Tag Archives: Greg Rucka

Today’s Super Comic — Detective Comics #745 (2000)

The various Batman titles found renewed focus and creativity after the lengthy “No Man’s Land” arc (and during it, as I covered a few days ago). The different series had basically melded into a weekly book during that saga, but each one reclaimed a distinct identity afterward.

Detective Comics, naturally, focused on Batman as a master detective—an important facet of the character that’s much harder to pull off than the standard super-heroic action/adventure, and therefore much more rewarding when it’s pulled off well. And writer Greg Rucka pulled it off brilliantly, aided by excellent artist Shawn Martinbrough and an interesting coloring scheme.

During this period, the creators opted to forgo the full range of colors and cast the book in black, white, shades of gray, shades of red, and various flesh tones. It was a clever decision that gave the book a unique visual identity, and it served the somewhat noir-ish tone (Bat-noir?). The reds pop off the page, making every appearance of blood all the more striking and every scarlet sky just eerie enough.

The story is solid and well thought out. Issue #745 is in the middle of the first storyline, and Gotham City has recently reopened for business—including criminal business, of course. We meet a new villain, Whisper A’Daire, who’s making moves among the city’s most and least respectable residents. She’s somehow associated with Ra’s al Ghul, and for some reason part of her skin has scales. And she’s already arranged to have people killed. So basically, the world’s greatest detective has work to do.

Writing and art joined forces to create a memorable era for Batman and Detective Comics, one that struck a mature tone while keeping everything PG-13.

Writer: Greg Rucka

Pencilers: Shawn Martinbrough and John Watkiss

Inker: Steve Mitchell

Cover: Dave Johnson

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #125 (2000)

The Batman books attempted an ambitious storyline that wrecked the status quo and crossed over every Bat-title for a year. On the whole, the result was successful.

Prior to “No Man’s Land,” an earthquake had practically destroyed Gotham City, and the U.S. government decided to condemn the city and isolate it from the rest of the country. People had a window of time to evacuate, and those who stayed behind would be stuck in a lawless land.

You have to suspend quite a bit of disbelief for the premise, but once you get past that, it’s a great set-up for a year of Batman stories unlike any other. The villains carve out their respective territories to lord over, while the remnants of the Gotham City Police Department, no longer with any legal authority, try to impose order and protect the innocents left behind, with Jim Gordon serving more in a general role than a police commissioner role. And Batman is initially AWOL for reasons known only to him.

Throughout the long arc, resentment and tensions build between Batman and Gordon, and they come to a head in Legends of the Dark Knight #125, which is basically just a conversation between the two.

It’s an excellent conversation, one that was years in the making, with Gordon finally calling Batman out for acting like a jerk—treating him like a subordinate, leaving him in the dark about major events, and frequently walking out on him in mid-sentence. It was long overdue, and Batman’s response is meaningful…as is Gordon’s response to that response.

Batman may be the title character, but for this storyline, Gordon provides the emotional core and serves as the most compelling protagonist. A good man who has dedicated his life to upholding the law finds himself in a lawless situation and must make difficult, ethically murky choices along the way. That’s great stuff right there.

And yeah, Batman really was a jerk at this point in his history.

By the way, the “No Man’s Land” novelization by Greg Rucka is also excellent. There’s more than enough going on here to fill a novel.

Writer: Greg Rucka

Penciler: Rick Burchett

Inker: James Hodgkins

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Batman: No Man’s Land vol. 4 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Gotham Central #6 (2003)

gotham_central_vol_1_6I’m not a fan of police procedurals. But a police procedural set in Batman’s world? That breaks up the formula nicely.

Gotham Central focuses on the Gotham City Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit, during a time when Commissioner Gordon had retired. This GCPD isn’t necessarily Batman’s friend. Nevertheless, these ordinary but highly competent officers share his mission of stopping crime, especially the most colorful, eccentric crime that frequently plagues Gotham.

Writers Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka juggle a sizable cast over the 40-issue run of this consistently excellent series, and several come into sharp focus, particularly Detective Renee Montoya, the protagonist of the second storyline, “Half a Life.”

Rucka takes the writing helm for this arc, which begins in #6, and he clearly sets up Montoya’s status quo in this first part—her relationship with her parents, her typical interactions with her co-workers, her skill at her job, and her impending legal troubles. Then he blows it up on the last page, when a very private part of her life is unexpectedly made public. And this sets into motion what may well be the strongest storyline of the series…which is saying a lot.

Michael Lark brings exactly the right artistic style to the book. It’s down to earth, and not one character possesses a cartoonish physique. People look like people, and each face is distinct.

Gotham Central is a comic for adults…even those of us who lack any interest in cop shows.

Writer: Greg Rucka

Artist: Michael Lark

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Gotham Central vol. 2: Half a Life (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 15 and up