Friday, 27 May 2011

‘Gotham Central: In the Line of Duty’ – Rucka, Lark & Brubaker (DC Comics)

Babies don’t do an awful lot do they? They don’t really, just a bit of crawling from A to B and playing with stuff in-between. If it looks like they’re going to get into any trouble then an adult will very kindly step in and head things off. Why then is that babies are the main vector for all sorts of germs and illness? Seriously, I never used to get ill before Hope turned up and now I’ve spent the last couple of days absolutely wiped out by, well... everything I think. You wouldn’t believe how much Lucozade I’ve managed to get through! :o)

Episodes like this don’t do an awful lot for my ability to chip away at the reading pile (which has unexpectedly grown even more this week) so it’s at times like this that I say ‘thank the good lord for comic books!’ I’ll still argue with anyone that a well written comic book can have just as much meat to it as a regular book but these last couple of days I’ve been after something that’s a little easier on my poor headachy eyes. That’s where ‘In the Line of Duty’ came in and made for a very welcome change.

My reading ‘In the Line of Duty’ is the result of another trip to the library where I can get to take a bit more of a chance with my comic book reading. ‘In the Line of Duty’ caught my eye as it focuses on police officers who not only have no superpowers to protect them but must constantly prove their worth under the shadow of one of the most iconic heroes ever. When an officer is killed by the villain Mr Freeze his colleagues suddenly have a lot more to prove. The hunt for Mr Freeze is on and Gotham’s finest want to get to him before Batman does...

‘In the Line of Duty’ takes the spotlight off characters like Batman (and his various allies and enemies), keeping it firmly focussed on the Gotham P.D. instead. I liked this approach very much as it gave me chance to move outside the regular sphere of storytelling and look at something a little new instead. Having just reread that last sentence it’s funny to think that reading about the lives of ordinary people can be considered fresh and a little bit different. Only in comic books I guess... Do you guys have any other suggestions for comic book reading where superheroes take a backseat like this?

How does it all come off then? Brubaker does very well to show us what it’s like to be a cop working in Gotham City where a closed door can either be hiding a kidnapped girl... or a high powered super villain (there is more than one case under investigation in this book and the Gotham PD has to pick up all kinds of stuff); you don’t know what’s behind that door until you kick it in. There’s uncertainty, and tragedy as well, but there’s also a real sense of camaraderie that invites the reader to be a part of it too. You end up knowing just exactly what it means to be a police officer in Gotham City and you can’t help but respect the people who do that job. You certainly can’t blame them when they want to prove a point to Batman about the job that they do.

The story itself was perhaps signposted a little too clearly for me in that I saw the man behind the kidnapping a little earlier than was necessary to keep things moving along nicely. What I would say though is that I certainly never saw one of the other two cases under investigation linking to him in that manner and Brubaker does very well to spring that surprise on us while linking separate plot strands together in such a way. ‘In the Line of Duty’ is very intelligently written and demands your attention if you are to get the most out of it.

As far as the artwork goes, I was in two minds here. Rucka and Lark combine to create some gorgeously atmospheric panels that capture Gotham to a tee along with some very dynamic set pieces. What they sometimes fail to do though is let facial expressions shine through all that atmosphere, leaving the reader having to go purely on the dialogue. It’s not much of an imbalance but it’s there.

Minor niggles though really. ‘In the Line of Duty’ was a comic book that I found myself re-reading before I could put it down. A lovely read that gave me a glimpse of Gotham that I don’t think I’d have seen otherwise.

Nine and a Quarter out of Ten


Res said...

Brubaker and Rucka are the writers. Lark is the artist.

Graeme Flory said...

Don't know what happened there (I thought Rucka did the colours while Lark was on pencils)... Thanks for pointing that out though! :o)