Gotham City Year One #3
Slam Bradley has been one step behind the kidnappers the entire time...can he turn the tables in time to save the infant heiress to the Wayne fortune? Is this hardened private investigator prepared to deal with a dark, deadly twist that will define Gotham City for generations to come?
Slam Bradley’s work for the Waynes isn’t going well. Not only has he failed to find their daughter, Bradley has also lost their ransom money. But if stopping the bad guy doesn’t work, getting revenge still can. And that’s just what Slam Bradley is up to in Gotham City Year One #3.
Rather than returning to the immediate aftermath of Bradley and Mr. Wayne in the cemetery, King opens Gotham City Year One #3 with a flashback to the breaking point of Bradley’s career with the police. King lingers in the scene for only a few pages before returning to the present, but it is more than long enough to depict a man who was a willing part of something distasteful finally having enough.
The story then jumps to the present. Bradley has dropped off Mr. Wayne before returning to his office the next morning. He expects a visit from the police, certain that Mr. Wayne is going to pin the kidnapping on him. What happens instead is that Mrs. Wayne visits Bradley and, convinced that her daughter is dead (”a mother knows”, she says), hires him to find the person responsible. From here Gotham City Year One #3 features the best kind of hit-the-pavement, old school detective work common to the genre. And all the while the question that hangs over the issue is whether the girl is actually already dead.
Gotham City Year One #3 is just what the series needs at this point. Most of what we’ve seen from Bradley so far has been him at other people’s beckon call. He’s got all the trappings of a hardboiled detective and he’s in a standard hardboiled detective story–but he hasn’t done much detecting. That stops with this issue. King spends a third of the book on that aspect of Bradley’s character.
Bradley is after Sue, the “middleman” who involved Bradley in the first place and ultimately absconded with the money. Bradley reasons Sue would need regular access to the roof to pull off the move she did when she escaped. So he tracks down the woman running the under the table cleaning service for the building. “Sue” isn’t working for the service anymore, but Bradley gets a first name and a lead on where she might be working now. That takes Bradley through every dance club on the South Side where he ultimately gets a last name. This goes on for a few more steps, and it’s wonderfully done. King writes very brief exchanges between Bradley and the people he talks to. The dialogue is efficient and moody, and speaks to a world of who-knows-who connections where nothing is on paper but nothing is really secret, either.
Visually Gotham City Year One #3 is the busiest issue so far. There is very little use of the more spartan white space and monochrome silhouettes and profiles that Hester, Gapstur, and Bellaire have employed to such great effect in the first two issues. That quality creates a mood distinct from the story to this point and feels consistent with a detective crisscrossing a big city in search of one person. Bellaire also gets to play with color a bit more here with a variety of locations all “lit” differently–some are harsh and others soft, some color combinations are complementary and others contrasting. This detective sequence implies a vibrant, liely city we haven’t had the opportunity to see much of.
Also of note when it comes to Bellaire’s work is the look of the opening flashback pages. White and black are used to create shape and definition, but any other coloring is done in red–almost a fire engine red. It’s an eye-catching, almost aggressive choice. Red doesn’t so much leap off the page as it does flash, getting in your face and grabbing your attention. It’s the perfect choice for such a critical scene. This isn’t a scene about what happened (though obviously it tells that story) as much as it is about why. And red is the perfect color to communicate a person rebelling against something ugly even as they’ve been a part of it.
But Gotham City Year One #3, for everything that it does right, does one thing noticeably wrong–and it’s really the first misstep in the series. The issue should end on the next to last page that has a callback to Mrs. Wayne’s earlier line: “A mother knows.” But the actual last page revisits the earlier flashback and King tells us explicitly, via Bradley, what motivated the detective’s break with the police and how he came to rebel against the ugliness of the system he had worked so well in. In King’s defense, it is written in such a way that Bradley is emphasizing it in universe to Bruce (who we know he’s talking to). It also has the side benefit of making plain in words what the opening scene suggested. But it’s unfortunate that King felt it was necessary to make explicit the already well-communicated subtext from the opening scene because it undermines what would have been a much more powerful ending.
Gotham City Year One #3 is almost as near-perfect as the first two issues. I didn’t even get to the usage of SLAM as a sound effect in that opening flashback. But King really steps on his own ending, and it’s too bad. I honestly was surprised there was that extra page at the end of the book–I thought the issue was over. Now is this arguably a nit pick? Yes. But the choice ruined what could have been a much more powerful moment.
Gotham City Year One #3: Real Detective Work
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 10/1010/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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