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Gotham Central Book Two: Jokers and Madmen

Gotham Central Book Two: Jokers and Madmen

Author:Ed Brubaker And Greg Rucka, Writers, Michael Lark, Artist
Release Date:2009
Publisher:Dc Comics
Genre:Graphic Novel

By Max Robinson | Posted 10/28/2009

If there's one thing you can say about Batman, it's that he's synonymous with great characters. Everyone knows Alfred, Robin, Two-Face, and the Joker--they're icons. With Gotham Central, though, writers Ed Brubaker (Captain America, Criminal) and Greg Rucka (Whiteout) decided to use those characters sparingly--if at all--and focus instead on the men and women of Gotham's Major Crimes Unit, creating some great characters of their own.

Although the series ended in 2006, DC recently began reissuing it in hardcover, collecting 10 issues each. And this second collection is easy enough to follow for newbies, and it introduces some of the series' best stories. "Daydreams and Believers" is a beautiful and sweet one-shot story about Stacy, an office temp whose duties include typing, taking messages, and turning on the Bat-Signal (legally, no cop can touch it). "Unresolved" is equal parts classic crime drama and redemption story as detectives Driver and Mac struggle to solve a cold case with the help of disgraced ex-cop Harvey Bullock. "Life Is Full of Disappointments" is one of the more structurally unique stories, following a chemical poisoning case as it's passed through three sets of cops.

The best story in the book, no question, is "Soft Targets," in which the MCU races to stop the Joker and a plan that involves a sniper rifle, public officials, and city-wide panic days before Christmas. Its suspense doesn't let up as the body count increases and the city gets desperate. In fact, "Soft Targets" showcases what makes the book such a compelling read: You can feel the powerlessness of the detectives, especially in the face of seemingly unstoppable criminals with mind-control hats or freeze rays, as they struggle to do their jobs in a city where one man in a cape can do it better. The toll it takes on the characters and how they deal with it is what allows Gotham Central to be more than just a simple police procedural.

While Brubaker and Rucka's noir sensibilities are essential, it's main series artist Michael Lark's sharp, sparse pencils that really give the book its identity (though Brian Hurt's softer, Daniel Clowes-like art is perfect for "Daydreams") . Hands down one of the best DC Comics titles in years, Gotham Central is no stale Law & Order imitation; if anything, it's more like a season of The Wire.

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