In this Zero Year tie-in we turn out attention to Jim Gordon and I couldn’t be happier to see a story centered around ol’ Jimbo. However, this look back to the Year One days features some changes that clash with what we’ve seen in previous New 52 issues and others that feel so minor and unnecessary that it was like they were made just for the sake of it. Still, as a done-in-one issue, Detective Comics #25 is a success. The artwork is great, the story is captivating, and there’s one scene in particular that should be remembered for quite some time.
From what I can tell after reading 3 of today’s Zero Year tie-ins (there will be a lot more where that came from) it looks like more care was taken to ensure no creative team repeated the same beats or stepped on the toes of the main Batman title unlike the torture, monologue, and vanish formula we saw again and again during the Death of the Family crossover books. Action Comics never even saw Superman set foot in Gotham, Green Arrow was only in Gotham for the briefest of moments during the blackout and never involved himself in the Riddler plot, and now with Jim Gordon we hardly even make mention of the blackout at all. It’s actually shaping up to be a decent event with fun and interesting little side stories that merely peck around the edges of what Snyder & Capullo are doing on Batman. Nothing is vital to the bigger feature, but nothing is in any way bad either and that’s the most important thing. I’d rather have good comics than bad ones that think their an important cog in the main story’s clock.
Detective Comics #25 mostly shows us what Jim Gordon went through on the days leading up to Riddler’s blackout. It’s a nice, self-contained story about corruption in the GCPD and what Gordon was doing to fight it. If you found it odd how absent Gordon was from the first act of Zero Year then you should be pleased with this comic because it scratches your itch in a pretty satisfying way. During Gordon’s struggle to do some honest police work and not get killed by other members of his rotten department, we learn a little more about him and the state of the New 52 Gotham at this point in time. As I said earlier, some changes retcon what we’ve already seen in issues from this year along and others feel like they were merely done to distance the new timeline just a tiny bit further away from Miller’s Year One. For instance,
- Gordon is described as a Chicago cop, but Grant Morrison’s Batman Inc. #13 showed that Gordon was there the night the Waynes were murdered just like in Nolan’s Batman Begins.
- One of the main antagonists of this issue is Zachary Henshaw, a man who looks and acts almost exactly like Miller’s Detective Flass, a character who goes unmentioned in this issue.
- Loeb is given a softer edge, but a healthier, stronger look.
- Even Harvey Bullock makes a cameo looking very dapper, much like how he looked in Geoff Johns’ Batman: Earth One. The makeover of Loeb and Bullock is almost a CW-ification (I’m referencing the way everyone on every CW show is gorgeous) of the GCPD.
But the biggest change to life in the GCPD is that the glimmer of hope is much brighter. The GCPD come off as corrupt, but the heart of the organization is n’t as black as it once was. Had Jim Gordon pulled a similar stunt from this issue in Frank Miller’s Batman: Year ONe, he would’ve been killed on the spot. Plain and simple.
But where there are unfortunate and odd changes there are also very good ones. I mentioned in the first paragraph in this review that there is a spectacular moment, well it’s actually more like 2 moments because they are both very closely connected. I’ll just say that it’s a wonderful payoff and the way Jason Fabok drew it and Tomeu Morey colored it is mesmerizing. The best of these alterations that I’ll be sure to discuss though is with Black Mask, who plays a major role in this issue. As far as I can tell, it looks like John Layman is doing away with Tony Daniel’s god-awful take on Roman Sionis that saw that mask the villain wore as a mystical device that gave the foe mind powers. Daniel even went so far as putting Mad Hatter and Black Mask in a hypnotic-mind-battle during the first Detective Comics Annual. What we get here is something far more believable and closer to what the character’s creator, Doug Moench, intended.
There are a few somewhat unnecessary and unmemorable changes to Gordon’s backstory in “Whistleblower’s Blues” but ultimately even they can’t bring down everyone’s favorite underdog cop. The story of Gordon’s perseverance in the face of overwhelming corruption paired with a couple of iconic moments that will be of tremendous importance to the New 52 mythology make this a very worthwhile read. Not only did John Layman deliver a solid Jim Gordon story (few and far between in the past couple years) but Jason Fabok and Tomeu Morey drew the hell out of it. There are some really well thought-out perspectives here and great use of lighting, particularly in the scene on the docs and moments when lighting strikes dramatically. Besides some of Gordon’s most triumphant moments being beautifully rendered, there’s also a shot of a Gotham bridge that was really well laid out to show the progression of something crashing into the water below.
In addition to all of this, Detective Comics #25 also comes with a backup story set in the modern timeline with art by Jorge Lucas and colorist Dave McCaig. While it’s sad to see a backup not illustrated by Andy Clarke, Lucas does a superb job with this dark and dreary tale that sets up the next arc in Detective Comics which revolves around Man-Bat. The story itself is not all that compelling and doesn’t show us much we haven’t already seen in backups in the past, but the final page serves up a satisfying payoff to the flashback of Zero Year.
- You like a gritty, realistic bat-story (well, except for that casual mention of a gadget that holographically recreates crime scenes… that was an unfortunate line I could’ve done without)
- Jason Fabok is one of your favorite artists
- Jim Gordon is a character you love and you want to know more about his New 52 backstory
- You want to learn more about the upcoming Man-Bat storyline
- You’re a fan of any time we go deep inside the GCPD
- You like to root for the underdog
Even though there are a number of changes to Gordon’s backstory that I found questionable, this was a really engaging read with fantastic artwork. Plus, Gordon is a character who has gotten the short end of the stick in the New 52 so far and it’s great to see him get a story focused on him being smart, strong, and totally capable for a change. It might not add much to the bigger Riddler blackout story of Zero Year, but I think it provides something else to the New 52 Bat-mythology of equal importance.