14 December 2010

Faster than a DC Bullet: Gotham Central, Part V: Dead Robin

Comic trade paperback, 184 pages
Published 2007 (contents: 2006-07)

Borrowed from the library
Read December 2010
Gotham Central: Dead Robin

Writers: Greg Rucka with Ed Brubaker
Penciller: Kano
Inker: Stefano Gaudiano
Letterer: Clem Robins
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Fill-In Artist: Steve Lieber

After some of the lackluster stories of the previous volumes, Gotham Central goes out on the top of its game. Unfortunately, writer Ed Brubaker leaves early in the volume, and longtime artist Michael Lark isn't here at all, but that doesn't dampen these excellent stories. The first is one of those Batman's-relationship-with-the-police tales I love so much, "Dead Robin." The G.C.P.D. finds a corpse wearing a Robin outfit-- but he couldn't be the Robin, could he? They're forced to confront just how little they know about the Batman and his "family," and their already sour relationship is further tested when Romy Chandler shoots the Batman, still on edge after the death of her partner in the previous volume. There's even an appearance by the Teen Titans, which is fun if a bit dissonant, and Robin himself puts in his only appearances in the series, with some nice scenes between him and Stacy, the Major Crime Unit's temp. And the climax of the mystery was just great; Kano and Gaudiano draw an amazingly frightening Batman.

The story I wasn't expecting to like here was "Sunday Bloody Sunday," which tells what effect the Infinite Crisis had on Gotham. Though I know that things like that have to affect the city, it just seemed like the multiverse being remade would be so tonally inconsistent with this series. To my surprise, it wasn't-- the whole story is told first-person from the perspective of Crispus Allen, and he doesn't understand what's going on one tiny bit, but he still knows he has to do his duty getting Montoya to safety and finding his family, even if he did just run into Captain Marvel and the Spectre. It's the story of Allen's faith, as he begins by ruminating on how he doesn't believe in God anymore... and ends by praying with his family. I don't think the story of the Infinite Crisis could have been told in Gotham better than this.

The last story is "Corrigan 2," and it follows up on the events of the Corrigan story of the previous volume. The focus of the story is again on Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen, as Allen tries to stem Montoya's descent into anger and violence, with disastrous consequences for them both. This is completely a traditional cop story, with no Batman elements at all, but it really works here, with many of the character elements seeded throughout the series coming into play. The story is riveting and moving, a fantastic end to what had been a strong concept.

My only complaint is that there are some character threads from earlier volumes we'll never get to see now, not unless Sarge gets a larger part in your average Batman comic than I suspect he actually does. It's a real shame this series came to an end. But this was a great way to go out-- though I preferred "Soft Targets" in Jokers and Madmen, this is the most consistently strong of all the installments.

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