Detective Comics Vol. 9: Gordon At War

DC Vol 9

 

I don’t look fondly on Jim Gordon’s stint as Batman. In fact, for the year that he claimed the mantle of Batman, I remained consistently vocal in my opposition of the decision. I felt as though it were a desperate attempt for something “different,” and I couldn’t believe Gordon, as a character, deciding to take up the cowl. Issue after issue, arc after arc, I continued to feel validated that this was a poor decision because none of the Jim-Bats stories were good… Until the stories in this collection were published.

 

SYNOPSIS

He was Gotham City’s top cop. Now he’s its Dark Knight.

Jim Gordon never imagined he’d step into the shoes of his sometime ally, sometime enemy and

take on the role of the Batman. But now that he’s the man behind the mask, he’s discovering that the risks are more deadly than he ever believed—and the rewards greater than he could have dreamed.

Freed from the rules and regulations of the GCPD, Gordon has the power to crack his coldest cases, help his oldest friends and take the battle straight to the enemy. But history has a way of catching up, and even though he’s inhabiting a new role in the war on crime, the ghosts of the past have come calling. Martyrs and madmen, Marines and magic, murder and mayhem—if Gordon wants to be Gotham’s guardian, he must face them all…

The creative team of Peter J. Tomasi and Fernando Pasarin are joined by a gallery of the greatest artists in comics for BATMAN: DETECTIVE COMICS VOL. 9: GORDON AT WAR, a milestone chapter in the legend of the new Dark Knight, spinning off of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s BATMAN series!

 

WHAT’S INCLUDED

“The Bronze Age” (Detective Comics #48, 49, & 50)

“Our Gordon At War” (Detective Comics # 51 & 52)

Batman: Rebirth #1

You can read full reviews of each issue by clicking on their respective links.

 

 

RECOMMENDED READING

Batman Vol. 8: Superheavy – The #1 New York Times best-selling creative team of Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Danny Miki introduce an all-new Dark Knight in BATMAN VOL. 8: SUPERHEAVY.

Following the disappearance and presumed death of Batman, former police commissioner Jim Gordon has been called to carry on the Dark Knight’s legacy and become his successor.

But while the name and what it stands for remain the same, this new Batman is far from just a copy of the original. Patrolling the city in a gargantuan high-tech Batsuit, Gordon is no shadowy vigilante. He has the full cooperation of the GCPD and the mayor, plus a multimillion-dollar budget from Powers International.

But will an expensive suit be enough to stop the mysterious, weed-like Mr. Bloom before his deadly plans for the city take root?

Collects BATMAN #41-45 and DC SNEAK PEAK: BATMAN #1. Guest contributors include Brian Azzarello (WONDER WOMAN) and Jock (BATMAN: THE BLACK MIRROR).

 

There really isn’t a need to read Superheavy unless you are completely unfamiliar with the circumstances that inspired Jim Gordon to become Batman. Other than that, this collection stands well on its own, and focuses on Jim Gordon more than it does Jim-Bats.

 

THE STORY:

I mentioned this in my intro, but I honestly believe that Detective Comics Vol. 9: Gordon At War contains the best collection of Jim-Bats stories. It would be easy to assume they’re the best because they are just well written, but that’s not what resonates with me here. I mean, yes, there narratives are good – and we’ll get to those details in a bit – but I liked “The Bronze Age” and “Our Gordon At War” because they feel like Jim Gordon stories where he just happens to be Batman.

Other stories collecting Gordon’s tenure as Batman all feel as though they were presented with the intention of, “What would it be like if Gordon were Batman? How can we make Gordon Batman?” then ran with that question to shape Jim in various ways to make him fit the role. Gordon At War, instead, just embraces an already rich character, and bases the stories on who he already is: a detective, and a former soldier.

 

The Bronze Age

“The Bronze Age” is the first story, and easily the better of the two stories. The best compliment I can give this narrative, is that it actually includes a lot of detective work! That might not mean much to you, but considering this book’s title is Detective Comics – while also accounting for the fact that Batman is supposed to be the world’s greatest detective, and we’ve hardly seen him do any detecting over the past six-plus years –  this means more than I can explain!

 

The story starts with Jim-Bats stumbling across a murder. Yeah, that sounds basic enough, but the guy getting murdered is George Washington… As in, the first President of the United States. Gordon attempts to stop the murderer, but is unable to, nor is he able to get a description of the guy. As the story progresses, more murders pop up, and all of them involve a theme, with the murder victim dressed in some type of costume. The costumes aren’t just for flare though, they have meaning. This is where the detective work kicks in. With no leads to the killer, and no known connections, Gordon and Bullock have to start building a profile of the killer, as well as a pattern. The problem is, with only two murders – as unique as they are – there are multiple patterns to choose from.

As more bodies turn up though, more pattern options appear. It’s a brilliant approach because typically the more that occurs in a narrative (especially one with detective work), the closer we get to an answer. But here, with every additional detail or murder that occurs, Gordon and Bullock actually start to move further from figuring this case out. Instead of narrowing potential victims, each body they find creates more possibilities for new, different types of victims.

If the mystery weren’t strong enough to captivate you – trust me, it is – the tone of the story should be. It’s creepy. If you’ve seen the movie Seven starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman – it’s practically that level of creepy: weird murders with weird meanings. Hell, the killer himself is creepy! The guy runs around Gotham City wearing masks, dressing people up to mimic certain figures and events in time, then murders them. If that weren’t weird enough, he only speaks in quotes nearly every time he’s seen. But wait! I’m still not finished with the creep factor! On top of the masks, and staging scenarios, and speaking in quotes, Gordon and Bullock discover that he’s removing various bones from each of his victims as well…

 

I don’t want to give too many details away because the mystery and the detective work to uncover the pattern and connections to the murders is what drives the narrative. Just know that the story is well written, and quite captivating. If you’ve opposed Jim Gordon as Batman – much like I did – then you should give this story a chance. There’s not any flashy “Look at this new Batman!” elements overtaking Jim Gordon as a character. This is simply a great detective story, with Jim Gordon at the center of it doing what he does best… He just happens to be Batman during this time. And forget about this being a good “Jim Bats story,” this is one of the best stories published under Detective Comics throughout the entire run of the New 52.

 

“Our Gordon At War”

The second story isn’t quite as satisfying, but it’s still good. On a positive note, Gordon is front and center again as a character, which makes this story feel uniquely special to him. We are able to get a glimpse of Gordon’s past, particularly his time as a Marine. Whenever you can provide backstory and depth to a character, I’m in. I will be honest though, this story does stretch the imagination a bit. If you enjoy more grounded stories, then this could be a difficult read for you – and that is ultimately part of where the narrative falls for me. It is handled well though, and Tomasi doesn’t get too crazy.

To kick off the story, Gordon is approached by one of his old Marine buddies who has gone AWOL. He’s not alone though. Other Marines have either gone missing, or been killed, and all of it is being covered up by commanding officers. It’s soon revealed that while a Marine, Jim and his team stumbled upon something mystical and ancient while they were active, and managed to bury it in the sands of Afghanistan, hoping it would stay there. As it turns out, it didn’t.

 

Gordon’s old ally isn’t the only person who has come to Gotham either. His friend is being hunted, and was followed by an assassin who is connected to something from their past. When the assassin makes an attempt on both of their lives, it’s clear that Gordon needs to go back and visit his old buddies to investigate what nightmares have returned to haunt them.

The story takes us overseas, and into the heart of Gordon’s old Marine crew – new recruits and all. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Gordon look back on his “glory days.” Not only did it add new textures to him as a character, but it also helped define how he is able to operate as well as he does as Batman. A mystery is presented concerning what happened to Jim and his team in the past, and as that plot slowly unfolds, Gordon begins uncovering connections with some of the generals and officers. The plot progresses nicely and is handled well for a two-issue story. There’s a good balance of character focus and plot progression as the story shifts from mystery to all-out mystical mayhem that’s similar to The Mummy.

This is clearly where stretching the imagination comes into account. Even if you don’t do well with mystical stories, I still recommend giving “Our Gordon At War” a shot, because there’s enough character work to keep it grounded enough. While the story itself isn’t that memorable, the focus on Gordon and his past is, and that’s honestly what makes this story worthwhile.

Another thing worth noting for this story, are the themes. If you’re military and served overseas, there’s so much that you can connect with here. I often here my brother talk about stories during his time in the middle east, the work he had to do, and the situations he was in, and it becomes easy to see that this mystical event is really a metaphor for the nightmare our soldiers face. Our real heroes endure the unimaginable, and as hard as they try to bury what happened overseas, those nightmares come back to haunt them far too often. Once that connection is made with this story, the mystical element feels way less mystical, and far too real.

 

 In the end, both stories excel because Gordon, as a person – not as robo-bats – is front and center. His relationships with other people – specifically Bullock, his fellow Marines, and Barbara – are the foundation of both stories. Tomasi’s approach of going “back to basics” concerning who Gordon is also a brilliant move! I felt that Jim Gordon, as a character, has become somewhat lost during his venture as Batman, so it is satisfying to see his “return.”

If I have one complaint about this collection, it’s that it wrapped up the New 52’s run of Detective Comics, but there was nothing about it that felt like the end of a series. It would have been nice for there to have been some type of perspective portrayed, but I also understand that wouldn’t make complete sense considering Snyder does this in Batman.

Overall though, this is a highly entertaining read, and if you’re going to read anything featuring Jim Gordon as Batman, make it this story!

 

THE ART:

Fernando Pasarin covered most of the art duties for this collection. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because he did a stunt on Batgirl during Gail Simone’s run. He also received a bit of criticism about how he draws faces during that time. While he still draws wonky faces on occasion, I do think the complaints are a bit over dramatic. While there is an oddness (or ugliness as some people have stated) to his faces, he manages to capture emotion incredibly well. This aspect allows him to elevate the stories he’s given, and it does wonders for the overall story. Beyond that, his layouts are incredible. The way he storyboards the narrative is masterclass, and equal to the impact a film has when they hire an excellent director and cinematographer.

 

BONUS MATERIAL:

 

There’s quite a bit of bonus material in this collection. As expected, there’s a variant cover gallery at the back of the book, as well as a creative, fifteen page add for The 11 Curious Cases of Batman.” The real gem though, is the inclusion of Batman: Rebirth #1. The issue itself is only ok to good, but it’s a great way to promote Rebirth, so I can’t really knock it. Mikel Janin’s art for the issue is well worth the time and attention alone, and there are themes presented that carry throughout Batman and All Star Batman’s current run.

 

THE PRICE:

At $16.99, I would say you’re getting a fair deal, especially if you’re a fan of Jim Gordon. The stories are strong, and “The Bronze Age” is excellent. You also get more bonus material than usual. There’s a good chance you can find this collection for a cheaper price on Amazon, so that’s always worth looking into.

 

OVERALL: When it comes down to it, Detective Comics Vol. 9: Gordon At War is a solid collection. Gordon is front and center, and he is the actual focus of the stories, rather than a robot-bat suit. The idea to go back to basics and feature Gordon’s detective skills, while also

 

SCORE:  7.5/10

 

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