Review: Gotham Central: The Quick and the Dead trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

We're continuing our Gotham Central marathon here at Collected Editions now with volume four, The Quick and the Dead. I enjoyed the single issue stories in this trade; the Gotham Central collections have mostly been of the major storylines, and it's nice to see a couple of the one-shots. The pacing in the first three stories is less frantic than some of the others, and allows for some great character moments, including Montoya's fist-fight with dirty cop Corrigan, and Commissioner Allen's confrontation with the Batman.

That said, allow me to nitpick a bit on some issues in The Quick and the Dead. Gotham Central is meant to be an ensemble book, and while Ed Brubaker's Gotham Central stories do a nice job of branching from Marcus Driver to the rest of the Gotham Central cast, Rucka's stories always come back to Montoya. Though I admire the work that Greg Rucka's done with Renee Montoya in Gotham Central, I can't help but feel that it works to the detriment of the series as a whole.

The difficulty of this is visible in a dramatic scene where Montoya and her partner Crispus Allen have to bargain with Dr. Alchemy to save another officer's life, allowing Alchemy to ask them personal questions. Alchemy's dialogue with Montoya, insulting her sexuality, are shown in the scene; Alchemy's questions to Allen, however, about how it feels to be a black copy on the predominantly white Gotham police force, are only excerpted when the officers watch a video of the interrogation later. Rucka's devotion to Montoya eclipses any chance of the same examination of Allen's character, dampening in my opinion the story's potential as a whole. This is not to denegrate Rucka's important work with Montoya, but rather to note what I think was a missed opportunity.

Additionally, while I enjoyed immensely the inclusion of Chyre, Morillo, and Ashley Zolomon from Geoff Johns' Flash run (characters that could probably have supported a Keystone Central title themselves), I didn't think they were used to their full extent. I appreciated the comparisons between the relatively low-key Keystone "kops" and their rapport with their Rogues versus the life-or-death horror that the Gotham police face and how it affects them, but the Keystone cast came off as surprisingly generic.

All the Keystone cast have personal reasons for why they fight crime--Zolomon, for one, is at this time dealing with the crimes her husband committed--but these reasons are never addressed. Morillo never even calls his wife, as is often played for laughs in Flash. For a writer with the power of Greg Rucka, playing with toys created by Geoff Johns, I expected far more from this story.

[Contains full covers, short cast biographies. Trade Paperback Slugfest: Gotham Central: Unresolved Targets still holds the record for my favorite Gotham Central trade. Volume three wins again!]

Make no mistake, Gotham Central raises the bar as to what comic books and graphic novels can do, and if anything this volume suffers only from not reaching the bar that the series itself set. Tune in coming up for a review of the final trade of Gotham Central and a look back at the series, where we celebrate all that it had to offer. Thanks for reading!
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