The old Batman is gone, and a new Batman has taken his place.
You may already know a bit about this — DC Entertainment has trumpeted the big shakeup in the pages of this week’s “Batman” #41 for a while as part of it’s company-wide revamp — and no one would blame you for thinking it was ridiculous. It is ridiculous! It’s crazy and audacious and sounds extremely silly out of context.
However, it’s also a fantastic comic book.
If you’re not caught up, there are spoilers ahead.
Following last month’s “Batman” #40, Bruce Wayne appears to have perished along with the Joker, leaving Gotham without a Batman. But there must always be a Batman, and the person who replaces Wayne is probably the last person anyone would expect: Commissioner Jim Gordon.
You know, the guy who was played by Gary Oldman in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy:
Except, in the comics, he’s currently younger than Oldman’s version — 46, to be exact. He’s still not quite Batman material, although he’s probably more qualified than you think: This Jim Gordon is an ex-marine, believe it or not.
The story does acknowledge Gordon has a bit of a way to go before he’s superhero material — hence some intense training, new haircut, and (alas) shaved mustache. And of course, the
pièce de résistance:
A giant robot Batsuit. It kind of looks like a bunny, something that Jim Gordon even says himself, hilariously.
This new Batman is the work of the Powers Corporation, working in conjunction with the Gotham City Police Department to create a new kind of Batman, one that works within the confines of the law instead of outside it, to inspire hope in the justice system that we have. They’re essentially trying to build a better Batman, but can Batman be built?
The current “Batman” creative team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo has specialised in ballsy, go-for-broke storytelling full of ideas that often seem dubious, but end up being brilliant just because they’re really good at making comics. These are the guys who decided to take a full year to retell Batman’s origin — something that was easy to perceive as both wasteful and unnecessary, since Batman’s origin isn’t just well-known, it’s pretty much a perfect comic book — and effectively redefined the character for a new generation.
They’re the Phil Lord and Chris Miller of comic books, continually proving the doubters wrong and earning the licence to do whatever they want, and what they want frequently sounds crazy but is always compelling.
So yes, it’s easy to be frustrated with this change if you haven’t been following along, but it’s important to understand it in its context, as the continued attempts of talented creators testing the limits of the Batman myth, pushing its characters (and themselves) outside of the realm of the expected or comfortable.
Up until this point, Snyder and Capullo have been exploring Batman not as a grim stalker of the night, but as an aspirational figure, the embodiment of the notion that a person can stand up to fear and darkness and make a difference. This new Batman, then, is the most vital part of that story: the proof that Batman did inspire, that Bruce Wayne’s mission was a success.
Jim Gordon doesn’t want to be Batman, but he needs Batman to have meant something. Gotham City will test him, and it’s going to be fascinating to watch.
And don’t worry — he doesn’t always look like a bunny.
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