The newest Dark Knight protecting Gotham City isn’t Bruce Wayne. That’s fine by me.
The brooding, psychologically tortured atmosphere that came with the billionaire’s personal style of crimefighting is receding into the background. But I see a lot of promise in the next era of Batman comics, precisely because Jim Gordon—AKA the new Batman—isn’t a vigilante who watched his parents die as a child.
Jim Gordon is a cop. Gotham City’s former police commissioner was friends with Bruce Wayne’s alter ego but, at the same time, didn’t really know anything about the Batman. He trusted, helped and defended him. But now the original Caped Crusader is gone, presumed dead for months now. Gordon’s transformation into Gotham’s guardian is a very different sort of journey.
The new Batman era gets kicked off in three of this week’s comics. Each shows a different angle on how people—including Gordon himself—are reacting to a different sort of Dark Knight. Batman #41 actually starts before Gordon shaves his mustache and steps into the ten-foot-tall power armor, showing a civil servant who scoffs at the idea that he could be Batman.
But Gordon’s decision comes after a realization that he wouldn’t want younger officers to sacrifice their lives to the burden of the Bat-mantle. This moment links him to Bruce Wayne, who put his own body and life on the line rather than have someone else do it. But it diverges from Wayne, too, because Gordon sees it as a chance to tie the police and a Batman persona closer together.
Gordon’s first adventure as Batman pits him up against a superpowered thief, introducing the support crew who’ll be helping him use the suit and keep Gotham safe. For those worried that this Batman would be all-robot all the time, Snyder and Capullo reveal the snazzy new uniform he’ll be wearing while inside the armor.
This shift in Bat-direction gives the various creators using Batman in the DC universe a chance to simultaneously create and address a void in the company’s superhero holy trinity. Batman/Superman #21 shows how Gordon won’t be palling around with Superman anytime soon.
Aside from offering up a good ol’-fashioned mistaken identity throwdown, Batman’s encounter with the depowered Man of Steel marks the new Batman as a man apart from his predecessor.
Justice League membership isn’t in the offing just yet. The team-up book is more a continuation of the new Truth storyline spooling out in various Superman comics and shows Clark learning about Bruce’s death in a really crummy way.
Changing Batman’s secret identity—which is known by sponsor company CEO Geri Powers and a few key cops—into a police officer lets the creative teams seed elements of police procedural along with high-octane superheroics. There are still shadowy doings to contend with, like Detective Harvey Bullock’s obsession with finding out what happened to the last guy who wore the Bat-symbol.
In his first Gotham-based adventures, Gordon crushes giant handholds into the sides of buildings, wrecks public property and divebombs from a giant blimp. Along with the other changes, it seems like this Batman isn’t ever going to be stealthy.
Put it all together and you’ve got a very different sort of Batman. Right now, all those differences feel like a good thing. Bruce Wayne probably will be back in the cowl soon enough, but it’s a pleasure to watch the idea of what Batman can be get stretched into interesting new shapes.
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