In a series that has delighted in big revelations and surprises, “Batman” #41 kicks off the comic’s latest era with Jim Gordon as Batman. As this is from Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Danny Miki, it’s not a situation that could be characterized as simple or easy for any party involved.
While the book kicks off with Gordon already in the robotic suit that is now the face of Batman, it’s nice that Snyder spends as much time focusing on Gordon’s slow agreement to take the role as he does with Gordon inside of the suit. Snyder gives Gordon a reluctance that fits well with the character — up until now, he’s been the voice of lawfulness within Gotham above all else — and I don’t think it would have sat well with readers if we’d had Gordon racing to leap inside the suit. Instead, we have a character who’s respectful of the identity of Batman, someone who’s just as worried about the visual depiction of Batman as he is the symbolism, and the purpose of having a police officer take over the role.
It’s that last fact which feels extremely important in “Batman” #41. I don’t think it’s any small coincidence that, with our own reality closely securitizing the presence and purpose of police officers, Snyder starts to also examine some of those larger themes here. “You’ll be a Batman who has checks and balances,” Gordon is told, and those words feel like an ominous warning of what’s to come. Batman has always existed as someone who could go places that the law couldn’t, so what happens when you do have a Batman that’s theoretically not able to go any further than the police officers do with due process? It’s something that’s clearly on Gordon’s mind here, and I’m looking forward to seeing just where the book (and Snyder) will take us in that regard.
For all of the new Batman suit being a big suit of armor (and Snyder isn’t afraid to make some of the “rabbit” jokes that preceded it when revealed a few months ago), “Batman” #41 doesn’t lose track of the humanity of the person inside the suit. It’s nice that, even with all of the firepower, Batman ultimately saves the day because of brain power; he’s a character that debuted in “Detective Comics,” after all, and having a Batman who’s trained in police detective work means that we haven’t lost that aspect.
Capullo and Miki’s art works well here, although I’ll admit that my favorite scenes artistically are those with Gordon and Harvey Bullock talking to one another with no suit of armor in sight. Capullo and Miki draw the duo as two average, ordinary looking people: a little haggard in the face, a little schlubby in dress and build. When Gordon finds himself wondering what a Batman who operates inside the law would be like, there’s a mixture of wistfulness and trepidation on his face. From the trickle of smoke from between his lips to the panel below as Bullock gestures with fingers outstretched, it all comes across as incredibly natural and lifelike.
The action sequences are fun too, even if they don’t have quite the level of charm that the quieter character moments hold. The energy being that Batman tussles with here is certainly striking, with its slightly amorphous edges and its day-glo colors from FCO Plascencia. It’s also nice that Capullo isn’t afraid to keep his images inside their panels borders until a moment that deserves that extra visual punch, like an 18-wheeler getting thrown at Batman. Its breaking free of the panel borders makes the moment stand out, providing an impact both to the reader and to poor Jim Gordon.
“Batman” #41 is a good start to this new storyline, although it’s worth noting that — in many ways — things are just getting going. There are still a lot of questions to be answered — the fate of Bruce Wayne, the force behind this issue’s attacker, the attempted balance between vigilante and law enforcement — and we’re only one chapter into the story. It’s a great first step, though, the sort of story where each new piece has the opportunity to build on what we’ve seen so far. While there’s no doubt that Bruce Wayne will eventually reclaim his cowl (as he always does), this is a great opportunity and it feels like Snyder, Capullo and Miki are taking full advantage of it. “Batman” is definitely on the right track, and it’s as strong as ever in a post-“Convergence” lineup.