The opening issue of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s bold “relaunch” of Batman isn’t an introduction. It’s an argument, one some fans might demand—and some deserve, they figure—after changing the guard behind DC’s most recognizable symbol.
Monthly readers of the series, let’s take stock: Snyder and Capullo have 40 great issues with bazillionaire playboy Bruce Wayne at the helm. We’ve had two event-spanning Joker arcs; a satisfying, Riddler-heavy origin story; and The Court of Owls, a secret society that existed in Gotham’s underbelly, unfurled in front of our eyes.
Maybe the series has its critics, but the Paste comics team is full of unashamed fans. I love Joker’s divided arcs—one set up to simply toy with the Dark Knight, another to obliterate him completely. Though it felt like it ran about three issues too long, Zero Year has its charms as an origin story, but the creative team never seemed more at home than when it was dreaming up completely untouched possibilities in Gotham with The Court of Owls. It was a hilarious, almost laughable realization: Yeah, even though Batman somehow managed to prepare for every conceivable outcome in a Joker battle, he’d still left a mammal-sized rock unturned, and those possibilities fired readers’ imagination through the 40-issue series. Like Geoff Johns’ Earth One take on Batman, Snyder and Capullo were able to dream up a Gotham tale that still left room for surprises—both in plot and character development, and with 75 years of history and preconceptions behind that mask, that’s not as easy as it looks.
But now, a change in course? Something different! Did Snyder and Capullo just fast-track themselves to Arkham?!
I had the sense that the creative mojo was wearing thin in the late issues of Batman. It’s hard to put a finger on the problem: Capullo delivers his beautiful, singular vision of Gotham in every panel. Since Zero Year, FCO Plascencia has broadened his color palette, injecting bright pinks and muted oranges into the Gotham landscape—a move that, oddly, just highlights the darkness in certain panels. Snyder’s carried his razor-sharp writing through the final issue—and ending it on one of the more terrifying takes on the Joker that’s out there. But with the gears grinding just a little slower on the monthly issues, it stands to reason that, maybe, the duo ran out of places to go with The Batman?
So who can blame them for putting Snyder’s other Gotham obsession, Jim Gordon, into the spotlight? Snyder practically made his Batman career by taking on a Gordon-centered story in Detective Comics’ Black Mirror arc, one that delves into his own family tree for a terrifying finale. But the argument for Gordon gets a little meta within the pages of Batman #41, and that’s to the benefit of DC’s readers. Because as bad as some readers don’t want Gordon—47 and soft, a smoker with a mustache—taking over the role, they’ve got naysaying competition from Gordon himself.
“I’m sorry,” he tells Geri Powers, the CEO behind Powers International, which has engineered the bunny-eared mech bat suit for Gordon’s use. “But it’s not going to happen.”
But that’s just Gordon balking. After all, he’s been Batman’s side dude for years—complete with no media appreciation and even less approval from Gothamites, mostly due to the city’s own failed systems. With the GCPD backing him, as well as some interested third parties, how could Gordon resist? It’d be impossible.
The first story in Gordon’s Batman arc carries us across his, uh, batformation, if you will. The story flip-flops between the present, where a shaky Gordon battles a building-sized electro-monster; and the past, where the former police commissioner reluctantly dons his bat suit. Yeah, we get the throwaway reasoning behind Gordon’s new title: he’s got the brain, the wisdom, the integrity. But in a Dark Knight Returns-hushing move, Snyder is set to explore whether The Batman can show that Gotham’s “system can work,” which is obviously a long-held dream of a cop who resorts to help from a vigilante in a bat costume.
But the most surprising thing about this incarnation? Other than the fact that it works? It’s funny as hell. Snyder and Capullo inspire a couple genuine belly-laughs with their take on Gordon, one that’s not far from what Matt Fraction did with Clint Barton in his run of Hawkeye. Gordon’s clumsy, and he takes the “superhero with zero powers” thing to a new level. He’s not just powerless, he’s—gulp—muscle-challenged, nowhere near as suave, and as discussed: Gordon’s old. He’s a smoker. He’s got a mustache. Batman red flags.
In Gordon’s first battle, his mantra is “Think Bat-thoughts.”
But Capullo and Snyder remedy this quickly. I won’t give too much away about Gordon’s transformation, but by the end of the issue, he looks fit for the role. And in lieu of Gordon scaling stairs in Gotham’s historical district, Rocky-style, the former police commissioner’s snapped into shape instantly with a towering mech suit. “None of this is Batman,” Gordon argues early on, staring at the bunny-fied suit. Powers responds, almost with a warning to Batman readers: “No, Jim, it’s not. But if you want to be a part of it, you’re going to have to accept that.” Plus, Julia Perry—Alfred’s Daughter and new Wayne Enterprise technorati—argues, “it grows on you.” Dig in or GTFO, Batman readers.
I was curious to see Gordon’s transformation—especially the mech aspect—handled by Capullo’s hand, whose work seems to thrive most in the dark, organic world he made so signature with his work on Spawn. But I’m having a blast with this tech-heavy world he’s dreamed up in Batman #41. Even the mech suit, the electro-magnetic monster have wild, animalistic qualities. Even if some of those qualities come from the bunny kingdom.
And yeah, maybe the suit takes some getting used to, but it’s a sleek, beautiful design for an alternative Batman. And, granted, I’m not in love with the bunny ears either. But the early fight sequence between mech Batman and a certain villain’s electro beast shows off Capullo’s plan of attack early, which, like I said is Bad. Ass. Like he accomplished with a younger, more militaristic Bruce Wayne, he’s also taken some liberties with how we see Gordon. Again, no spoilers, but Gordon 2.0 doesn’t just feel like he fits. He feels right.
To those petrified of change: steer clear of Snyder and Capullo’s new Batman. It’ll only take you down an inspired look at Gotham’s other greatest crime fighter. To everyone else: buckle up. Snyder and Capullo seem to be back at their fighting weight—and they’ll do the arguing for Jim Gordon themselves, thank you.