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[personal profile] merisunshine36 posting in [community profile] comics_reviews_etc

Gotham Central is a multiple award winning series that focuses on the lives of the detectives and cops in the Gotham Police Department. (This review is for Books 3 & 4 of the series because I read those first). The art is gritty and real, the characters grab you and make you fall in love with them. It is also the single most depressing thing I've ever read since, oh, Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.

I've always had this issue with the universe of Batman, in that they have all these horrible, violently evil people running around Gotham wreaking mass havoc and they keep putting them back into jail or Arkham as if that's going to help anything. I know, I know, it's a comic, but still--I have yet to manage enough suspension of disbelief to ignore what seems to be a central tenet in how this world works (disclaimer: 95% of my familiarity with the Batverse comes from the various animated series/films). Gotham Central turns the normal dynamic between cops, bad guys, and caped crusaders on its head, but is not so gentle with the lives of its human protagonists. It seems to follow a Game of Thrones-esque set of rules when dealing with the heroes in this series: if there is a character you enjoy, love, or find even remotely sympathetic, something horrible will happen to them and/or they will die.

I don't want to make it seem like I hated this comic, because I don't. There are a lot of amazing things going for it. More female characters than you can shake a stick at, and some of them are both minorities and LGBTQ. I adored Renee Montoya as a character, but eventually grew tired of villains showing up to leer and go "ew lesbians!" in her direction. On the other hand, Renee's dubious ethics are fascinating, particularly when the sweet domestic scenes with her girlfriend Daria are weighed against those in which she beats the crap out of people.

Another thing I adored was the snarky relationship Gotham Major Crimes Unit has with Batman and his legendary manpain. No one is perfect and everyone exists in shades of grey. One of my favorite stories happens when one of Detective Josie MacDonald teams up with Catwoman to solve a crime, antagonistic buddy-cop style. Mostly because it resulted in sequences like this (I pulled this from the bottom of one page and the top of the next, hence the slight jankiness):

I love this scene! So many interesting things going on just one frame. Who knows what will happen next? Maybe Josie will try and punch her, or maybe they'll start making out. You can practically see all of the thoughts turning around in their heads.

Overall, there is a lot of obvious time and effort put into every single character, even the walk-ons who disappear back into the black hole where MacGuffins go to die after they're done being kidnapped or offering up crime tips. This contributes a lot to the fact that, every time I finish one of these books, I want to curl up into a little ball with a puppy and a cup of tea. I took me about 3 months to get through both of them because I take a lot of breaks while reading. Gotham Central is amazing, but it will kick you in the teeth.

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