Simply put, issue #40 was one of the best Batman comics ever. It was the culmination of not just the Batman/Joker rivalry (an integral part of the book long before the New 52 reboot), but who Bruce Wayne was as Batman. I say “was” because it ended with his apparent death. Unless you’ve been reading the Convergence event (which I, full disclosure, have not) issue #41 reveals SPOILER that long-time Batman ally Jim Gordon takes up the cowl. To put it lightly, that decision represents a huge risk—and writer Scott Snyder knows it.
The issue is filled with characters airing doubts designed to preempt criticism from fans and corporate overlords alike. Jim says the new costume looks more “Robobat-Bunny” than Dark Knight. Detective Harvey Bullock points out that Jim is too old and a smoker to boot. There are a million reasons why Jim Gordon as Batman doesn’t make sense, but it’s Gordon himself who provides the exact reason why he makes more sense than any other character. “You’ve never wondered?” he asks Bullock, “Whether he’d have been more effective if he’d worked within the law not outside it?” See, that’s the thing about Jim Gordon–at his core–he believes in the law. Right now, post-Zero Year and post-Endgame, Gotham only believes in its hero, but what it needs to believe in to really grow is itself, specifically its infrastructure and government. Jim believes that too (he would have left the force years ago if he didn’t) and while becoming Batman means he’s not exactly a cop anymore, he knows that sacrificing oneself for the good of Gotham is what being Batman is all about.
On top of all that, Batman as a tool of the Gotham police force is a fascinating idea. One of the defining characteristics of Bruce’s Batman is that he was always a lone wolf. Endgame proved that. He may have worked with cops and other vigilantes, but at the end of the day, he did what he wanted—often in spite of and to the detriment of the people who cared about him. Jim Gordon’s Batman, while still a symbol, represents something different. He’s beholden to some amalgam of Powers International, the GCPD and even his own family. That leaves a lot to explore about loyalties, corporate culture and the nature of heroism. There’s also–as this weekend’s Batman panel at Special Edition showed–a lot to explore when it comes to how the the Bat Family reacts. Jim Gordon as Batman is shocking and smart and something the book has never before done. It is great storytelling—if only the issue trusted it.
This issue does a great job selling the idea of Jim Gordan as Batman, but it also makes it very clear that this is temporary, that this machine-based, police-backed version is the version Gotham City needs right now. Nobody expects Bruce Wayne to stay dead forever, but SPOILERISH Snyder should have waited a few issues to tease the idea that the once and future Batman is off somewhere living a peaceful, bearded life. It lessens the impact of Jim’s choice to remake himself into something he never expected to make it so clear in his first appearance in the suit that the comic is just biding time until Bruce returns. The audience already feels that way and it doesn’t help them invest in the current story. This issue should only be about defining and justifying Jim Gordon as Batman. As Geri Powers says in response to Jim’s assertion that the new version doesn’t feel like Batman, “if you want to be a part of it, you’re going to have to try to accept that.” The book should have followed its own advice.
You can read Batman #41 via the Comixology app on for iPhone and iPad
By day, Marisa Carpico stresses over every detail of America’s election system. By night, she becomes a pop culture and celebrity obsessive. Whether it’s movies, TV or music, she watches and listens to it all so you don’t have to. You can find her risking her life by reading comic books while walking down the crowded streets of New York City, having inappropriate emotional reactions at her iPad screen while riding the subway or occasionally letting her love of a band convince her to stand for hours on end in one of the city’s many purgatorial concert spaces. You can follow her on Twitter to read her insightful social commentary or more likely complain about how cold it is at @MarisaCarpico.