Home > comics, Graphic Novels, review > ‘Gotham Central’: a comic series review

‘Gotham Central’: a comic series review

I’ve been sitting on copies of this series for a while now and since it’s on the short side, forty issues, I decided to review the series on the whole. The series had an all-star ensemble of writers (Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka) and artists (Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano). Gotham Central covers the story of Gotham’s Major Crimes Unit. It plays out similarly to a lot of crime shows, but of course the big difference is that it takes place in Gotham. Batman’s gallery of rogues often factor into the story, making this a different experience than that of other crime stories. The series did poorly in terms of sales, and only managed to continue initially due to better sales of the trade paperbacks. But after issue #25 or so Brubaker and Lark left the series for the most part for other projects. With that information out of the way, here is my review of Gotham Central.

Writing:

As mentioned already the series focuses on the Major Crimes Unit (M.C.U) of the Gotham Police, which is divided into two shifts, day and night. Greg Rucka was responsible for writing stories of the day shift, and Ed Brubaker for the night. Often the two overlapped on bigger arcs and the two would co-write. While the emphasis of the series is on M.C.U. the focus is clearly on a handful of detectives than the whole department. Of the two shifts, the night shift is far more distinguishable in terms of identifying and understanding its cast ensemble. I knew far less members of the day shift when compared to the ones I did know better. I wish I had been given the chance to have a fully fleshed out ensemble cast. But luckily, that’s the only major flaw I have with the series. The detectives that are fleshed out are absolute gems.

In the world of superhero comics very little works actually touch upon the human factor of their worlds. While I can think of Marvels and Civil War: Frontlines, I can’t really think of anything like that for DC other than Gotham Central. But it makes up for that. The characters that are given are three-dimensional and fun to read about. The characters aren’t given flawless superhero personalities. We see their flaws just as much as we see what’s great about them. The detectives grow and develop too, it’s awesome.  In the world of superheorics, and the mayhem of Gotham, it’s refreshing to see the human factor in these stories. It’s one of the highlights of the series. This is one of the first superhero comics I’ve read that readily uses diversity effectively and accurately and it adds a lot to the story. Another perk.

The stories themselves are great too. It’s nice to see that the stories stick their focus fully on the M.C.U. Batman is this series has been relegated to a supporting character who shows up rarely. He is shadowy and is occasionally passively aggressive towards the detectives. Honestly, this is one of the best depictions of Batman. He takes the form that was intended for the character, one that blends into the shadow, plays by his own rules, and utilizes his fear as a tactic. Even with Batman around the detectives often have to face his gallery of rogues on their own.

The earliest arcs tend to be the best of the series as Rucka and Brubaker could work more closely together, and that Brubaker was more focused on the project at that time. The later arcs are still good, but of a lesser quality, adding in more references to the greater DC Universe that I believe is out of place for the intent of the series. My personal favorites of the arcs are ‘Soft Targets,’ a Joker crime story that is suspenseful and faithful towards the Joker’s character, and ‘Unresolved Targets,’ which uses a lesser rogue and has and excellent cameo by retired cop, Harvey Bullock.

Design:

The panels are fairly conventional and consistent throughout the series. It’s not as strictly contained as the typical superhero comic, but still fairly regular.

Art:

Over the course of 40 issues there were several artists; Kano (a Spanish artist), Brian Hutt, Jason Alexander, Steve Leiber, Stefano Gaudiano, Michael Lark. Lark and Gaudiano are the primary artists of the series, and while there’s a lot of changes in the second half of the series there is a consistency in the work that keeps up the continued style. The tone of the series is gritty. Fitting considering it Gotham, which DC bills as ‘the darkest city in the DC world.’ The colors are muted and muddy throughout the series. While there is a general consistency in the stlye of art for the series, Lark and Gaudiano are easily the best of the artists of the series. Their art adds a lot to the more intense arcs of the series. The consistent colorist Lee Loughride has done a great job in this. On the whole, Gotham Central is artistically one of the better superhero comics out there. This series probably has the best covers for issues that I can think of. Each one is great.


Final Opinion:

Gotham Central is easily one of the best superhero comics I’ve read in a long time, and one of the better comics in general too. In my opinion it goes up there with the better Batman runs and Blue Beetle for the best DC series. The writing is good throughout the series (something Blue Beetle can’t say). The art is terrific. It’s flaws are minor, especially considering how well the series does other things. For the longest time the series was collected in hardbacks and trade paperbacks that were out of print, expensive, and/or hard to find. But has recently released been in larger paperback volumes. If you’re a fan of Batman comics this one is a must. If you’re a general comics fan, or like crime drama stories, I would also recommend it. There’s a lot to like about this series. I know I had no regrets in reading this.

Gotham Central and Batman are owned by DC Comics. Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker co-wrote the series. Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano serve as the primary artists.

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