Gotham Central Volume 3

Written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka
Illustrated by Michael Lark, Stefano Guadiano, and others
DC Comics

In our third volume of Gotham Central, we take on the worst of Gotham's criminals--the Joker. He's out to make the Christmas season a merry and murderous one, and only the Gotham police can stop him--if they can figure out his insane plot. What makes a man start a killing spree, then show up at police headquarters, with seemingly more to do?

I was really excited about how this one was going--finally, we'd see the GCPD handle a case without the Bat. And what a case--the Joker!

Except we don't. Just as things are coming to a head, the Bat steps in--again. Just like he did the first few stories, Bats swoops in to solve the day, one way or the other. Now, I know that the whole idea is that Bats is everywhere, especially in the case of the Joker, but the point of this book is to focus on the police. The back cover blurb calls this "Law and Order" for Gotham. But it can't be, as long as Batman is always there to be the Deus ex Batina. There's no law--save for one of marketing--that says Batman has to appear to take on the meta. It's a shame that a good concept keeps getting undermined by the need to have the Dark Knight show up at the end.

The second story, not coincidentally written by Brubaker only, finally does what I think Gotham Central should do--focus on the cops and how they fit into this world of larger-than-life criminals. Harvey Bullock, disgraced and drunken, has a case that haunts him. When new evidence comes to light, he tries to take matters into his shaky hands. With the Penguin and the Mad Hatter in the mix, can the official cops of Gotham stop Harvey's rampage? Do they even want to?

While I hate what they did to Bullock here (Did a punch to the time stream change all this? I certainly hope so...) this is the story I wanted to read from this title. The cops use cop methods to track down the perps and deal with the metas and the crazies on terms that make sense if you're a regular human. Batman's a shadow, not a physical form--and that's exactly the way it should be.

I really like this title, save for the frequent Bat-god endings. It was a nice idea that probably would have worked better a few years ago, when DC was less interested in EPIC BATTLES every five minutes and therefore requiring its entire line of comics to do the same. Definitely worth a look for Bat-fans looking for something different, a bit more fitting of the old Detective Comics line. DC could do a lot worse than to publish more books like this one.