Angel Lupo is a small time hood looking to break it big. To do so he aligns himself with a new power in Gotham’s Underworld, only Angel isn’t doing as well as he thought and the due is calling. Then Angel’s sister Elizabeth is found dead and partially eaten. Only one killer has that MO and Batman knows who that is.
But why was Elizabeth targeted and worse, why does it seem like the one who ordered the murder was her own brother Angel. Killer Croc may have done the deed but Batman wanted the man who ordered Elizabeth’s death. He questions Angel’s girl Margo and follows her to where Angel is hiding. Angel jumps out the window and runs down an alley carjacking the first vehicle he comes across. Batman chases him to the end of the alley where he finds Angel gone, but left kneeling in a pool of blood is a young boy, hovering over the bodies of his murdered parents.
The city of Gotham has shifted even darker for the Batman. The image of the young boy bringing back his own tragedy. Lupo may have ordered his sister’s own death but he was responsible for the death of the couple and the orphaning of the young boy. Batman will need to go through Croc, the Ventriloquist and the Penguin as well as newcomers Fatman and Little Boy. But he will find Angel Lupo and he will get justice for the little boy. The justice he never got for the murder of his own parents.
Brian Azzarello has written an awesome little story in this six issue arc, Batman 620 – 625, as gritty and dark as any Batman story you may come across. There is an incredible noir sense running through the telling of Broken City, as introspective of Gotham as it is of Batman himself. The hunt for Lupo and the inner workings of Gotham’s underworld almost falls second to the self evaluation Batman begins to do of himself. This is not usual with most Batman stories. Normally Batman is sure and steadfast in his sense of right and his place in Gotham. With the death of the parents of the boy, Batman is shaken.
Eduardo Risso’s artwork sets the stage well, painting a portrait of Gotham as seedy and dirty as it was portrayed in the original Tim Burton Batman. Without the comic relief of the Joker and over the top antics any Tim Burton film. No, this is Gotham, Bladerunner style. It works. It works really, really well. Readers looking for lighter fare will not find it here. Azzarello did not write your normal comic book story. He wrote a mystery where the hero is as flawed as the criminal and the answers are not what you want them to be. There is blood and heartbreak and loss. Batman beats criminals into submission. That line he will not cross is vague here and in his hunt for Lupo he crosses and crosses.
Missing from this short arc are many of the major players of the Batman multi-verse. Yes there is the Penguin for a few short appearances and a cameo by the Joker at the end. But overall it is Batman and Croc and the Ventriloquist. There is no Robin, no Jim Gordon, no Batgirl, no Alfred.
Just Gotham. Just Batman. And the ghosts that haunt them both.
“…Nothing . I saw the same thing I always see when I look into the Joker’s eyes…nothing. And nothing was something I recognized. Something that brought me back to where it all started. Where it all ended. The rain had washed the blood and chalk off the street. Like it always does, leaving just an indelible memory…of a man and a woman. A mother and father…and a boy left alone…”