“GCPD: The Blue Wall” #1-6
Writer: John Ridley
Artists: Stefano Raffaele
Color Artist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Ariana Maher, Josh Reed
Review by Derek McNeil
I was disappointed with the recent cancellation of John Ridley’s I Am Batman. So, I was happy to find that Ridley was also writing a miniseries about Gotham’s police department: GCPD: The Blue Wall. This series features the stories of three rookie cops just out of the academy, contrasted with the ongoing history of Renee Montoya.
I like that Ridley keeps the series very realistic and grounded. While the story happens in the canon DCU, we see little of Gotham’s vigilantes and villains – other than the occasional brief mention. So, while this is technically a Bat-title, it’s presented as more down-to-Earth and realistic. It works on the level of a police drama in its own right.
There are a couple of notable exceptions, though. Two-Face is referenced multiple times by Montoya, and Harvey even briefly confronts Renee more than once in the story. This is unavoidable, considering Harvey Dent is the root cause of her PTSD. There is a complicated relationship between the characters. Perhaps Ridley is hinting at a future project focusing specifically on Montoya and Harvey.
The other is a brief, but crucial interaction where one of Montoya’s subordinates tells her,
Right about now’s when Gordon would’ve been calling in Batman.
Montoya’s response is quite enlightening:
Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe if Gordon hadn’t leaned so hard on Batman back in the day, we’d be better able to handle real badness now. A crazy clown, a guy dressed up like a penguin… They’re nothing compared to a kid carrying an AR-15 and a whole lot of hate.
This encapsulates Montoya’s opinions on the Bat Family. She feels that the GCPD has become dependent on the Dark Knight and his army of vigilantes. That reliance has made it difficult to even deal with crimes that are clearly in their wheelhouse. At this point in her tenure as commissioner, Montoya’s determined to resist using the Bat-Signal.
She hasn’t completely burned her bridges with them either, though. I believe she realizes that there is a limit to the threats that the GCPD can deal with. So, there will be times when she has to call on Gotham’s heroes. So, her GCPD has a frosty relationship with the Bat Family, but it’s not openly hostile.
Alongside Montoya’s storyline, we also follow the three rookies as they settle into their new assignments. All of them have an optimistic start, but soon things start getting complicated quickly.
Officer Samantha Park is involved in an incident where a young black kid appears to be pulling a weapon from his pocket. When it turns out to be a phone, Park is lauded for not shooting him in that uncertain moment and Montoya uses her case as an example to the rest of the force and as publicity for her new GCPD.
However, Park reveals to her friends afterward that the real reason she held back from firing was that she froze. This leaves her wondering if she would freeze again when needs to take the shot…
Officer Eric Wells is assigned as a parole officer and things seem to be going well at first. His first parolee seems determined to stay clean for the sake of his wife and unborn child. However, we learn that he is having doubts he can provide for his family financially. This leads the parolee down a risky path.
However, Officer Danny Ortega has the most tragic storyline. We see him subjected to racism from his fellow officers. Ortega faces repeated humiliations from his fellow officers until he snaps, and sets out to seek revenge.
Ridley does not shy away from dealing with the theme of racism, but it is important to note that all the major characters are people of color. Montoya and Ortega are Hispanic, Wells is Black, and Park is Asian.
While the racism directed at Ortega may have undoubtedly been instigated by White cops, we don’t know that all of them were caucasian, and Ortega puts the blame primarily on Montoya herself after she ignores his complaints of harassment. The racism Ortega has to deal with does not excuse his actions, however. His response is well out of proportion to the humiliation he suffered.
Montoya’s then faced with the task of taking Ortega down, and she needs to decide how to do it. Multiple options are presented to her. She could send in a SWAT team, which would likely end in the deaths of Ortega and others. Or she could take the Faustian deal offered by her personal devil, Two-Face, who offers to kill Ortega for her.
The only option that seems likely to see Ortega captured alive would be to call in Batman. Montoya ultimately has to decide between mercy and vengeance – whether to take Ortega alive to face justice or let him be killed. I won’t spoil the ending, but I believe that the solution she settles on is the best option and shows her fitness for the job of commissioner.
Ridley’s story is not a larger-than-life superhero story, like DC’s other books, but rather a somewhat gritty and realistic cop drama. Stefano Raffaele’s art also makes this apparent, as the characters are not sculpted Greek gods, but real people. Brad Anderson uses a subdued color palette suited to a dark and gritty police story.
After John Ridley’s The Other History of the DC Universe and I Am Batman, I had high expectations for this miniseries., and GCPD: The Blue Wall easily met those expectations. Ridley delivers a great story, beautifully illustrated by Stefano Raffaele and colored by Brad Anderson. While nothing has been announced yet, I hope that Ridley will return to future projects. Perhaps GCPD: The Blue Wall could serve as the launching point for a new GCPD ongoing series.
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment