Tag Archives: Commissioner Gordon

Today’s Super Comic — Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #125 (2000)

The Batman books attempted an ambitious storyline that wrecked the status quo and crossed over every Bat-title for a year. On the whole, the result was successful.

Prior to “No Man’s Land,” an earthquake had practically destroyed Gotham City, and the U.S. government decided to condemn the city and isolate it from the rest of the country. People had a window of time to evacuate, and those who stayed behind would be stuck in a lawless land.

You have to suspend quite a bit of disbelief for the premise, but once you get past that, it’s a great set-up for a year of Batman stories unlike any other. The villains carve out their respective territories to lord over, while the remnants of the Gotham City Police Department, no longer with any legal authority, try to impose order and protect the innocents left behind, with Jim Gordon serving more in a general role than a police commissioner role. And Batman is initially AWOL for reasons known only to him.

Throughout the long arc, resentment and tensions build between Batman and Gordon, and they come to a head in Legends of the Dark Knight #125, which is basically just a conversation between the two.

It’s an excellent conversation, one that was years in the making, with Gordon finally calling Batman out for acting like a jerk—treating him like a subordinate, leaving him in the dark about major events, and frequently walking out on him in mid-sentence. It was long overdue, and Batman’s response is meaningful…as is Gordon’s response to that response.

Batman may be the title character, but for this storyline, Gordon provides the emotional core and serves as the most compelling protagonist. A good man who has dedicated his life to upholding the law finds himself in a lawless situation and must make difficult, ethically murky choices along the way. That’s great stuff right there.

And yeah, Batman really was a jerk at this point in his history.

By the way, the “No Man’s Land” novelization by Greg Rucka is also excellent. There’s more than enough going on here to fill a novel.

Writer: Greg Rucka

Penciler: Rick Burchett

Inker: James Hodgkins

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Batman: No Man’s Land vol. 4 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Batman #404-408 (1987)

batman_404I’m a bit pressed for time, so forgive me for going with a super-obvious one today. But Batman: Year One deserves all its many accolades.

Originally presented in Batman #404-408, this is writer Frank Miller’s other great Batman story, focusing on his early days rather than later days. But while The Dark Knight Returns seems to be the consensus favorite, I’ve always preferred the more down-to-earth Year One (though DKR might very well appear here before my year of positive reviews is over).

In Year One, Batman himself is the weirdest thing about his world. This is before the Joker, Mr. Freeze, and other colorful scoundrels have descended on Gotham City. (We do get some morally ambiguous Catwoman action, though.) Then-Lieutenant Gordon is the co-lead, and it’s basically a story of two flawed but good men trying to help their crime-ridden city in two very different ways. But maybe they can find some common ground and forge a productive friendship?

Artist David Mazzuchelli draws in an appropriately gritty style that produces several memorable Bat-images, and Miller’s tight story is constantly moving forward and gaining momentum.

Too often, writers portray Batman as so competent that he’s borderline superhuman, and that can be fun, but here we see an inexperienced Batman making mistakes and learning the ropes. This Batman is skilled but undeniably human, and that suits the character well.

If you enjoyed Batman Begins, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by reading this.

Writer: Frank Miller

Artist: David Mazzucchelli

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Batman: Year One (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Batman: The Long Halloween #1-13 (1996-97)

batman_the_long_halloween_1Seems to be an appropriate time of year for Batman: The Long Halloween, though anytime near a major holiday would work. This Batman story is, as the title implies, long in scope, spanning a full year early in the Dark Knight’s career. A serial killer is targeting gangsters, but only on the holidays, giving Batman a mystery to haunt him for a full 365 days.

It’s a busy year in which we see many of our favorite Bat-villains, including quite a bit of Harvey Dent as he transitions into Two-Face. Early on, Harvey, Batman, and Commissioner Gordon make a vow to bring down the crime lord Carmine Falcone, a.k.a. the Roman—perhaps with bending some rules, but never breaking any, Gordon insists. You can spot the DNA of the excellent Dark Knight movie in that and other moments throughout. In Gotham City, doing the right thing takes a toll—but it still needs to be done.

Certain writer/artist teams seem to bring out the best in each other, and the quintessential example is frequent collaborators Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, the writer and artist here. Sale’s panels are big, uncluttered, and consistently a little rough, which suits Batman’s world rather well, and Loeb writes a lean, efficient script that covers up a minimum of the artwork. Interestingly, the story has plenty of room to breathe over thirteen issues, but it still feels stripped down to its essential components.

And another plus—the story requires Batman to be a detective. That facet of him tends to get overlooked sometimes, particularly in other mediums.

The miniseries deserves its status as a classic. I wouldn’t call it the best Batman story or anything like that, but it certainly is something special.

Writer: Jeph Loeb

Artist: Tim Sale

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Batman: The Long Halloween (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Batman: The Killing Joke (1988)

Batman Killing JokeWith the animated adaptation coming out, it seemed like a good time to revisit Batman: The Killing Joke. After rereading it, I find myself thinking, yes, it is possible for a book to be both brilliant and terrible.

Of course, this series of reviews focuses exclusively on good comic books, those that would rate a B+ or better. And yes, The Killing Joke is a great graphic novel. I’ll address the justifiably controversial part and move on.

What happens to Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) is terrible. Without getting into specifics, an excellent heroine is sacrificed to test a man’s strength of character (her father, Commissioner Gordon). The biggest problem with this is that it contributes to an unfortunate trend—hurting female characters to motivate male characters. If it just happened once in a while, and if the reverse also happened about as frequently, then it wouldn’t be as big a deal (though still a waste of Batgirl in this case). As part of a trend, though, it makes for an uncomfortable read. Plus, this is a pivotal, traumatic event in Batgirl’s life, and she’s barely a supporting character in the story. It reeks of sexism.

But as a Batman/Joker/Commissioner Gordon story, The Killing Joke is amazing, with a perfect premise—the Joker wants to prove that even a man as rational and normal as Jim Gordon is only one bad day away from going as insane as he is. Flashbacks to Joker’s own “one bad day” are carefully placed throughout, though the book is delightfully ambiguous about whether the Joker’s origin story is true or if it’s an invention of his crazy brain.

Alan Moore’s script is full of memorable, insightful dialogue and strong, well-earned moments, and Brian Bolland’s art is nothing short of fantastic, the drawings themselves as well as the structure of the page layouts. Even a simple nine-panel grid feels fluid and dynamic because of how Bolland stages the scene. These characters act, and it all feels so cinematic.

I can’t think of any other comic that makes me want to simultaneously throw it across the room and praise it as a work of art. But The Killing Joke achieves that distinction, which is twisted, really, like the Joker himself.

One more thing—KEEP YOUR KIDS AWAY FROM THIS BOOK. Not every Batman book is appropriate for kids, and this is one of the least appropriate Bat-books ever. There’s a reason the cartoon adaptation is rated R.

Writer: Alan Moore

Artist: Brian Bolland

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ADULTS ONLY! NO EXCEPTIONS!