This is a new miniseries that focuses on police officers in the streets rather than masked superheroes on the rooftops. At NYCC 2022, Ridley said that this book will mainly focus on social criticism, Renee’s struggles with her new position as commissioner and addiction, and that the book will be rather dark in tone. All of that sounds great, but can the creative team pull this one off? Let’s have a look.
This first issue is a bit of a mixed bag. It starts out pretty well, with Renee giving a speech to a group of graduates at the police academy. While the speech is very short, I think it’s good writing because it establishes the themes of the comic in a concise and direct way. After the opening scene we meet three of the graduates as they step into their new roles as cops, and we see how they all look up to Renee while Renee herself is struggling with inner conflict and addiction. It’s an interesting juxtaposition that helps to develop Renee’s character within the context of this book, but the way it’s executed is rather heavy-handed because there’s no subtlety to any of it.
This problem of heavy-handedness persists in various scenes throughout the comic. For example, one of the new officers, Park, does not shoot an innocent person that’s suspected of having committed a crime and she’s immediately a public hero. While the comic is somewhat self-aware of how on-the-nose this is, because Renee talks about that, the execution of this stuff still feels forced to me because it’s not organically woven into the narrative and I’m not sure how realistic it is that everyone in the streets will start trying to take pictures of an officer who made the news for not shooting someone, even when police brutality is such a major problem.
Moreover, there’s no clear plot being set in motion yet. While it’s fine to focus on characters first, especially in a first issue where we’ve just met them, I still think there has to be some sense of direction. As it stands, this issue reads more like a collection of standalone scenes that try their hardest to make certain political points, while there’s no strong narrative structure set up to hold it all together.
On top of that, at least two of the new main characters have not been introduced in a way that I care enough about them and want to continue reading about them. The character focus here is mostly on Renee and Park, and while Renee is definitely the most well-written here and Park seems to already have embarked on a character arc, the other two graduates just don’t seem as interesting and for some reason I keep forgetting their names.
What’s more, this first issue wants to establish that the graduates have been close friends, like the three musketeers, but we barely see them together at all. As a result, I’m not feeling any real chemistry between them beyond them reminiscing about how they have been such good friends when they were still in the academy—although, to be fair, a scene toward the end, where two of them are trying to comfort the other, does a lot more to establish their friendship than any of the other scenes in the book. But even then, this dynamic needs more work to make me truly believe it.
I do enjoy Rafaelle’s artwork throughout, though. Along with Anderson, the artist creates a gritty aesthetic that fits the tone of the book well. While at times the artists seem to be taking the easy way out with ill-defined backgrounds, there are pretty cool visual cues here as well; for example, when Renee thinks that she sees Two-Face in a crowd, or the tense chase sequence during which Park tries to catch up with a suspect. The action is easy to follow, character expressions are well-rendered, and the colors are varied and layered. While the art could be more refined and detailed, this comic’s real problems are in the writing department more so than the art.
- Moving away from superheroes and focusing on regular cops sounds like a good idea.
- You’re looking to read a Gotham book that focuses on social issues first.
- Renee Montoya is one of your favorite characters.
Overall: Though there’s plenty for me to critique, I don’t think this is a bad comic necessarily. I’m just disappointed that everything is so on-the-nose rather than an organic part of the story. That said, Renee and Park have great potential to shine as main characters, and while there’s not enough focus on the other two new cops yet, there’s plenty of time to develop them too. It remains to be seen how good this comic will become as the series progresses, but for now I recommend waiting and seeing what reviews will say about the upcoming issues.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.