Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gotham Central: Half a Life by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark

Renee Montoya is a cop in Gotham City, Just before Gotham became No Man's Land, Renee, then a uniformed cop partnered with Harvey Bullock, went home to see her family, only to walk into an armed confrontation with a man who was demanding more water than rationing would allow him from her parents. She took care of him, and saved her parents, but soon got caught up in helping her brother, who was finding and freeing people from the rubble with the help of none other than Two-Face.

She thought that he was a murderer, but her brother explained how he'd been helping people, and while she helped out, she kept an eye on him- until she was injured helping Two-Face free an old man from the rubble. Then, as her father gave her one last bullet for her empty gun, she continued to keep an eye on him- until Batman showed up. He and Dent got into a fistfight, but she assured Batman that she could reach Dent, and managed to do so long enough for him to keep helping her and the others free trapped people.

Now, Gotham is back in business, and Renee's parents want her to be married, but they argue about her job, which keeps her from meeting anyone suitable- but that's not the real reason that Renee is still single. It's because she's a Lesbian, but her parents severely disapprove of that lifestyle. So she keeps her secret as best she can, and her lover secret as well- because her fellow cops have enough reason to disapprove of a Latina cop.

But on her 29th birthday, she gets sent flowers, and she gets ragged on a bit by the other cops wanting to know who sent them. Does she have a "Boyfriend"? When she finds out that Bruce Wayne sent them for Harvey Dent, she's nice enough to celebrate her birthday with him in Gotham Asylum.

It seems the cops could care less about her flowers, but when someone outs her secret life, not only to the cops she works with, but to her parents as well, Renee must go into full damage control mode, while trying to keep the two parts of her life separate. And when the "investigative reporter" who took the pictures is murdered with Renee's gun, she's arrested for his murder.

Of course, she didn't do it, but who did? And how will her parents react to the truth of her orientation? Can Renee ever forget, or forgive the man who outed her and destroyed her life? And how will she prove that she didn't kill the man and get herself freed from incarceration?

This was one of the first Gotham Central graphic novels I've read. The spine is marked #2, but it occurs before the events of the two other Gotham Central novels, both the first part, and the rest, since in the other Gotham Central Novels, Renee Montoya is taking time off, presumably to recover from the events of this story. And who can blame her? What she undergoes is pretty horrific, with Two-Face deciding to take everything away from her so that she'll be forced to love him.

And the fallout is ongoing- because of it, she's forced into prison with men she's personally put away, and criminals who hate cops generally. But the bus she's on that transfers criminals to the main prison is attacked, and she's kidnapped from it, making it look like she's escaped. But, of course, being a lesbian, she can never love Harvey Dent the way he wants her to love him- and the way he loves her.

You have to wonder why, knowing of Renee's lesbianism, Harvey Dent thought it was still possible to win her love. Well, I suppose that's part of why he's insane- refusing to accept outcomes he doesn't like. Reading this graphic novel was rather harrowing, but that's what made it a good story. I would definitely recommend this book to other people who enjoy graphic novels. It's one of the better examples in recent history.

The art is very good, although two stories are included that are drawn by two quite different artists than Michael Lark. The first is from Gotham Chronicles #16, and resembles the art in the early Batman Animated series (and since Renee Montoya got her start in that series, it fits quite well), and a second tale far closer to the gritty art in the last story- almost making all three mesh. This graphic novel doesn't evoke the kind of four color superhero tales as much as it does Crime Dramas or Police Procedurals like Law and Order or CSI- if those characters had to take a backseat to a vigilante who did everything better and took down criminals they couldn't even touch. I like this series, and I want to read more, but confess I am confused by the numbering here. Highly recommended.

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