Jun 03 2009

A Writer’s Review of Gotham Central

Gotham Central was a police procedural series that ran for about 40 issues.  It focused on an ensemble of homicide detectives in Gotham City.

What Worked

The main character grew on me.  I was sorry to learn that #40 was the last issue.

I like that the police unit here is mostly on its own.  Everyone else in Gotham is unreliable, even Batman.  That’s one advantage this series has over Law and Order.  What do the cops do when the DA is working for the enemy?

The criminal plots were big enough to be interesting but small enough to be relatable.  For example, when the Joker gets loose, he tries to cause a panic by assassinating a few government officials with sniper rifles.

Some of the plotting was quite intelligent and clever.  If you’ve already assassinated the mayor, what’s next?  Joker knows that the commissioner will call in Batman, so he sets a trap at the Bat-Signal.  Well-played!

I found it very refreshing that the series spent so little time on the home lives of the characters. That helped keep the characters unangsty and likable.  If I have to read another scene about a hard-bitten protagonist complaining to his wife about how hard his life is, I’m going to flip out.

What Sucked

The writers– particularly Ed Brubaker– were too concerned about showing off their research.  I’m impressed that they know what a clearance rate is, but did they really need to mention it five times?

Across the board, the side-characters were disappointing.  They weren’t very stylish, funny or otherwise enjoyable.  Also, the art made it very hard to distinguish some of the side-characters.  I had a lot of trouble with the white guys on the night-shift.

The character development was very poor.  Greg Rucka’s day-shift characters were pretty two-dimensional (“angry lesbian,” “PTSD victim,” etc).  Brubaker’s night-shift guys didn’t even get that far.

Final Verdict

With clearer, deeper characters, this could have been awesome.  The characters were the main reason this wasn’t quite as engaging or enjoyable as a good episode of Law and Order or The Wire.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “A Writer’s Review of Gotham Central”

  1. Stefan the Exploding Manon 03 Jun 2009 at 10:09 am

    I think Renee Montoya was a deeper character than you make her out to be. But otherwise, spot on review. I could get used to this as a regular thing, because it’s not often I get to read comic book reviews from a more general writer’s viewpoint.

  2. Lighting Manon 03 Jul 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Renee Montoya’s depth, in my opinion, comes almost entirely from the development of her friendship with The Question, and the hardships she faced following that through to the end during 52, whereas she was simply a blatant attempt at cutting edge political correctness prior to that, and in the wrong hands, even now.

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