Gotham Central, Book 1 is written by Ed Brubacker and Greg Rucka, and illustrated by Michel Lark, published in 2011 by DC Comics (I am making a concerted effort to become more familiar with creators’ names).
As you may have guessed from the title and cover, this is about the cops in Batman’s Gotham City. It is specifically about the cops assigned to the super/powered cases. How do they deal with being average (well, as average as a good cop can be) women and men in a city plagued by good and bad supers?
This comic starts out action packed. It does not take long at all for the characters to come across their first super baddie. They are ill-prepared to deal with these criminals, because how can a police department prepare for Mr. Freeze, the Joker, or Two-Face? Especially since they are still recovering from or in the grips of the corruption for which Gotham City police are so well-known.
The best part, though? They HATE Batman. It is a combination of resenting the fact that they cannot deal with these issues on their own, embarrassment, and the classic hatred of a cop for a vigilante. The other cops make fun of their need for Batman. Hell, they cannot even officially admit at this point that Batman exists, and certainly not that he helps them. They resent his movements outside of the law, but their need to protect their city and its people over ride this distaste.
And it is certainly not all about Batman! Batman is very much a side character and minor presence in these stories. He only shows up at the end or is mentioned briefly. It is very similar to many of the cop dramas that are so common today. It is about the investigation, more about the people than the CSI type aspects, and about the cops’ relationships. For example, one of the stories in this book is about one of the cops being outed as a lesbian by one of the perps.
This book is so much fun. As many of you know, I am a big Marvel fan, and do not have much time for DC. However, I love stories about the normal people in these fantastic universes. What are the reactions of people when Batman fights the Joker? What happens to the average citizen when Spider-Man fight Doc Ock through New York? Gotham Central is an excellent case of starting to fill in some of these holes. Admittedly, these are not 100% average citizens. They are cops and trained to deal with at least some unusual circumstance. But what other characters would work better? If it was a soccer parent, I would totally not buy him/her running in to confront Mr. Freeze. Cops, though? They would kind of have to, wouldn’t they?
The best story is the second arc in the books (this is where spoilers are going to start a bit). As I said above, one of the cops is outed as a lesbian by one of the perps, a rapist, that she arrested. This character is not only a lesbian, but she is Latina. The story goes not only into the criminal intricacies of her being framed for murder (of that perp), but into her relationship with her significant other and her parents (who do not know about her sexuality until the end of the story). It is a bit of a bitter sweet ending, but it is a powerful one. It definitely makes me want to pick up volume two to find out what happens to these cops! And learn a bit about the DC Universe from this angle.