But Michael was more than just a hired hand. Rucka refers to him as one of the three fathers of Gotham Central. Michael even went to the trouble of creating a 3D model of the precinct just to be able to have a reference for how it looks from any angle. That says a lot about why the art turned out as well as it did. I keep at looking at people's faces as I read the story - at Nora's face standing there in the morgue looking at Charlie's mangled corpse; at Driver's face while Sarge tells him about how Charlie regarded the Batman; at Detective Allen's body language when confronted with the efforts to disentangle Larry's frozen corpse. A raised eyebrow here, a grimace there. Lark is able to use the faces and the body movements to draw us deeper. I love the heavy inks, conveying a mood rivaled only by 'Daydreams and Believers' later on in the series.

And the layouts. In particular the scenes in the precinct were Michael is able to convey the spaciousness of the room because of the high ceilings; or the raised angle of vision on top of the stairs so we can see Fields and Driver exchanging friendly banter; looking out from he shadows of an abandoned truck at a nervous cop as he discovers Larry's frozen corpse; or that one moment, frozen in time, when day shift leader Sawyer comes into 'her' office unexpectedly encountering night shift leader Probson coming out of 'his' office - Michael Lark is able to convey the relationship between these two just by the angle of their heads. And this is all just from the first issue.

Noelle Giddings uses a palette here that's primarily based on earth tones with associated light colors like ice blue or light green that blends well with the core palette. Red is used to highlight panel details here and there. Panels featuring Mr. Freeze jump out because of the heavy use of primaries - it all helps to support Rucka's and Brubaker's handling of the costumed Freeze. Batman panels are shadowy and darker than the usual. Extremely well -balanced coloring.

To end this review, I'm hard put to show panel samples with characters in them because they're all so good and I'll have to scan the entire two comics so I've chosen these moody landscape panels to represent the art. The first shows the GCPD and the next one shows the Gotham sky with the bat signal. I'm looking at these panels for the umpteenth time and they make me want to walk inside and into Gotham. Enjoy.



Posted by  Pete Albano - October 2010 | Updated : March 13, 2011

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1-2 : In The Line Of Duty

3-5 : Motive

6-10 : Half A Life

11 : Daydreams and Believers

12 : Soft Targets

16-18 : Life Is Full Of Disappointments

19-22 : Unresolved

23-24 : Corrigan

25 : Lights Out

26-27 : On The Freak Beat

28-31 : Keystone Kops

32 : Nature

33-36 : Dead Robin

37 : Sunday Bloody Sunday

38 : Corrigan II

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