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[personal profile] lucean posting in [community profile] scans_daily
Time for the second storyline I wished to post from the superb CITY OF CRIME by David Lapham and Ramon Bachs. This time the story turns it's gaze to a section of Gotham rarely spoken of and tells us of high hopes and great dreams. Seven pages from DETECTIVE COMICS 807, seven pages from DETECTIVE COMICS 808, seven pages from DETECTIVE COMICS 811 and seven pages from DETECTIVE COMICS 812.

Again, a short background of the situation so far. While investigating how a bunch of pregnant girls ended up locked in a room in a burning building and having promised a mother to find out what happened to her pregnant daughter, Batman stumbles across a conspiracy by a sect calling itself the Body and that seems to reach in all parts of Gotham. Finally he manages to find out that their activities involve the rebuilding of the harbor area and that they are somehow connected to Crown Point, which is a part of the worst of Gotham, the Bowery. The people there are extremely poor, mostly immigrants and isolated. So Batman decides to infiltrate the area in disguise in order to find out what is happening.

But before we got to that, we are treated a vision of a day in life of the Crown Point and the many ways people are suffering there as well as making morally questionable decisions, for instance a group of young thugs who wish to start a scrap with a rival gang, a desperate father who is about to prostitute his developmentally challenged daughter, a mother who physically forces her son to sell drugs, something the boy is not really good at, etc. In this bleak enviroment, there is one pillar of hope and respect, a man looked up by the residents of the area. We first meet this beacon of light and righteousness as a young man in a leather jacket is trying to flee a group of men, only to be caught and beaten down.

Oh Raffi, he is just so dreamy and so trustworthy. As we follow the tragic events around the area some more, we switch back to Raffi with some narrative insight.

'Raffi "Moose" Moosakhanian sometimes feels like loosing it. Grabbing one of these filthy beggars and just wrecking them with his bare hands.'

So okay, Raffi might have some mild issues, but hey, who of us doesn't have them and most importantly, he is reigning them in.

The man in question sliced three women up in another neighbourhood. He wants to work at the waterfront and brags about being good with a knife, Raffi answering he would rather have someone good with a jackhammer. Raffi says that they might have work for the man and tells him that they will move him in after a few days of darkness, telling an old man after the stranger has left that Raffi has a solution to one of their problems.

That night, Bruce, after having observed beneath his disguise as a beggar, intervenes in several situations, but even he can't help everyone.

Okay, so Raffi might have some rough edges. At the manor, Batman tells Tim that he is going to go off radar for this infiltration and leaves Tim to defend the fort.

It takes a week of the project before Bruce gets the people there even greet him in the morning, so he decides to take steps in order to get closer to Raffi. Now Bruce is a smart person and realizes that in order to get Raffi's attention in the right way is not pursue him, but have him pursue Bruce. So how to achieve this?

Next morning, when Raffi and the gang return to work, they find the chain without Bruce, wondering where the hell he went. A voice expresses it's gratitude about the best night it had for weeks.

See, Raffi does have his good side. He is just a simple man who maybe relies on his fists a bit too far, may have pummelled someone to death and wishes he could tear some bums apart, but he looks after his own.

As Raffi takes Bruce to his apartment while praising his wife's food, Bruce once again is forced to see the destitude people in the neighbourhood live in.

The man on the door is George, Raffi's righthand man, who speaks with Raffi about something and after that leaves with Raffi. Bruce doesn't even ask if he can join, but in narration we do learn something.

"Raffi does not know his wife's secrets, or he would not be leaving them alone." 

That is an interesting note, especially considering certain later events, as it does imply that the old women's gossip might actually have some truth to it. Bruce tells Siran how tired he is and that he's hitting the bed. Bruce follows Raffi to a bar, where Raffi and George meet a third man, who smiles more than people should. From body language it is clear that the dock workers answer to him.

The point of the park is that it was a huge civic project with great amounts of money put to it, but no one goes there for some reason. This is indication of the possible reason.

I don't know which is more classy, beating your wife because she didn't know a specific dish for a guest you did not announce was coming or doing it while knowing the new guy is spending time in your apartment. Still, a great way to test someone's loyatly I guess.

We move to the next issue then, where Bruce is finding some solace in his surroundings.

Let us continue with Raffi's answer to Bruce's question what wrong with playing a little ball and maybe that will prevent kids from turning out like that.

'Fah... They fill the world because they are a part of life's experiment. Like tiny germs in a petri dish. Have no more sympathy for them than you would for laboratory rats.'

As one can see, Raffi really likes and loves the neighbourhood, that respects him above all else. Raffi leads Bruce to the construction site, asking if he likes the work there. After Bruce answers that it is a job, Raffi feels the need to correct him.

'No, no, my friend. There you miss the whole point. You do very important work. Can you not feel it? You are part of something great?'

And thus we begin understand who simple a man Raffi truly is and how he is controlled. He is someone who despises the surroundings he is in, believing most the people there are trash, so when someone comes and offers him a chance to be something more than that, to be important, he grasps it with all his power. Bruce notes in narration that Raffi is a zealot sold an idea, not realizing he is little more than a janitor for the Body.

At this point they return to their home building, finding things are wrong there and that Artis, the boy Raffi saved in the first scan, has thrown himself of the roof. The story is that the Body is experimenting with something like contagious insanity, which has no spread to that building. As Raffi starts running up the stairs, Bruce stumbles on another scene and causes a young boy to kill himself in fear of thinking Bruce to be Batman.

Bruce manages to save Siran and through that break the insanity's hold of them for the moment. The contagion point of the insanity stumbles past the door at that point, Raffi realizing it's him and tackling him over the barrier. At the ground floor he continues to choke the man, thus removing the insanity from the building and the residents praising him as their saviour before Bruce stops Raffi. Fourteen people died in those three hours and eleven were permanently injured. The police didn't arrest anyone, as what was done was under the influence, but Bruce notes that while Raffi was choking the man, he was in control and knew what he was doing. Bruce also recognizes the effect the man had as similar to that how the park prevented him from entering. The insane man, by the way, the ambulance crew manage to save him, which creates a problem for the hospital, but that isn't relevent to these scans.

As Bruce tries to enter it, he is flooded with images of his parents dying, of the girl's whose death haunts him and the girl he vowed to find.

As Bruce sleeps, he has a dream where all his fears are realized. Raffi kills Siran in front of him after the two of them kiss, and after that Raffi and his men beat Bruce to a pulp and promise to kill the girl Bruce is looking for. Bruce manages to escape and for three weeks stumbles around the city, succumbing to his baser instincts to find Cassie, doing things he thought he would never do, becoming the hard man required by the city. Finally he finds the hotel room with the girl, but instead it is Haddie, a girl who overdosed and who Bruce blames himself for, the girl who Bruce has deep within tried to save while looking for Cassie. Yet while succumbing to the desperation, Bruce has a moment of clarity and is seen understanding something, finally piecing something together before waking from his nightmare.

At this point I'd like to talk generally about something in the story, an approach Lapham took. It has been established that Bruce is the greatest detective in the world, it is one of the keystone features of Batman. Now a lot of times what writers do is that they write the mystery and then have Bruce in some manner or another explain the hints that allowed him to solve afterwards, almost in an Agatha Christie manner. Some take it even further and try to explain Bruce's capability by him knowing so much about pretty much everything and thus being able to place in context.

What Lapham is different and I thinks it's one of those narrative things that divides the opinion on this story so much, especially since he does use at the ending of the story. For Lapham, Bruce being the greatest detective in the world is partially due to his great knowledge, but more because of his ability to make mental connections, to see patterns in events and find clues in everything. This ability is so great that it can't really even be explained in condensed manner and why would Bruce explain it, he already has the answers. So Lapham doesn't provide answers directly, he does provide a lot of clues in the text and in the art, but he doesn't explain as he rather tries to show how capable Bruce is in figuring things out. It happens in the dream scene as well as we are never what it is that Bruce understood, but there are hints in the scene.

And thus we see how kind Bruce is, as even though we have seen Raffi to be a repulsive man in so many ways, Bruce gives him means to feel special simply by teaching Raffi how to fly. And that was an awesome scene. I struggled a bit what page to post as last as there is a phone conversation with snarky Alfred when Bruce arranges him to take Siran to somewhere safe and bring Bruce his equipment. Still, I decided to use this page, as it is such a powerful one in my opinion even if one doesn't know the whole story leading to it.

That is where I shall end this post that was a bit longer than I originally intended. I hope that those reading it found some enjoyment in it nevertheless.

Date: 2010-07-31 07:58 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] darkknightjrk
I remember reading this a LONG time back but I don't remember any of this. I should find this book again at some point.

Date: 2010-07-31 11:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is a good read. THanks.

Please post more!

Date: 2010-08-01 11:30 am (UTC)
yaseen101: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yaseen101
I remember this story, though not as well though I remember back then you said how you disliked how small they made Gotham seem and I agree with you, I was watching TDK the other day and thought the exact same thing.


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