Thursday, July 29, 2010


You may have read a crime novel or ten about a psychotic serial killer with a flair for the dramatic who dispatches his victims in grizzly, gory, elaborate, over-the-top ways: crucified, flayed, dismembered with its long bones rearranged to form a pentagram, murdered in groups according to the Fibonnaci series or the list of prime numbers or the harmonic intervals in a Bach prelude.

That sort of thing gets cartoonish after a while, so why not do it in cartoon form in the first place?

That's what writers Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka and artist Michael Lark do in "In the Line of Duty," first story in the Gotham Central collection, one of very many tales in which Batman has become a problematic figure.

The tale's villain is Dr. Victor Fries — Mr. Freeze — who wears a cryogenic suit to survive and who takes his revenge by freezing victims — nothing if not over the top. In the story's opening scene, Freeze attacks two police who raid an apartment where he's holed up, zapping one with his freeze gun and snapping his brittle torso in two.

Over the top, but it works. Brubaker, Rucka and Lark, creating a dark, realistic story in the traditions both of Batman's post-1986 return to his dark roots and of Ed McBain's group police procedurals, nevertheless manage to accommodate the most extravagant of superpowers and the most fiendishly violent of killings. No way anyone could get away with that in regular, non-comic-book crime fiction without inducing a fit of eye-rolling.

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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Blogger Elettra said...

Hey there Peter!! This does sound pretty cool although I did get all wrapped up in the Fibonacci series that you linked. The bones being arranged in the "harmonic intervals in a Bach prelude" sounds like a book I'd like to read!! I'm not so familar with the genre, can you tell me which book you're referring to (re:the Bach) so I can check it out??


July 30, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ha! I'm afraid I outsmarted myself. Those are all books of my own imagination, little jabs at extravagant killer and their overheated creators.

In fact, real fictional killers don't go much beyond pentagrams, crucifixions and killings by threes in my recent reading experience.

July 30, 2010  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

I love it when old-time comic staples inject a little grittiness into the proceedings. Makes everything more fun.

Also, I'm never going to listen to Bach the same way again.

July 30, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

For years I had the idea that new comics were nothing but grimess. Well, grimness and full-bleed color.

I still think that's largely the case, but I have realized slowly that the grimess and grittiness in Batman are in significant measure returns to the characters' roots and not all hip affectation.

July 30, 2010  

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