Review by Ian Keogh
The arrival of the Gotham TV series prompted a few welcome trade paperback publications, as DC scrabbled for tie-ins. At first glance this fusion of three 1990s miniseries spotlighting Gotham Police Commissioner James Gordon and his department might not seem an ideal purchase all these years later, yet allowing for some minor progressions of style in the intervening years, they all provide a base level of entertainment as crime comics.
All three tales contrast Gordon’s honesty with the corruption rife in the police department he oversees, with the title story, the final one here, depicting just how close he came to accepting the status quo in his younger days.
We open with ‘Gordon’s Law’, in which a bank robbery is carried off to perfection and with little concern for the lives of others. It’s a case that haunts Gordon, who was present at the time, and a little digging renders it all the more personal. It’s not anything he can share with other officers, and for reasons revealed he doesn’t want Batman involved. It’s a skilfully constructed plot from Chuck Dixon, given the appropriate noir twist by Klaus Janson’s gritty art (featured) supplying a dank Gotham of smoke filled bars and rain washed streets. The presentation ensures that, Gordon aside, the reader can’t be certain who’s on the level, such is the entwining of crook and cop. Dixon reinforces Gordon’s police credentials and keeps us guessing to the end. Job done, and it’s the best of the stories here.
There’s less of Gordon in ‘G.C.P.D.’, also written by Dixon and very much a precursor to Gotham Central, which ironically progressed without Gordon for various continuity reasons, and so does this. The focus here is on detectives Harvey Bullock, overweight and hardly by the book, and Renee Montoya, whose relationship with him is complex. Less well known are Detectives Kasinsky and Kitch who’re investigating robberies where the goods are offered back to the insurers. Bill Sienkiewicz inking Jim Aparo provides an interesting art combination, but Dixon’s plot is by the numbers.
Denny O’Neil, who redefined Batman in the 1970s writes ‘Gordon of Gotham’, looking back to his early days on the force in Chicago, and it’s the most straightforward of the three tales. He’s partnered with a brutal cop to whom the upstanding Gordon is a complete pain. Gordon’s naivety, though, it seems, will ensure he’s ensnared in the amoral atmosphere. There is a tipping point, and thanks to an intervention it’s a path Gordon avoids. There’s a coda in the present day, and while the art team of Dick Giordano and Klaus Janson are solid throughout, it doesn’t entirely convince.
To claim these are long dormant masterpieces would be to lie, but while not quite up to that standard, anyone who enjoyed Gotham Central shouldn’t consider their money wasted on Gordon of Gotham.