5 out of 5
Gotham Central’s opening two-parter had one of the best first issues of all time, bringing to reality the horror of facing off against Batman’s rogues when you’re a beat cop, and introducing the complex love / hate relationship the GCPD has with the Bat. Unfortunately, by jumping in at the deep end with a legit powered baddie – Mr. Freeze – the book also had to resolve things with Freeze, without shifting the focus too much to The Dark Knight, and as such, the second issue kind of prances offstage versus the bombastic opening that preceded it.
With the setup established, Ed Brubaker can find the right tone for the series’ blend of procedural and spandex antics, shifting a lower-tier baddie’s crimes (Firebug) into the background of an attempt to resolve a kidnapping-turned-murder case. Marcus Driver, survivor of the Freeze encounter, is our general POV character, needing to shut the book on this particular case as it was interrupted by having his partner murdered by Freeze and also coming to something of “terms” with Batman, in an excellently scripted closing scene. But Brubaker also effectively fleshes out the bullpen, giving us more time with Sarge, and Romy, keen to drop cop / street lingo in context without any invasive asterisk explanations to help us out, and mashes together his two cases – the kidnapping, Firebug – into a perfectly paced back and forth of suspects and hunches.
Lark, Giddings, and Schubert are all once again on hand to nail the look and feel; we absolutely buy into the reality of all these cops, while also being convinced by a cutaway to, say, Robin fighting Croc.
Gotham Central truly was something special at the start.