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Off The Rack Comic Review: Gotham Central

September 20, 2020 | Posted by Rob Stewart
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Off The Rack Comic Review: Gotham Central  

I have the absolute worst luck on Earth when it comes to cars.

I have owned or co-owned four cars in my life, including the brand new lease my wife and I got this past week.

(I know! Leases, right? Who does that? But she is insistent on it because she trades in her car the minute it’s paid off anyway)

The first of the four I bought right after I graduated college. It was a 2004 Chevy Cavalier. On my 26th birthday, the gauges just all stopped working. The speedometer, the gas gauge… all of them. It was an eternal guessing game in that car. And it passed inspection like that for years until finally in 2011 the place said it couldn’t pass in that state. Makes sense, but still… you missed it for, like, 4 years, guys.

Anyway, $1000+ fix later, it was good to go… until a tree fell on the car and obliterated it two months later.

Then I owned a 2010 Hyundai Accent. Within a year of owning it, I hit a deer. And then in the last year+ that I had it, the vents mostly quit working. They had a power setting of one-to-four, and would ONLY work on four. I either got no air or all the air. Also, this happened within three months of my warranty expiring.

Then I inherited my wife’s 2014 Elantra which I have currently spent over a month trying to get inspected, but it took the inspection until now to figure out the check engine light is on because a canister is cracked? Boom. That’ll be $700.

And on the car we have had for FOUR DAYS, we woke up today and the battery was dead. Brand new car.

There is a car god out there who hates the my Y chromosome forgot to include any passion or care at all regarding cars, man.

TITLE: Gotham Central: Half A Life

Writer and Artist: Greg Rucka and Michael Lark

Publisher: DC

Protagonists: Renee Montoya, Detective Allen, the GCPD

Antagonists: Two-Face

Enough about my eternal ability to ruin cars, let’s talk about today’s book.

Gotham Central was a title written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka detailing the lives of the men and women who worked for the Gotham Police Department. Gotham City being a notoriously violent and corrupt town, its police force has always been a strong supporting facet of Batman titles. From Commissioner Gordon to Harvey Bullock to Renee Montoya, the GCPD has been right there with (and sometimes against) The Bat and his allies as they try to make Gotham safe.

It only made sense that DC would eventually give these down-to-Earth characters their own title.

In what is likely the most noteworthy stretch from that run, issues six through ten detail the “Half A Life” storyline. This was the story that outed Renee Montoya as a lesbian and saw Two-Face try to ruin her life in an attempt to force her into his waiting arms.

With her family and co-workers turning on her, Renee is being stalked by a rapist she failed to put away. Marty Lipari finds Renee outside her lover’s house and threatens them both, causing Renee to threaten him back. Soon thereafter, Lipari is found dead; shot to death by Renee’s own weapon in his home.

Internal Affairs arrests Renee, but during transportation, the bus is attacked by Two-Face’s men. She awakens to Dent explaining that he had been behind everything because he wanted to leave her with no options than to be—and fall in love—with him.

With Montoya’s partner, Detective Crispus Allen, never doubting his partner’s innocence, its a race to save Renee from her kidnapper. As she and Dent struggle over a loose gun, Batman shows up and subdues Two-Face, preventing Montoya from killing him and losing any chance at clearing her name.

Oh man, it’s like you can just hear the Law & Order music playing on a loop in your head when you read this series.

Mainstream comic books and their larger-than-life stories about spectacularly dressed heroes clashing with maddening foes are excellent. You will never hear me question the greatness of them. But for their world to really work, we have to know the men and women on the ground whose lives are impacted by what they do.

Gotham Central was an outstanding title showing the differences that regular people can make in the faces of the Two-Faces, Mr. Freeze’s, and Firebugs of the world.

I’ve always said Batman is not an interesting character in himself and that he works best as a foil and a mirror for his stellar supporting cast. Gotham Central shined a light on that cast… and some of the members of it down the totem pole. Maggie Sawyer, Renee Montoya, and Crispus Allen are quality characters who get drowned out among the likes of Alfred, Jim Gordon, and the Robins and Batgirls.

Half A Life really set up Renee Montoya on the road to years of prominence in DC, during which she would even become the next iteration of the costumed hero The Question. She is not nearly as broken down here as she would get, but you start to see the splinters and her sometimes destructive response to personal crisis.

If I had anything I’d take the book to task for, it’s that it did have an early handicap on relying on Batman as a guest-star to save the day. Given the very point of the book, that always felt counter-intuitive. Batman could rescue an abducted officer in one his twelve monthly titles; why does he need to save Montoya, too? It makes sense with the direction that DC was going to take Renee that she didn’t high-road her way out of this, but couldn’t Allen and his new partner have been her savior instead?

Talking Point: What is your favorite all-time Batbook that isn’t a direct Batman vehicle?

That’s enough homework, though. If you liked this article, check out Ghosts of the Stratosphere. That’s my website where others and I write comic book and pop culture articles every day. Comics, Wrestling, TV, Movies… it’s all there.

You can also follow us on Twitter, @gotstratosphere for updates! Mostly I tweet about food.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
Lark’s gritty artwork is great for this series and just makes everything feel more real and grounded. I didn’t mention him above, but his work fits the title to a T. The characterization through GC is top shelf because you really buy in to how frustrating it would be to try and defend law and order in a place like Gotham. 

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Off the Rack, Rob Stewart