Gotham Central: In the Line of Duty
This collection reprints the first five issues of the cop comic by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Michael Lark. It’s a blend of Law & Order and CSI, complicated by being set in Batman’s city. Rucka and Brubaker have populated the cast with a variety of detectives, and Lark’s art is terrific at keeping the dialogue-heavy investigative scenes visually involving. He does a wonderful job with character expression as well.
While investigating a kidnapping, two detectives encounter Mr. Freeze, who kills one of them. Gotham Central: In the Line of Duty thus opens with shots of a frozen dismembered body in the first chapter. That pretty quickly establishes that this isn’t your father’s Gotham — Rucka and Brubaker take a much grittier approach to crime.
When the detectives discuss Batman and the way he’s changed their city, the authors are balancing the setting with a “regular guy” approach. The cops are trying to do the best job possible, but they’re overshadowed by Batman. Officially, they’re not supposed to acknowledge his existence. Unofficially, he’s like the co-worker who always does a better job.
It’s a mature way to show the human side of Gotham City. As a bonus, the introduction, by Lawrence Block, has a fascinating brief history of the term “Gotham”.