gotham central

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30 day dc comics challenge | day 14, favourite city: gotham city

This isn’t Metropolis, Captain, and not just because our guy works at night. This isn’t the city of tomorrow, it’s not San Francisco, it’s not New York. It’s Gotham, and if you want to see what that means, just check out your squad room.

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There is no comic I recommend more often or more emphatically than Brubaker, Rucka and Lark's Gotham Central. It is easily one of the best superhero comics of the last twenty years–probably one of the best superhero comics ever. It is thrillingly written, gorgeously drawn, and emotionally resonant–and on top of this? Its treatment of gender, race, and sexuality isn’t just nuanced, but central to the storyline.

The first thing you need to know is that it isn’t really a superhero story. Gotham Central is about the Gotham City Police Department in general, the Major Crimes Unit in particular–caped characters pop up here and there, but the series is mostly about mopping up after them. It’s an ensemble story, and every single character is memorable, but the true protagonist and beating heart of the story is Renee Montoya. Half a Life, the comic’s second arc, deals with her outing as a lesbian to the GCPD–and if her story had stopped there, it would have been fantastic. Half a Life deals with professional discrimination, family tension, and the reality of being a lesbian woman of color–in a memorable scene, Renee confronts Maggie Sawyer, her white lesbian boss, for assuming their experiences are identical. But her story doesn't stop there. Renee’s arc goes on to deal with killing in the line of duty, confronting police corruption, the loss of friends on the force, and her own predilection for violence. It’s an incredible lesson in how to lead a female character down a dark path the right way–it’s never exploitative, it’s never gross, it’s never because of her gender or sexuality. It’s never cheap. Renee’s is the kind of hard-bitten, morally thorny sojourn reserved almost entirely for male characters.

But even apart from Renee, Gotham Central is tremendous. Soft Targets, the focus of the second volume, is one of my favorite Joker arcs ever, and I have serious Joker fatigue. Nature, a single issue story, gives Poison Ivy a personality beyond Sexy Plant Lady. Gotham Central even made me briefly care about the shitshow that was Infinite Crisis. I don’t even really like police procedurals! It’s just that goddamn good.

(So you want to get into comics?)

Dear comic artists:

This is how you draw a scantily-clad supe walking into a room. Take note. You see how Kory’s shoulders are back and she’s standing up straight and she comes off as calm and competent and completely relaxed? Notice how she’s not posed in a way that absolutely exploits all the different side-boob and side-ass options? That is how to draw a scantily-clad supe walking into a room.

Also, bonus points to the Gotham Central artist for having Maggie and Renee in the same haze of hotness as the men. A lesser artist (and writer, I assume, given that Brubaker is a details guy) would have had Maggie and Renee (both out lesbians) look away or scoff. But no. Starfire is hot and Maggie and Renee are into women they find hot. It’s great.