Review by Ian Keogh
‘Officer Down’ ran through one issue of each of DC’s titles set in Gotham over March 2001, with the graphic novel appearing later that year. The officer in question spots Catwoman and is attempting to arrest her when they’re shot three times in the back.
It is mired in the times, and some aspects will puzzle many years later, such as Batgirl communicating via pictograms, and Azrael in his briefly worn red and white costume. It seems to have been plotted by one writer who then leaves the next to continue the story, Greg Rucka starting and wrapping up, as others build on the plot gradually piecing together clues as a life hangs in the balance. While most of the regular series writers contribute, DC used the story to try out new artists, or at least artists new to them or Batman, and the process of one handing over to the next results in some wild stylistic changes. Place five illustrations of Barbara Gordon by different artists together and it could be five different people. The sample art is that of the Pander Brothers, who haven’t been told Harvey Bullock is supposed to be considerably overweight, and Mike Lilly, whose Catwoman is extraordinarily top heavy. Very little of the art impresses. The Pander Brothers are good, but their stiff exaggerations aren’t suited to Batman, and only Rick Burchett would go on to have a long career with DC. He draws three of the seven chapters, and there are some nice touches, particularly a great shadow on a splash page, but it’s early in his career, and his Alfred is especially strange.
The best individual chapter is the work of Nunzio DeFilipis and Mike Collins toward the end, when the superheroes have played their part and are only observers. DeFilipis takes his inspiration from the Pembleton in the Box scenes produced so well on Homicide: Life on the Street, having the Gotham police grill the suspect, the officers trying everything they can, while the suspect is aware of their twelve hour deadline. It’s tense and twists nicely. Rucka’s familiarity with the detectives even in pre-Gotham Central days shines though, his Bullock excellent and his Commissioner Gordon well considered. He supplies a nice ending as well. For all that, there’s a lot of padding, and some suspect art, which makes Officer Down a dated indulgence now.