It is interesting that this fourth volume of Gotham Central is titled Corrigan, because in most of this collection of stories the corrupt Crime Scene investigator is a central figure, especially in the climatic one, but the actual main arc of the story is the partnership between Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen. Although Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker get joint billing as the writers, in reality, the bulk of the book is Rucka's and as we shall see the overall tone and final effect is most definitely his. And although he is the titular mainstay, Corrigan is, in effect, the catalyst for the conflicts which will challenge both the detectives. The biggest contrast is the sense that Allen, the family man, has something to fall back on, while Montoya, a lesbian who can't seem to come to grips with being loved by her girlfriend, doesn't. It is on this contrast that the stories flow together, and ultimately, give the climax its power.
The book starts with a short, 'Nature', written by Rucka and drawn by Steve Lieber, which is there to establish Corrigan's centrality as a villain. It is less successful than the rest of the book, mostly because it deals with the supernatural. The concept of Gotham Central is a police procedural in a city where super villains and super heroes, particularly the Batman, dominate. Thus is requires the reader's suspension of disbelief to credit that such beings exist, but also requires that the delineation be clear. Here that boundary is crossed and the story falls flat.
'Dead Robin' is a three-parter written by Rucka and Brubaker, in which Gotham has outlawed costumed heroes (a la Watchmen), and someone is killing young boys and dressing them as Robin. It's a kind of old fashioned parlour mystery, whose most interesting facet is the return of the Batman to close the case. The relationship of Romy Chandler, who shoots The Batman and loses her gun, with Nate Patton is put under strain, while the backstory to Allen and Montoya's partnership—that she had to compromise with Corrigan to save his career, is restated as a subplot. The art, by Kano and Stefano Guadiano is good, but oddly uneven, sometimes looking cartoony in the midst of otherwise dark images, as if it's been redrawn. This story sets up a coda, another short written by Rucka and drawn by Lieber, called 'Sunday Bloody Sunday', which hammers home the contrasts and the dependencies of Allen and Montoya, as Gotham goes into meltdown as part of DC's Infinite Crisis, and Allen tries to get across the city and back to his family. The story works well, and it's payoff is powerful, but it's not until you reach the end of the final chapters of the book that you get its full impact.
That story is 'Corrigan II', in which the police close in on Montoya's nemesis, and tragedy results. Rucka again scripts, and he's at his best when dealing with loss—something that won't surprise those who've read, for example, Whiteout. He doesn't need to bring everything to conclusion, and he knows that such conclusions are not simple, even though that has traditionally been the staple of the contained comic story. Apparently, this story also sets the stage for a different sort of sequel, which I won't give away, but it would not have to it for it to work on the series' own terms. Again there are moments when Kano and Guadiano's art seems slighter—sometimes reminding me of Guy Davis, more stylized and less norish than at other times. But overall, the effect is fine, and the softer touch suits Rucka's style: Brubaker might be more noirish in the sense of there being little hope, but Rucka, because he has the touch of sentimental faith, maybe even more effective when life, inevitably, deals from the bottom of the deck.
GOTHAM CENTRAL, Book Four: Corrigan
written by Greg Rucka & Ed Brubaker
art by Kano, Stefano Guadiano, Steve Lieber
Titan/DC Comics £14.99 ISBN 9780857681898