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The officers of the Gotham City Police Department have to deal with all sorts of threats, from accidentally stumbling across Mr. Freeze while looking for a missing girl to finding out why Firebug killed someone. There are normal cases, too, kidnappings and murders, but they are interspersed with the flotsam and jetsam created by Batman and his rogues gallery.
This comic is divided into the day and night shifts of the Major Crimes Unit, the department of the GCPD tasked with dealing with "freaks" (supervillains) and the more important mundane crimes. Regular characters included Marcus Driver, Romy Chandler, Renee Montoya, Crispus Allen, Maggie Sawyer, and Josephine "Josie Mac" MacDonald.
The series was first collected into five trade paperback volumes which collected almost (but not all) issues. Some volumes also contain stories not published within Gotham Central, but from other DCU series that feature common characters:
- Vol. 1: In the Line of Duty
- Vol. 2: Half a Life
- Vol. 3: Unresolved Targets
- Vol. 4: The Quick and the Dead
- Vol. 5: Dead Robin
Four hardcover collections have also been published. These editions collect all published issues of Gotham Central, including the issues absent from the trade volumes, but lack the connected stories from independent comics:
- Book 1: In the Line of Duty
- Book 2: Jokers and Madmen
- Book 3: On the Freak Beat
- Book 4: Corrigan
The series is being republished in trade paperback, this time collecting the entire series, but like the hardcovers, leaving out connected stories from other comics. This run is incomplete as of early 2012, but books 4 and 5 are expected later this year. The volumes in this printing do not match up with either of the previous ones.
- Book 1: In the Line of Duty
- Book 2: Jokers and Madmen
- Book 3: On the Freak Beat
- Action Girl: They might not be costumed avengers themselves, but there are a good number of women in the Major Crimes Unit, and none are afraid of getting their hands dirty (and bloody) if they have to. In addition to regular police work, one storyline ends with Renee Montoya in a bare-knuckle fight behind a bar in an attempt to exonerate her partner.
- All Men Are Perverts: It was minor, and primarily humorous, but when Starfire arrived in GCPD headquarters there is a Beat Panel composed of all the men, all of them, staring at her with jaws agape. Detective Romy Chandler notices this and responds simply with a disgusted "men".
- All Women Are Lustful: After Detective Chandler remarks at the men staring at Starfire, Detective Joely Bartlett points out their two lesbian coworkers with the exact same expressions, with a smirking "You think?" Maggie Sawyer actually remarks that "You should see Wonder Woman." In the DCU universe it does not matter if you are male or female, everybody is Distracted by the Sexy.
- Asshole Victim:
- Officers Munroe and Decarlo, two very corrupt beat cops who murdered a teenage girl, are killed by the girl's caretaker, Poison Ivy; seeing them dragged underground by vines to to suffocate is extremely satisfying.
- The trope itself is deconstructed with the death of Lieutenant Ron Probson. He was an asshole whom nobody liked, and there are hints that his personality conflicts came from latent homophobia, but his death still causes grief and anger amongst his co-workers.
- Asskicking Pose: Somehow, Detective Chandler manages to make holding a fire extinguisher look awesome.
- Audio Erotica: Oficer Tim Munroe describes Poison Ivy's voice as being like honey, and his narration trails off when he starts to imagine what she might look like.
- Badass Normal: All the main characters. When you have to chase down villains that give Batman a run for his money, you have to be this.
- Badass Mustache: Sarge has a nice, thick mustache, and is very proud of it and all relevant facial hair.
Detective Crowe: "People don't trust a mustache anymore. It's just a cultural thing. Don't ask me to explain it."
- Bad Cop, Incompetent Cop: While the cast of the series itself is honest and skilled, the Gotham City Police Department as a whole is listed by the FBI as the second most corrupt police force in the country (following only Hub City, home of The Question). The personnel of the Major Crimes Unit are personally selected from the force at large by the Commissioner of Police in order to ensure a modicum of integrity and talent. This leads to frequent clashes between main characters in the MCU and guest figures from other departments, who disagree (sometimes violently) over what constitutes "proper" police work.
- Bad Guy Bar: Finnigan's. It is a cop bar, but since the police in question are the Gotham City Police Department this is where people go to arrange drug deals, tamper with evidence and cover up crimes (up to and including murder).
- The Bad Guy Wins:
- Two-Face is arrested and Renee Montoya never loved him, but she cannot be un-outed, her family has disowned her and a lot of her co-workers have more ammunition to use against the honest Hispanic woman making trouble for their corrupt white male club. It might have ended badly for him, but Two-Face made her life hell exactly as he intended.
- Doctor Alchemy, who turns a good cop into a homicidal mutant who kills his own wife and has to be shot, permanently scars Montoya by transmuting her necklace into hydrochloric acid, and gets away with just a beating and being sent back to the jail he was already in.
- Bald of Awesome: Detective Crispus Allen
- Bat Family Crossover: During the "War Games" crossover, Gotham City is engulfed in a large-scale Mob War inadvertently started by Stephanie Brown (Spoiler/Robin, currently Batgirl). The crime affects the various different series set in Gotham City, including Gotham Central, and the detectives are drawn into the conflicts between armed factions. With long lasting affects, Crispus Allen is forced to kill the masked assassin Black Spider when he and Renee Montoya are caught in a shootout between Black Spider and Burnley Town Massive, and Batman's actions in his own series result in the GCPD dismantling the Bat Signal in this one.
- Bat Signal: Deconstructed. The series delves into the legality and operation of the signal, and what it implies for the relationship between Batman and the police. Legally, no employee of City Hall or the police can operate the signal, since that would qualify as an official endorsement of Batman and make the city government responsible for whatever actions Batman takes. As such, only Stacy, the secretary of the MCU who is technically a temp and not a city employee at all, is allowed to turn on the signal . The signal itself is eventually dismantled following the events of the "War Games" crossover (see Bat Family Crossover above) when the GCPD feels that Batman has broken the bonds of good faith between them.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: Jack Dunning explains that he got into the MCU by walking through the door like he knew what he was doing and the desk sergeant on duty did not say anything.
- Beat Panel
- Berserk Button: Do not look at Renee. Seriously. No, I am completely serious, do not even look at her, Two-Face will blow off your damn head for glancing at her. He will take out his gun and shove it down your throat...and then he will tell Renee about how he has prepared her steak dinner.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Maggie Sawyer will never cross the line when it comes to her duty, no matter what you have done, but if she thinks you have somehow crossed her or her department, she will still not let up until you know it was a mistake. Of course, if it turns out she was wrong, she will apologize afterwards, but that does not make everything better.
- The Big Board: The MCU has a whiteboard which lists detectives and the cases they are assigned to (currently open cases written in red, closed cases written in black). Charlie Fields, an MCU detective, once proposed putting Batman up on the board and assigning him all the cases that had gone cold or been abandoned by their officers. However, Charlie did not mean for this to be a compliment or show of faith to Batman, but as a mark of shame for the MCU by highlighting that they needed an outsider to do their jobs for them.
- Black Market: Corrigan likes to steal evidence and sell it to collectors, who have a brisk trade related to Gotham crime memorabilia.
- Bondage Is Bad: Despite the detective's shocked reaction, the comic does not portray Reverend Buford Pressman's bondage hobby as bad per se, but rather as an indication of his hypocrisy given his beliefs and actions.
- Bully Hunter: When the Gotham High bombing case is re-opened, the detectives look at a couple of wealthy software tycoons who were simple nerds in high school and actually cheered at the memorial service for the victims of the bombing. One of the theories of the case was that, as frequently-bullied nerds, they had bombed the baseball team in order to get vengeance on the popular jocks. They were not responsible, although they did know the people who were.
- The Bus Came Back: Harvey Bullock had been forced to retire from the Gotham City Police Department before the start of the series, and was absent from the early issues despite frequent mentions from his old friends and partners. When the Gotham High School bombing case is re-opened, which Bullock had focused on before his forced retirement, he guest-stars in several issues as the current cast picks up the investigation.
- By-The-Book Cop: Surprisingly, most of the characters, at least in the beginning. As the sole honest department in the GCPD, the MCU takes its responsibilities seriously and works to get actual convictions, not just rough up suspects because they do not like them. This leads to a lot of friction with other departments, and even within their own ranks when some characters begin to move away from being "good police."
- The Cameo:
- Huntress appears in a single issue (plus the closing page of the previous issue) to discuss Sergeant Vincent Del Arrazio's family connection to The Mafia.
- Slam Bradley, a classic Private Detective who premiered in Detective Comics #1, appears in an issue to give Josie Mac select information related to Catwoman.
- The Teen Titans appear in an issue to convince the MCU that the dead boy in the Robin costume they have found was not the real Robin.
- Canon Immigrant: Renee Montoya, one of the lead characters, was originally created for Batman: The Animated Series and was adopted into the comics themselves.
- Car Cushion: Captain Marvel completely wrecks the squad car that Montoya and Allen had borrowed.
- Cardboard Prison: There are no successful prison escapes within the series itself, but the detectives have had to deal with many breakouts in the past and even say that Arkham Asylum has a "revolving door."
- Catch Phrase: Good cops die, villains live, and there is nothing anybody can do about it because everybody knows "it's Gotham." Doubles as a Shout-Out to a very similar movie.
- Classy Cat Burglar: Catwoman guest-stars in an arc, and does not like that her name is being sullied as a murderer in addition to a thief.
- Clear My Name: Renee Montoya in the "Half a Life" arc.
- C-List Fodder: The only supervillains to die throughout the entire series are the Fisherman, an Aquaman villain who appeared in the Infinite Crisis crossover issue, and the second Black Spider.
- Cluster F-Bomb:
Captain Maggie Sawyer: "Mother#%$&! Mother#%$&! Mother#%$&! Mother#%$&!...No *%$ing comment!"
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Sometimes Corrigan needs information, and there are times when he needs to ask hard.
- Cold Sniper: The Joker. Yeah, you read that right. "In over their heads" does not even begin to describe how utterly screwed the cops are.
- Coming Out Story: Renee Montoya is outed to her friends and family against her will by Two-Face, who hopes to demolish her life and force her to fall into his arms. Renee's journey is particularly harsh because, in addition to the challenges facing any emerging homosexual, her workplace culture and her parents' background make acceptance even harder. Captain Sawyer, herself a lesbian, attempts to guide her through it, but Renee makes it clear that their situations are drastically different.
- The Commissioner Gordon: James Gordon himself has retired from the GCPD before the start of the series and appears only in flashbacks and a few scattered cameos in the present-day. His replacement, Commissioner Akins, does not have the personal bond with Batman that Gordon did and there is extensive friction between the two of them. After the "War Games" event (See Bat Family Crossover above) Akins officially terminates the cooperation between Batman and the GCPD.
- Completely Missing the Point: Two-Face discovers Renee's lesbianism and uses it to make her vulnerable so he can potentially woo her to him. When she explains she is a lesbian and not interested in men (much less crazed disfigured criminal men) and asks if he even looked at the photos before sending them out, Two-Face simply retorts, "Yeah, I know all that. I don't see what that has to do with us."
- Continuity Nod:
- Though Gotham City itself seems to have recovered, there are frequent references made by characters to a recent earthquake and "No Man's Land." These both refer to a long-running arc in various Bat-Family titles during the late 1990's where Gotham City was destroyed by a large earthquake, with the entire city subsequently abandoned and declared off-limits by the United States government. This sequence of events, also titled No Man's Land, featured many of the characters starring in Gotham Central and introduced numerous relationships and plots that run throughout this series.
- Many references are made to the Bat Family Crossover War Games, of which Gotham Central played a part. After the event, many cops discuss the current strained relationship between the GCPD and Batman, as well as the impact it had on the activities of local costumed heroes.
- When the Teen Titans guest-star in an issue to convince the MCU that Robin is alive and well, they mention that there have recently been some changes in his home life. When they are pressed for details, Cyborg explained that he had a lot to deal with in the past year.
- Conviction by Contradiction: Like in real life, simply "knowing" somebody is guilty means absolutely nothing without evidence, and some of the biggest frustrations (and despairs) of the series come when characters know somebody is guilty, but they cannot do anything about it because there is nothing to support their theory.
- Cover-Blowing Superpower: Josie Mac has a superhuman ability that allows her to "hear" inanimate objects, but she fears how she will be treated if the truth comes out. As such, she frequently needs to come up with explanations for "hunches" and her "gut."
- Cowboy Cop: None of the characters, at least in the beginning. As the sole honest department in the GCPD, the MCU takes its responsibilities seriously and works to get actual convictions, not just rough up suspects because they do not like them. Explicit reference is made to the fact that at least one previous member of the MCU, Harvey Bullock, is no longer on the force because of how he worked around the rules when they did not work for him.
- Crime-Time Soap: Has shades of this, but Downplayed.
- Crisis Crossover: One memorable issue takes place during Infinite Crisis and has Montoya and Allen seeing the effects of what is happening.
- Da Chief: Captain Maggie Sawyer, transferred officer from the Metropolis Police Force and commander of the Major Crime Unit of the Gotham City Police Department.
- Darker and Edgier: Though similar in tone to other Gotham series, it is predominantly darker and grittier than most comics in the DCU at large, featuring subdued and muted colors in addition to its dark storylines. Maggie Sawyer, Da Chief and Reasonable Authority Figure, is a transferred officer from Metropolis Police Department and, as the page quote exemplifies, is often directly confronted with the contrast between the two cities. Remember, Tropes Are Not Bad, and the darker themes are not just Bloodier and Gorier, but complex storylines and character development. The darker themes won significant critical acclaim and Eisner, Harvey and Gaylactic Spectrum awards.
- A Day in the Limelight: Stacy, the MCU's receptionist, narrates an issue which focuses on her life and role in the department.
- The Dead Have Names:
- When Officers Munroe and Defalco kill a young runaway who saw them extorting money from a drug dealer, neither is too concerned about it. Not only do they believe they will get away with the crime itself, but they figure that she was unimportant enough that nobody would care anyway. They are wrong.
Poison Ivy: "Just a street slit, is that what you called her? Some runaway girl, and who would possibly miss her? I would. Her name was Dee Dee, officers..."
- Detective Nate Patton was killed during the Joker's Christmas rampage, which some members of the MCU blame directly on Batman. Months later, when Stacy is speaking to Robin about it, she is surprised that Robin not only remembered the event, but knew his name.
- Death Glare: When Romy Chandler shot Batman, he broke her nose and stole her gun, after which her partner drew his own gun. Batman stood perfectly still, just staring at him, until he lowered the weapon.
- Despair Event Horizon: When Crispus Allen is murdered and his killer walks on the crime, Renee Montoya quits the force, descends into alcoholism and drives her girlfriend away. She had, until the events of Fifty Two, lost all faith in herself, the police force and society at large.
- Detective Drama
- Deus Ex Machina: At the end of the "Dead Robin" story arc they need to use the Bat Signal to contact Batman, but the signal had been physically dismantled during the earlier crossover with War Games. It turns out that the GCPD has a portable, easily set-up Bat Signal that was given to them by Ted Kord years ago. This is lampshaded when Josie Mac mentions how convenient it is.
- Differently-Powered Individual: All costumed and super-powered criminals are termed "freaks," and this label is occasionally applied to non-villainous people with powers, excepting only a few well-known heroes.
- Dirty Cop:
- Officers Munroe and Decarlo, who kill a young runaway after she sees them extorting money from a corner drug dealer.
- Jim Corrigan, GCPD crime scene investigator.
- The Dog Bites Back: "Nature" opens with Officers Munroe and Decarlo beating up Trigger, a corner drug dealer, when he is late with their regular cut. At the end of the issue, Trigger confirms who they are to Poison Ivy before she kills them.
- Downer Ending: Crispus Allen gets shot and killed by Corrigan. He walks, however, when the evidence is tampered with by corrupt members of the forensics department. Montoya goes to kill him, but can not go through with it. Disgusted with herself and what she is becoming, she drops her badge and gun on Maggie Sawyer's desk and quits.
- Driven to Suicide: Multiple characters, though many (unfortunately not all) are intercepted before they can go through with it. Because of what they have seen, done and been forced to do, several people simply can not continue as they have.
Josie Mac: "Jesus, Bullock, you're thinkin' like a skell. You can't be that far gone. You were a cop for twenty years. You've gotta be better than this."
- Drowning My Sorrows: Harvey Bullock and Renee Montoya, former partners, both end up swallowing beer after beer as they struggle to deal with what their lives have become.
- Ensemble Cast: Eight detectives in a shift, two shifts with their own shift commander, the commissioner, the secretary, crime scene technicians, medical examiners and various friends and loved ones means that the cast never gets stuck or bogged down on just one person.
- Environmental Symbolism: In Gotham weather has three forms: Rain, snow and "You know, there aren't actually any clouds in the sky, but this place is still @#$%ing dark and wet and depressing."
- Eureka Moment:
- In the Half a Life arc, Renee Montoya has been expertly framed for murder and is being interrogated by Internal Affairs. The various panels during the interrogation show her in various poses of exasperation (head in her hands, scowling expression, etc.) except for one panel, where her hands drop from her face and her eyes widen in the obvious understanding of something. The dialogue in the previous panel actually hints at the culprit ("Temporary insanity plea...double life...threat to someone you love...") and this is when she put the pieces together, though she does not explain it to anybody until much later.
- In the "Dead Robin" arc, Captain Sawyer and reporter Simon Lippman are having a lot of friction over the use of crime scene photos in Lippman's articles, since she assumes he bought them off somebody in the department. However, when Crispus Allen is making phone calls later, he notices that the photos in the paper, though almost identical to the police crime scene photos, lack tags and tape that the police use to identify evidence. They were taken before the police arrived.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Sergeant Jackson "Sarge" Davies. It has gotten to the point that, when Sarge was upset that he was passed over for promotion to Lieutenant, his partner tried to console him with the fact that his name would not have fit anymore.
Detective Crowe: "Look on the bright side. If they'd promoted you, what would people call you? I mean, you're Sarge."
- Fantastic Racism: Except for a few celebrated heroes, the people of Gotham do not take a very positive view of "freaks," and Josie Mac hides her nature for fear of how she will be treated.
- First-Name Basis: Lieutenant Ron Probson was never on good terms with Captain Sawyer. He might have been resentful because she got the promotion he wanted, or he might have been a homophobe who never quite said it out loud for fear of a lawsuit, but either way he certainly earned his nickname of "The Probe." However, when the Joker was terrorizing the city and Captain Sawyer had decided to step over a line to do what needs to be done, he stepped forward to take the fall instead, allowing her to "stay clean." For the first time, he calls her "Maggie."
- Flashed Badge Hijack: The Infinite Crisis crossover issue opens with Allen and Montoya's unmarked police car breaking down and them waiting for a tow-truck to arrive and bring them back to the squadroom. When the Crisis began to tear the city apart they stopped a regular squad-car that was driving past and kicked out the officers in it, explaining that they would send a car to come pick them up while they responded to the supervillains running wild.
- For Science!: Dr. Alchemy and his twisted experiments.
- For the Evulz: Dr. Alchemy is a racist, sexist, homophobic madman with delusions of grandeur who turns a police man into a rampaging psychotic monster just For Science!. However, there is the implication that he does not really believe any of the hateful rhetoric he says, instead saying it all just to mess with people.
- Fully-Absorbed Finale - This series both contains a Fully Absorbed Finale, and has several of its own in later series:
- Batman: Officer Down was a story before the launch of Gotham Central detailing the attempted murder of James Gordon when he is shot in the back. The culprit is discovered, but cannot be convicted and the comic ends with Harvey Bullock cheerfully telling the shooter that he will "be seeing him." A few days later nobody knows where he is and his apartment is suspiciously empty. However, exactly what happened was never revealed in Officer Down, and Bullock is simply absent in Gotham Central, despite his previous association with the MCU. Then, when an old case of Harvey's is re-opened, the story is told how "Old School" Harvey Bullock managed to get justice for Gordon by giving his shooter's name and address to the mob, who had been looking for him for years, but who he had evaded by living under an assumed name. Afterward, Bullock had been forced to accept early retirement from this last step over the line.
- After the end of Gotham Central, many of its storylines are continued in other series. Renee Montoya is featured in Fifty Two when she apprentices with The Question and recovers from her alcoholism, depression-induced promiscuity, and complete lack of internal or external faith and Crispus Allen is followed in Infinite Crisis where the murdered police officer becomes The Spectre. Neither is a finale for the actual characters, as they (and other members of the Major Crimes Unit) continue to be written in other comics, but follow and conclude the storylines started in this series.
A finale for the personal story of Renee and Crispus happens in Final Crisis: Revelations, when they meet up again with them in their new roles, and The Spectre has come to pass judgment on Renee just as she has gotten the Spear of Destiny away from the Religion of Crime. During the events of that miniseries, Renee and Crispus clear the air a bit, Renee stops Vandal Savage (who was revealed to be the biblical Cain), and Renee does the one thing that gives Crispus peace: she brings his son, who Crispus as The Spectre had to kill for killing Jim Corrigan, back to life.
- The Fundamentalist:
Josie Mac: "Meet the late Reverand Buford Pressman."
- The Gambling Addict: Detective Tommy Burke. His partner can judge how well he did at poker based on when he arrives in the morning.
Detective Dagmar Procjnow: "When you're late, you lost. When you're early, you won. How much did you lose?"
- Gang-Bangers: They might tussle with the Joker and Two-Face from time to time, but the MCU also has to deal with the usual punks and riff-raff that all cops have to deal with, including the gun-toting thugs of Burnley Town Massive.
- Gay Bar Reveal: It is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it Meaningful Background Event on the first page of the Half a Life arc: Before Renee is outed, before there are any significant hints, before we are even aware that it is her that is in this scene, she goes to Maloney's Bar & Girl for the evening.
- Gayngst: When Renee Montoya is outed by Two-Face she faces discrimination at work and rejection from her family, who disown her when she admits it. Maggie Sawyer, who is openly gay, helps her work through initial problems within the police force, but Renee makes it clear that their situations are drastically different (see the page quote); the differences between Gotham and Metropolis run deeper than just the business hours of their heroes, as do their personal differences. This, along with other factors, leads to eventual alcoholism and long stares at a loaded pistol.
- "Get Out of Jail Free" Card: Everybody acknowledges that, when Renee beat up Corrupt Cop Jim Corrigan to get crucial evidence to exonerate her partner, it essentially gave Corrigan a free pass on all future crimes since any investigation would be marred by her actions. She considers it a fair trade, but Crispus Allen does not.
- Girls Love: Maggie Sawyer has been an out lesbian since 1988 and is in a long-term (and long-distance) relationship with Toby Raines, a Metropolis reporter. Renee Montoya is involuntarily outed by an obsessive supervillain during the course of the comics' run, and has to deal with the reaction of her family, friends, and coworkers.
- Godwin's Law: "You know the rule-- All debate ends when it gets to Hitler."
- Gollum Made Me Do It: Two-Face appears as the antagonist in the "Half a Life" arc.
Harvey Dent: "That wasn't me, that was Two-Face!"
- Good Cop, Bad Cop: Most of the partners fall into this routine. Interestingly, often enough, Crispus Allen is the good cop and Montoya is the bad one, whereas she played good cop when she was previously paired with Harvey Bullock.
- Good Old Fisticuffs: Batman has his Batarangs, and all the cops have guns, but there are several points in the series where somebody just starts walloping somebody else with their own two hands.
- Grappling Hook Pistol: When the detectives are trying to determine if the first body found in the "Dead Robin" arc is really Robin or not, they note that it looks like he was killed by a fall from the top of a building, even though he obviously had his "grapple thing" with him.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Marcus, who ends up going out with Romy.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Lieutenant Ron "The Probe" Probson gets an unusual one; he does not take the bullet, but rather he will take the fall when they need to get some information from the Joker. Maggie Sawyer is willing to do it, but Probson says it is better that she stay "clean," and volunteers to do it himself since he is already planning on transferring.
- Heteronormative Crusader: The Reverend Buford Pressman was a Fundamentalist preacher who hosted a cable show decrying a lot of sins, but was secretly a member of the bondage and S&M underground.
- Hyper Awareness: Josephine "Josie Mac" MacDonald will spot a dented mailbox from across the street and, hours later in a darkened garage, will notice a corresponding dent on a nearby car, and when somebody hides her coffee mug she always, always, knows exactly where they put it. Towards the end of the series it is revealed that this is actually a superhuman power that she possesses, but which she hides for fear of how she will be treated.
- An Ice Person: Mr. Freeze is the first villain of the series.
- I Did What I Had to Do: When Renee is confronted with how she beat crucial evidence out of Corrupt Cop Jim Corrigan, she explains that, even if her actions got Corrigan off from any future allegations, at least it kept Crisupus Allen on the force. She considers it a pretty good trade.
- If You Kill Him You Will Be Just Like Him: Frequently, as expected in a Batman comic, where the ever-present corruption of the GCPD means that criminals and villains manage to escape justice, and the honest cops are pushed to the brink in an effort to accomplish something, anything, that will end the violence and horror of the city. None ever cross the line in the comic, they either stop themselves or are stopped by others, but when Renee Montoya comes close, so close, to shooting Jim Corrigan, she quits the police force in disgust.
- Ignored Epiphany: Mr. Montoya seems to be coming to grips with his daughters sexuality, and is actually able to admit that he misses her while having a mature conversation with her girlfriend, but an early issue of follow-up series Fifty Two reveals that he and Renee are still not speaking.
- I Have No Son: Played straight, unfortunately, when Renee Montoya admits to her parents that she is gay. She is told she is going to hell, that she is dead to them and to never come back. Is it any wonder she starts crying once she gets into her car? Her father improves slightly much later on, managing to have a mature conversation with Renee's girlfriend and admitting that he misses her, but the Downer Ending does not allow this to reach the positive conclusion, becoming an Ignored Epiphany.
- I Just Want to Be Special: The "Dead Robin" arc revolved around a reporter who had murdered several teenage males and dumped their bodies in authentic-looking Robin costumes. He demands to be allowed to confess to Batman directly, and reveals that he wanted desperately to be part of that world. Batman grants his request.
- Immigrant Parents: Renee Montoya's parents are immigrants from the Dominican Republic with a heavily Catholic background, two reasons why her sexuality is particularly hard for them to accept and why Renee feels that Maggie Sawyer never went through the same things when she came out.
- Incompatible Orientation: Two-Face never does understand that, regardless of what he does to her, Renee is simply not sexually attracted to men. She explains in explicit detail that she is gay, and points out that he is the one who outed her, and his only response to wonder what that has to do with them.
- Insignia Rip Off Ritual: Montoya at the end of "Corrigan II."
- Internal Affairs: Played with. In standard fictional-cop fashion, none of the cast likes Internal Affairs and nobody in Internal Affairs likes the cast, but whenever IA shows up and ruins their lives they have legitimate reasons and evidence for giving everyone headaches. There are even times when they themselves will bend the rules when they see that they are being exploited to hurt "good police."
- Intrepid Reporter: Simon Lippman, who covers a lot of the more fantastic Gotham stories and has a (relatively) pleasant working relationship with the MCU. However, he is a reporter to the core and refuses to compromise, including refusing to name any sources or give the police access to his privileged information. Other reporters explain that he is "old school," and this causes some friction between him and Captain Sawyer.
- Innocent Bystander Series: Normal guys just trying to do their jobs in a city full of freaks in capes.
- Invulnerable Knuckles: Averted. Fistfights are unfortunately common, and when all is said and done everybody involved, even the victor, is bruised and bloody, especially on their hands. When Renee Montoya begins to descend into violent, drunken fights in bars and back-alleys, her damaged hands are one of the first signs to her friends and family that something is wrong.
- It Got Worse: It seemed bad when Corrigan stole evidence from a crime scene and got Detective Allen investigated by Internal Affairs, forcing Montoya to beat the evidence out of him and essentially granting him a free-pass from any corruption investigations, but when Allen later tries to pursue his own investigation into the matter...let's just say it gets worse and leave it at that.
- It's Personal: Almost all the cases of the series start off as normal assignments, but they each become personal during the course of the investigation. In the first issue of the series, while searching for a kidnapped child, two officers accidentally stumble onto Mr. Freeze and one of the officers is murdered. The child is eventually found (sort of) but the surviving officer will not stop investigating because he owes it to his dead partner.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: The Major Crimes Unit is the "honest" part of the Gotham City Police Department, but there are some times when they need information, and they need it now. Usually comes back to bite them, often quite quickly.
- Jurisdiction Friction: The MCU has jurisdiction over cases with supervillains, and this leads to clashes with other departments in the GCPD because other departments try to lazily dump routine investigations on them by claiming that the case bares the hallmarks of a supervillain.
- Karma Houdini: He might end up crying and begging on the floor of his kitchen, but apart from the personal shame Corrigan gets off Scot-free from his multiple thefts and murders as a corrupt cop. Of course, once the series is over he does receive his comuppance in a later comic.
- Knight in Sour Armor: All of the MCU. They know Gotham is a Crapsack World. They know it's ridiculous that they've got to work with a costumed vigilante, that good men die, and that villains will continuously get to live. Does this stop them from trying to do the right thing? Hell no.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Sergeant Jackson "Sarge" Davies and Detective Crowe spend an inordinate amount of time debating inane subjects, including whether or not dog saliva is an antiseptic. They also, inevitably, encounter Godwin's Law.
- Legacy Character:
- The first multi-issue story deals with Firebug, an arsonist thief that has recently become active again after a long absence from Gotham. After several dramatic chases and many arsons they finally manage to arrest Joseph Rigger...and learn that he sold the costume and identity two years ago after he was nearly burned to death. Now they need to find the person he sold it to and they learn that it is Harlan Combs, a minor character who turns out to have committed another crime that was being investigated at the same time.
- The "Dead Robin" arc revolves around somebody murdering teenage males and dumping their bodies in authentic-looking Robin costumes, with a lot of people wondering if any of them is really Robin. The parents of the first victim go on TV and state that, though they never thought about it before, they now believe that their son really was Robin, or at least a Robin. He is too young to have been the first boy in the costume, but they think he was one of the replacements. However, the detectives quickly uncover evidence to prove that he was never any Robin at all, not to mention pointing out to the parents why it was a dumb idea to comment on the situation at all.
- Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club: Its connection the The Mafia is never explicitly revealed, but Antony Baretti was coming out of the Downtown Gotham Athletic Club when Sergeant Vincent Del Arrazio approached him looking for information on the Inzerillo crime family.
- Les Yay: In a storyline involving a dead teenager dressed as Robin, members of the Teen Titans are questioned by the police in order to confirm that Robin is alive, as they have no way of determining if the uniform is authentic or a costume. When Starfire arrives, every man smiles and stares, eliciting a disgusted "men" from Detective Romy Chandler. Detective Joely Bartlett smirks and points at Maggie Sawyer and Renee Montoya, "You think?" Maggie even mentions that "You should see Wonder Woman."
- Loads and Loads of Characters: There are at least eight regular characters (the exact number depends somewhat on the definition of "regular character," since it is an Ensemble Cast and not everybody appears in every issue), significant recurring characters double that, and when you add in minor recurring characters and named extras the cast begins to grow beyond manageable limits.
- Mama Bear: Her name was Dee Dee officers....
- The Mafia: Sergeant Vincent Del Arrazio was born into a very prominent mafia family, and spent time in the FBI combating it not only in America, but also working to break its stranglehold on Sicily.
Vincent: "Don't *&$# me about, Mister Matheson. I know more about La Famiglia than you can ever imagine."
- Manipulative Bastard: Two-Face of all people. He plays the cops, criminals, the friends and families of characters, and the justice system itself all to twist Renee Montoya's life into a hopeless hole. The man does it beautifully, and even though he is ultimately defeated her life is still in shambles.
- Meaningful Background Event: In the beginning of the Half a Life arc, almost a full issue before the Reveal, Brian Selker (Private Detective) is following Renee Montoya to a restaurant called "Maloney's," taking intrusive pictures for a lawsuit that is about to be leveled against her. Being a long-distance shot in a comic book, with hand-drawn lettering instead of typed, there is not a lot of detail to be made out about the restaurant, and the name almost seems to be drawn as an afterthought: Maloney's Bar & Girl. It is not a typo, it is a revelation, and if you missed it you need to wait until the end of the issue to get the full story.
- Mob War: It is kicked off in another series, but the "War Games" Bat Family Crossover spills into Gotham Central and has long-lasting effects for the charactes.
- Monster Clown: The one, the only, Joker. Give him a frikkin' sniper rifle and it just stops being fair.
- More Hero Than Thou: Lieutenant Ron "The Probe" Probson and Captain Maggie Saywer. Maggie is going to get some information from the Joker, but Probson stops her and does it himself so that she can "stay clean."
- Must Have Caffeine: Being cops, practically all of the cast runs on caffeine. The coffee machine holds a very important in the MCU's interaction life. Seriously, how hard is it to fill the coffee maker again when you finish the damn coffee?!
- Mythology Gag: In retrospect, Crispus Allen's killer being Jim Corrigan becomes this when Allen becomes the new host for The Spectre. See Not His Sled below.
- New Meat: Josephine "Josie Mac" MacDonald, who was added to the cast during the series and was the first detective added to the MCU after the retirement of Commissioner Gordon.
- Noble Demon: An Internal Affairs inspector who has been called in to investigate Detective Crispus Allen uses his rank to get Daria Hernandez, Renee Montoya's girlfriend, into Renee's hospital room to visit her, since the hospital staff would not let her in, and later helps Renee break the law to get evidence to exonerate Allen. A previous story-arc had the same inspector investigating Renee, doing his best to have her convicted of murder, and he "owes her one."
- Not His Sled: The original Spectre was a policeman named Jim Corrigan. One of the policemen in Gotham Central is named Jim Corrigan. At the end of the series, one of the policemen in Gotham Central becomes the Spectre... and it is not Corrigan. Corrigan is actually the one who kills that cop, which leads to him becoming the Spectre.
- Not Me This Time:
- They never get around to questioning any of the alleged mafiosos, but two murders at a pharmaceutical company were originally thought to be mob-related when it was learned that the Inzerillo family had a controlling stake in the company. They had nothing to do with the crime.
- In the "Dead Robin" arc the detectives and Batman go through the compete list of usual suspects, but ultimately come to the conclusion that none of the usual Bat-villains had anything to do with it.
- Not Now, Kiddo: Romy Chandler repeatedly brushes off Stacy, the MCU receptionist, when Stacy was trying to tell her that Robin had returned the gun that Batman took from her. However, unlike most examples of the trope, Stacy manages to make herself known before the lack of information becomes truly damaging.
- Not Proven: How Corrigan walks away.
- Not So Harmless: When Crispus Allen first notices the Fisherman, an Aquaman villain, he thinks that in any other situation he would be laughing at the guy. However, in this situation, he is only going to be killed by the guy.
- Oh Crap:
- An epic one ensues when the killer in "Dead Robin" is finally granted his wish to meet Batman.
- Officers Munroe and Defalco look both stunned and horrified when they open an evidence bag they are delivering and see that it contains the possessions of the young girl they murdered earlier.
- When Renee accidentally lets slip that Batman stole Romy Chandler's gun.
Sawyer: What was that?
- One of Us: In-universe, when the detectives are looking into the old bombing of the Gotham High School baseball team they interrogate a pair of software tycoons who had been bullied nerds back in high school, reasoning that they might have bombed the jocks in vengeance. The former nerds explain that, as mad as they were, they would never have killed anybody, especially not the baseball team, since there were people on the team who were actually their friends. Mark Rabin, the pitcher, was even an unofficial member of their computer club.
- Orifice Invasion: When Poison Ivy is executing a pair of corrupt police officers, her vines are everywhere.
- Police Are Useless: Averted for the most part, as the police that make up the primary cast are not actually useless, they are just not trained or prepared for facing the technology and pathology of "freaks" (The generic term for masked and powered criminals usually referred to in other comics as "supervillains"). When the crimes they are investigating involve "freaks," they either involve the Batman voluntarily once they realize it is out of their depth, or manage to solve the crime themselves (often with unfortunately high bodycounts, usually among the police themselves).
- Police Brutality: Most of the GCPD sees no problem with giving civilians or criminals a "tune up" if necessary, but as the series progresses even the straight-shooters of the MCU begin to lose control more and more.
- Police Procedural: One of the few comic-book examples examples of the genre.
- Politically-Incorrect Villain:
- Officer Tim Munroe dislikes the Major Crimes Unit on principal because of their lack of "proper" policework, and also because it is "a whole unit of holier-than-thou minorities and homos. Seriously, all the women are lesbians and all the men are affirmative-action hires."
- Dr. Alchemy, a Flash villain who appears in one arc, hurls sexist, racist, and homophobic remarks at almost every character he meets.
- Power Creep, Power Seep: The detectives find it extremely difficult to deal with foes of Batman, who are traditionally low on the power scale of the DC Universe. In the crossover with Infinite Crisis, Crispus Allen wonders just what hell kind of chance his family has of surviving if Captain Marvel is scared for his family.
- Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Detectives Romy Chandler and Marcus Driver once chased a couple of teenage white kids who speak and dress like hip-hoppers. When the kids get caught they profess their innocence and Romy points out that they assaulted an officer, which would mean time in juvie, where "you can see how much real brothers like rich white kids co-opting their culture, 'dog.'"
- "Previously On...": Issues of the series began to be printed with Previously On opening pages to summarize the series and arc so far.
- Private Detective:
- Punny Name: The characters have some fun with their own names. When he is not around, Lieutenant Ron Probson is dubbed "the Probe" by his subordinates.
- Pyromaniac: Firebug, an arsonist villain, is the first villain to occupy a multi-issue arc, and also connects to another crime being investigated at the same time.
- The Real Heroes: The series explored the implications of this trope in depth, as we see how frontline police officers deal with the costumed psychopaths that infest the city like a plague, as well as how they view the hero who fights them.
- Reality Ensues: Often, and in a realistic manner, too. Emotional turmoil drives characters to despair instead of being shrugged off with a laugh, fistfights end with horribly bruised and bloody knuckles instead of clean hands (it seems minor, but damaging your hands is one of the first occurrences of a fight, especially if you hit somebody in the head, which is almost solid bone and will likely break several of your fingers), and just knowing somebody committed a crime does not mean squat without evidence.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: All the high-ranking officers in the Gotham City Police Department, from Commissioner Akins down to Captain Sawyer and Lieutenant Probson. They might not like whatever it is they have to do, or the people they have to do it with, but they will listen to all the options and make a logical and realistic decision, including giving their officers a little leeway if they need to, but also snapping down hard if it is required.
- Redemption Equals Death: Lieutenant Ron "The Probe" Probson. It is not much of a redemption, and it was redemption from being a jerk instead of being evil, but when he decides to cross a line so Captain Sawyer won't have to, he calls her by her first name (Maggie) for perhaps the first time ever and lets her "stay clean." Of course, the Joker breaks his spine in the next ten minutes.
- The Resenter:
- Lieutenant Ron Probson resented the fact that Captain Maggie Sawyer received the promotion to head of the MCU instad of him, although Maggie wonders if their friction instead springs from his dislike of her sexuality.
- Sergeant Jackson "Sarge" Davies resents the fact that Lieutenant David Cornwell was brought into the MCU as the new second shift commander, reasoning that he was in line for that position since Bullock left. Not only did Cornwell get the job instead of him, but Cornwell was transferred in from the Organized Crime Bureau, not even already a member of the MCU.
- Rogues Gallery: Of Batman's traditional Rogue's Gallery, Mr. Freeze, Two-Face, The Joker, the Mad Hatter, the Penguin, and Poison Ivy appear as villains or incidental characters. The "Dead Robin" arc contains the most comprehensive look at the usual Gotham foes, as the detectives travel through Arkham to interview all the inmates as to their involvement in the crime. They also also wind up facing Flash and Aquaman villains on occasion.
- Safe, Sane, and Consensual: When detective's Mac and Driver follow a suspect to Cuffs & Claws, a bondage and S&M club, the employees are friendly and casually mention a standard application for membership (they do, however, refuse entry until the police get a warrant).
- Saying Too Much: As a result of having been working long hours and being generally tired and depressed, Renee Montoya accidentally lets slip to Captain Sawyer that Romy Chandler had her weapon taken by Batman. The second after she says it she realizes her error and the implications.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections: A much more mild version than most, but Lieutenant David Cornwell got the position of shift-commander at MCU because of his relationship to the mayor, even though Captain Sawyer and Commissioner Akins both recommended Sarge for the job.
- Secret Identity: When bodies begin showing up in Robin costumes, the detectives are unsure if any of them are the real Robin, particlarly since they do not know who the real Robin is. However, while they are mulling that over, Renee realizes that, if the first body they found is the real Robin, then by finding out his identity they may be able to discover Batman's identity.
- Secret Keeper: There is heavy implication that Josie Mac told Marcus Driver the truth about herself, although it is never explicitly confirmed.
- The Gotham City Police Department is ranked by the FBI as the second most corrupt department in the country. They are only surpassed by Hub City.
- While looking up information on the rifle used in several seemingly random killings throughout Gotham, Montoya suddenly gets access to a mysterious law-enforcement database she can only identify as "Oracle."
- When Montoya and Crispus travel to Keystone City to interrogate a suspect for a separate case, the Keystone City police officers who meet them remark that Crispus Allen has a "good name" for a cop in Keystone City, although they do admit that Barry Allen was "as white as Barry Manilow."
- Something Completely Different: The issue "Nature" follows two corrupt cops after they kill a young runaway who saw them extorting money from a corner drug dealer. Only two members of the MCU appear, Detectives Allen and Montoya, and the MCU itself is viewed with contempt and hatred.
- Spit Take: Detective Procjnow cannot believe that Tommy Burke lost over two thousand dollars at poker.
- Split Personality: Two-Face appears as the antagonist of the "Half a Life" arc, during which he frequently switches between the "Harvey" and "Two-Face" personalities.
Two-Face: "Harvey's not here right now!!!"
- Stalker with a Crush: Two-Face might very well be the poster boys. The plan is to torment and torture Renee Montoya to such an extent that her entire life (literally her entire life) is in shambles. Her family? They hate her. Her friends? They have betrayed her. Her job? Fired. He will leave her with absolutely nothing, leaving her absolutely nowhere to go except to Two-Face. Why do this? Because he loves her, that is why. He also shows remarkable ability at Completely Missing the Point. He does much of the above by outing her as homosexual, and then expects her to warm up to him romantically. She even asks if he even took a look at the photos before (or after) he made them public.
- Stealth Hi Bye: Batman, when he needs to make an appearance, surpises everybody from detectives up to Commissioner Akins himself.
- Taking the Heat: Nobody wants to admit it in the by-the-book and honest Major Crimes Unit, but the MCU needs to get some information from the Joker, and Captain Sawyer is willing to go in there and do it herself because it needs to be done. However, Lieutenant Ron "The Probe" Probson, who has never been on good terms with Maggie Sawyer, does the deed instead, since he was planning on transfering out of the department anyway, and this way Maggie gets to "stay clean."
- Talking to the Dead: Josie Mac speaks to the grave of her father when she begins to worry that she has exposed her secret to Marcus Driver, her partner.
- That Came Out Wrong:
Crispus Allen: "What's going on between you and Corrigan?'
- That One Case: One arc has Harvey Bullock obsess over one of his unsolved cases. He almost commits suicide because of it, and refers to it as the case that he brought home with him.
- There Are No Therapists: Over the course of the series, Renee Montoya descends into alcoholism and violence after her personal and professional lives are damaged by the actions of Two-Face. Crispus Allen, her partner, is the first to notice how completely her life is spiraling out of control, and demands that she seek help before she sinks too low to be saved. If she does not seek help, she can find herself a new partner, assuming she has not already ruined her career and driven away her girlfriend.
- Throw-Away Guns: Averted. When Romy Chandler shoots Batman (yes, you read that right, she freaking shot Batman) he takes her gun and everybody involved reacts appropriately. When Renee slips up and accidentally mentions it to Captain Sawyer, everybody is prepared for Romy to be suitably disciplined, but thankfully Robin manages to return her weapon, passing along the admonition that Romy should not shoot Batman again.
- Turn in Your Badge: Renee Montoya turns in her own badge. After the death of her partner, the escape of the murderer, and her own descent into violence and alcohol, she has simply had enough. She has nothing left to give and nothing more to hold on to. She is simply done.
- Twofer Token Minority:
- Renee Montoya is the child of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Hispanic, and a lesbian.
- Captain Maggie Sawyer and Detective Crispus Allen are both "traditional" minorities (Sawyer is gay and Crispus is black), but they are also transferred officers from the Metropolis Police Department, outsiders in the darker world of Gotham City.
- The Unfair Sex: Detective Joely Bartlett recognizes the Double Standard here. When Romy Chandler notices that all the men are staring at Starfire she rolls her eyes and disgustedly groans "men." Joely notices her do this and points out that Maggie Sawyer and Renee Montoya, the two gay women in the series, are doing the exact same thing.
- Urban Legend: The series continues the plot point introduced in the 1994 event Zero Hour, which established that Batman had never gone public as a vigilante and was regarded as an urban legend by the populace at large. This influenced how the police department could legally interact with him (see Bat Signal above), as well what happened when his existence was confirmed in the War Games crossover (see Bat Family Crossover above).
- Villain Episode: Officer Tim Munroe, a corrupt cop, narrates an issue which follows him and his partner after they kill a young runaway that witnessed them extorting money from a corner drug dealer.
- Voice Changeling: Batman can do a very good impression of Detective Crowe, so good that Crispus Allen did not even realize he was talking to an imposter until he noticed that "Crowe" had gone out the window. The detectives later admit that Batman can probably do a good impersonation of everybody in the department, including Josie Mac, the new detective.
- The Watson: Crispus Allen plays the Watson in the early issues, and occasionally later on. As a transferred officer from Metropolis, Allen did not have extensive experience with the "freaks" (supervillains) of Gotham City, so other characters would explain their means and methods to him, simultaneously infoming the audience as well. This particular facet of his character was dropped after a few issues, when he already had his own personal experiences with the rogues of the city, but he would later serve as the Watson on more complex issues when characters needed to highlight personal and societal points about Gotham City itself, such as the reason why Batman is important to Gotham for more than just the crimes he stops.
- We Will Not Use Photoshop in the Future: Inverted. Renee Montoya's parents receive a photo of her kissing another woman, revealing her sexuality, but her brother convinces them that it was faked, probably by a criminal looking to get revenge on Renee.
- Where Do You Think You Are?: As Renee Montoya explains, Gotham City is not the City of Tomorrow. The department is the second most corrupt police department in the country, racism and sexism are rampant, crime is everywhere (up to and including the Mayor), and it never @#$%ing stops raining or snowing. In this town, it gets worse.
- White Sheep: Sergeant Vincent Del Arrazio was born to a criminal family, but he does not speak to that part of his family anymore and has worked with the FBI to break the back of the mafia in Gotham and even in Sicily itself.
- With Friends Like These...: Captain Maggie Sawyer and Lieutenant Ron Probson, heads of the first and second shifts of the MCU (Respectively), never got along, and sometimes their relationship was actively hostile. Probson resented the fact that Sawyer received the promotion to overall head of the MCU instead of him, and there are some implications that he also personally dislikes her because of her sexuality. Throughout the series they each attempt to prevent the other from becoming involved in their cases or taking the credit. They eventually form at least a grudging respect, and Probson decides to perform a morally questionable act so that Maggie will not.
- Working the Same Case: Right off the bat, one detective team is following the supervillain Firebug and another is investigating the murder of a teenage babysitter. It turns out Firebug had murdered the girl, who was his son's babysitter and who had found his costume and weapons while snooping through his closet one night.
- Wretched Hive: Gotham City at its finest.
- You Are What You Hate: The Reverend Buford Pressman was a Fundamentalist preacher who hosted a regular cable show, but was secretly a member of the bondage and S&M underground.
- Your Mom:
Detective Lowe: You're probably in a hurry to get home to your little lady or whatever you call her, huh? The night time is the right time for love and all that, right?
- though they still never get around to explaining what they do if there aren't clouds
- Of course, Law and The Multiverse has since debunked this explanation, so back to square one