The idea of recontextualizing Gotham and, by extension, Batman comics is an exciting one. The character has existed for decades in countless interesting and exciting tales, but how often have those stories moved the needle and changed things? Enter Gotham City: Year One, a series where Tom King and Phil Hester dare to tell tales that will influence Gotham and possibly Batman as we know it. The latest chapter, Gotham City: Year One #4, is out today and further cements some titanic details that add to the rich tapestry of Batman comics.
Gotham City: Year One #4 opens with a reminder the protagonist, Slam Bradley, is too good a detective for Gotham. Jailed by the police, he gets a thorough beating but won’t give up a single detail about his case. He’s a man of his word. This story has been noir beyond belief, and the beatings and general flow of this story continue to honor the film noir classics of the past.
As the story progresses, Slam continues to have mostly bad luck but also some good. Along the way, we learn new details that could mean figuring out the case. There are two major moments that folks will discuss, one involving a reveal that centers on Crime Alley. The other quite possibly could change Batman’s lineage. It’s too early to say on the latter, but it’s a bold move if that’s the direction this story is going for.
Boldness is a key factor in Hester’s art here, which is wonderfully inked by Eric Gapstur. Silhouette is used expertly throughout, be it black silhouette or white cutouts exhibiting a silhouette feel. Dramatic close-ups are used quite a bit, putting you right there with key characters. An interesting two-page moment starts on one page showing Slam getting close to a woman. Then in the second page, those same panels play out in a single color behind Slam embracing and kissing the woman in full color. It’s a neat way to show the delicate moments before their embrace leads to a powerful connection.
Color is a significant factor in making these scenes work. They’re by Jordie Bellaire, who captures the scene’s warm sort of evil nature with Mr. Wayne. Later there’s a scene cast in cool blues that feel almost tragic when Slam makes love. Later, a scene cast in red helps confirm the violence and act itself are pretty wrong.
This issue does have a slight hiccup in how it jumps from scene to scene. There are five total scenes, each with a little transition to the next. It all makes sense on the page but feels sudden. That’s especially true when the second woman ends up in his apartment.
Gotham City: Year One #4 is another enticing chapter revealing truths about Gotham, the Waynes, and possibly Batman himself. It’s exciting to see there are hidden tales worth telling expertly unveiled by the creators in each chapter.
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