Review – Gotham City: Year One #1 – Hard-Boiled City

Comic Books DC This Week
Gotham City: Year One #1 variant cover, via DC Comics.

Gotham City: Year One #1 – Tom King, Writer; Phil Hester/Eric Gapstur, Artists; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Ray: Tom King’s stand-alone DC stories tend to be intensely focused on a single character, but this one feels different. This is the first that treats a setting as its main character—Gotham City in the 1960s, a less crime-riddled but no less flawed city, mired in a deeply segregated and racially troubled environment. Into that void steps Slam Bradley, a hard-bitten PI and Korean War veteran who stumbles into the biggest case of his career. A mysterious woman comes into his office, gives him an envelope that he’s supposed to deliver to the Waynes—Richard and Constance Wayne, the first family of Gotham City. Their baby daughter was just taken from their home in a kidnapping reminiscent of the Lindbergh Baby affair, and to say they’re tense would be putting this lightly. As soon as Slam appears, he’s beaten by security, interrogated, and revealed to be a pawn in the kidnapper’s plan—a kidnapper who uses a Bat as his insignia.

The delivery. Via DC Comics.

The is obviously an intriguing setup right out of the gate, but this comic mires us in a deeply ugly world from the start and never lets up. Slam is the only thing resembling a likable character, but the comic strongly implies that he’s got some sort of horrific history involving black people. Characters casually drop racist slurs and dialogue, and just about every person in the story uses intimidation and violence as their only tactic. So it’s hard to root for anyone, even Slam, until the last act—which shows an elderly Slam telling this story to Batman, with the implication it just might have implications in the present day. The historic overtones of the story are intriguing, and Phil Hester’s art looks as good as it ever has. But this is a comic that takes King’s penchant for dark, noir-inspired storytelling and takes it into overdrive. After the more inventive takes he’s had in recent books of his, this one isn’t entirely clicking for me yet.

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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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