I think I’m getting a little tired of this series. I haven’t enjoyed any of the issues so far for various reasons, and I’m not feeling particularly excited about this one, either. But I am curious about how last month’s plot twists—Ortega deciding to start murdering people—plays out and I’m holding on to a shred of hope that maybe this issue will be do more for me than the previous installments. Let’s have a look.
I think the main problem that I have with this book is simply that these aren’t characters that I want to follow on a monthly basis. Renee is just sad all the time, drinking too much, being self-destructive, being mean to others—it’s just not a good look for her as a character and I don’t see what’s supposed to be interesting about having her slip into depression. Yes, she has moments of kindness, but those are few and far between, and I’m tired of seeing her going through the same motions every month. Then there’s Ortega. While I did feel more sympathetic toward him in previous chapters, now he is a murderer that guns people down in the streets. Granted, he’s killing dirty racist cops, but in this context it doesn’t feel like any sort of fictional poetic justice. After all, Ortega also killed two kind, innocent people along the way, just to make a point, and in doing so he has become an absolute psycho. The other two characters—Sam and Eric—don’t really have a whole lot to do anymore other than discuss Ortega’s situation, which just isn’t a very interesting direction for these brand new characters. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if in the final issue, which will be out next month, Sam is the one that shoots Ortega as an attempt to make her arc come full circle, but depending on how the creative team executes that—if that indeed happens—it may or may not land at all.
The dialogue is rather inconsistent. Sometimes the dialogue is pretty realistic in tone and I don’t really have a lot of criticism there, but then out of nowhere Ridley drops lines like, “[…] written with a poison pen and delivered with a bullet.” This sort of hardboiled stuff isn’t really something that people would say in normal conversation, and it clashes with the more realistic tone that has already been established.
Moreover, I don’t think a lot of the scenes flow together well. Sometimes we get somewhat aggressive cuts between scenes, and sometimes the transition doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. There are scenes, such as the one where Renee meets her late sister-in-law’s parents, that are supposed to be impactful, but which go by so fast that you barely have the time to let it sink in before we jump into the next scene. The dog subplot keeps distracting from the main story, as well; Ridley only has 6 issues in total and he keeps returning to the dog instead of creating character moments that simultaneously push the plot forward. In a series this short, with this many characters, more precise, economic writing is not only preferred, but a necessity.
Lastly, why isn’t Batman—or anyone in the huge Bat Family that we currently have—getting involved with this? We literally have a big press conference about someone who’s murdered innocent people in cold blood, and who continues to kill cops in the streets. You’d think that, at that point, Batman wouldn’t just leave this up to the GCPD, especially when he knows full well how corrupt the GCPD is, and is also what caused Ortega to lash out. I guess a story like this would work much better in a setting without superheroes, because Gotham is synonymous with the Dark Knight, and you know there’s a problem when you’re asking yourself (or the comic, rather): “Where’s Batman?”
That said, I’ll give the comic this: at least it feels like the plot is actually moving now. We have a defined villain, we have people trying to stop him, and we have the villain’s former friends caught in the middle. That’s a great formula for a dramatic comic book series. It’s just a shame that, at this point, in the penultimate issue, it’s too little, too late.
I’m still not a massive fan of the art. The dark Gotham backdrops look appropriately creepy, and I like how the violence and gore comes out of nowhere. We still get panel after panel of people sitting in chairs against bland backdrops, so whenever we do see these more detailed Gotham alleys and streets, or the heavy violence, it’s like it wakes you up. I’m still a little distracted by the fact that facial structures keep shifting from page to page, but close-ups, medium and large angles are chosen appropriately, and the colors are easy on the eye and very fitting for a gritty crime drama.
- The book has been too slow for you and you need some action.
- You’ve come this far and want to see it through.
- Renee maintaining a sad and defeatist attitude doesn’t bother you.
Overall: To me, it feels like the book has been going in circles, so I’m glad that something has happened that upsets the status quo. At the same time, I’m tired of Renee being this pessimistic about literally everything, and I dislike that the book has found its focus so late in the game. I still don’t recommend this series.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.