I realized recently that I don’t review very many comics of the superhero variety here, which is odd, because I read tons of them and its one of my very favorite genres. I think I mostly talk myself out of it because I know superheroes are kind of a niche and confusing to a lot of people, so I don’t want to review random installments of a larger story. But it’s MY niche, and there are tons of great stories and collections and graphic novels out there and if I can make it less confusing for people, show you what’s good and what’s available and explain how it fits in, I absolutely want to help! There are a lot of articles out there about where to start if you’re a beginner, but fewer about what to read after that, so, here I am.
I’ve got some Batman for you today — the two-volume New Gotham series by Greg Rucka, with various artists. I chose it because I read it recently, not because it’s a great entry point, but it would also be easy to pick up and read for any comic-book experience level. Each volume is its own story, but they happen sequentially. They take place after the Batman: Cataclysm and Batman: No Man’s Land events, in which Gotham suffered a massive earthquake and got officially abandoned by the U.S. government. Those events spanned something like three years of real time, and they’re worth reading too, but that’s all you need to know for New Gotham. The city has been restored to the U.S. and the people who evacuated have returned, but there’s friction between those who stayed and those who left.
New Gotham Vol. 1: Evolution
The story is fine. It’s about a Ra’s al Ghul plot in Gotham — you may recall Ra’s from Batman Begins, and the only extra thing you need to know is that nerds pronounce it “raysh” instead of “rahz.” The tone is a bit more noir than straight-up superhero, more reminiscent of Batman: The Animated Series. That’s not my favorite tone for Batman, so I wasn’t super invested in the plot, but I really enjoyed the art. There are three arcs within the overall story and each has its own colors, usually just black and white with one extra color. Red, then purple and yellow, then green. Some reviewers hated it, but I thought it was atmospheric and visually pleasing and I loved it.
New Gotham Vol. 2: Officer Down
The art here is back to a more “normal,” less aesthetic look, which is a shame. I find it kinda ugly actually. But this volume is actually the reason I read these at all; it’s a Batman/Jim Gordon classic. The plot is, in a nutshell, “who shot Jim Gordon?” and of course I wanted to read that because I always like Batfamily and Batman/Gordon interactions, I kinda ship it a little bit, but mostly I just super enjoy their dynamic and any secret identity hijinx with anyone.
Unfortunately this one starts off strong and then just never gets really intense like it should, partly because Batman is really frustrating in it. When he hears about Gordon he nearly strangles a criminal to death, and hits Nightwing when he tries to intervene. Then he kicks Barbara out of Jim’s hospital room and makes her lead the investigation while he literally just stands there brooding and occasionally yelling at people about how Jim has to pull through or else. It made Bruce look both dumb and shitty, and it definitely wasn’t the meaningful Bruce/Gordon material I wanted. However. The beginning and ending are satisfying, and the book is definitely a must-read if you like Gordon.
Both of these stories have Gotham police officers as major characters, so they’d be good introductions to those characters, or good choices if you enjoy Gotham or Batman: The Animated Series!