Has This Happened Before?
Batman striking Gotham's police commissioner, and his longtime friend, can certainly be construed as a turning point for their friendship. It's not like it's been a frequent occurrence, one that's happened before and can therefore be easily dismissed. It Batman has stuck Gordon before, it most certainly was a long time ago.
Such an action did occur, out of mainstream continuity, in Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's 2012 graphic novel Batman: Earth One. But the two hadn't become allies at that point, so there was no friendship at stake. More recently, and in continuity, Batman also took a swing at Gordon in Scott Peterson and Kelley Jones' Batman: Kings of Fear #2. Batman was under the influence of the Scarecrow's fear gas, though, so Gordon managed to block the punch anyway. And Gordon was a lot more understanding knowing Batman was under someone else's influence.
How Far Does Bane's Influence Reach?
Could there be more to Gordon's reaction, though, than mere anger at getting hit in the face? Any good cop would certainly stop Batman from smacking around an apparently incapacitated prisoner, but did Gordon maybe have another reason? Bane has been shown to be pulling the strings of not only Penguin, but also other Batman villains, among them the Joker and the Riddler.
Not all of Bane's enlistees have necessarily been villains, per se – one of his cohorts is Batman's Flashpoint-reality father. Could Bane have also enlisted other Batman supporting characters, some of them his allies? If he has, could one of them possibly be Jim Gordon?
Gordon tells Batman that he's been personally overseeing Bane's incarceration. If true, it would be improbable that Bane could have seized the level of control that he has without Gordon knowing, indicating that Gordon could be complicit in Bane's manipulations. If he's lying, then he's giving Batman a false assurance – not unlike the kind of manipulation Bane has already been undertaking against Batman. Either way, Gordon's playing into Bane's hands – a transgression certainly capable of ending a friendship.
Has Jim Gordon Gone Bad?
One of the Penguin's earlier statements becomes surprisingly relevant in light of Batman and Gordon's encounter. Penguin states that Bane, from the confines of Arkham, is "for all practicality, running Gotham City." Considering the known extent of Bane's reach, Penguin's words ring true, and if they are, it would be unlikely that Bane could "run" the city without Gordon's cooperation, at worst, or at least his knowledge, at best.
If so, it wouldn't be Batman's punch that potentially puts an end to their working relationship. If the once-incorruptible Jim Gordon is knowingly allowing himself to be manipulated by one of Batman's greatest foes, that might serve as the kind of betrayal that Batman simply can't overlook. And a corrupt Jim Gordon is a development that's arguably far more shocking than a punch to the face – even by Batman's hand.
Batman and Gordon might be on the outs, at least for now, but Batman's possible alliance with the Penguin is only beginning. Batman's going to need some answers, which might start to come as his investigation into Bane's covert operations continues in Batman #60, on sale December 5.
Jim Gordon, meanwhile, is probably going to need some ice for his jaw.