Once a Marine, always a Marine. Former Gotham City police commissioner James Gordon is still viewed fondly by his co-workers and neighbors as the commissioner, even though he’s “just Jim” now courtesy of his latest assignment as Batman. In Peter J. Tomasi and Fernando Pasarin’s “Detective Comics” #51, Tomasi uses this show of respect for his skills and his humanity as a nice prelude for the events to come.
Good mysteries are a hallmark of “Detective Comics.” However, in the early scenes, Tomasi reveals that this isn’t the kind of mystery where Batman goes on a journey of discovery, finds an assembly of clues and deduces the ultimate conclusion; instead, this two-part story is a slow reveal of events from Gordon’s past, which ultimately set him on a specific path in the present, leaving the reader in the inactive position of merely following Gordon through the issue.
The detective work doesn’t start until Tomasi’s densely packed script transitions events from Gotham to Gordon’s former forward operating base in Afghanistan — but are you really looking for clues when you already know what you’ll find? Gordon spins his wheels until he seeks out the location of his unit’s original unforgettable encounter in the desert.
Fernando Pasarin’s art takes great care to make the background settings as effective as the characters moving through them. His cityscapes for Gotham are highly detailed, with everything from brick walls to wrought-iron railings rendered with careful precision. Matt Ryan’s inks definitely stand out in the small details. That attention to setting follows Gordon from Gotham to Afghanistan as the military base comes alive with barracks and Humvees, which creates a whole new mood within the book.
Colorist Chris Sotomayor had his hands full with the venue changes in this book and delivers rich textures throughout. Gotham still has its dark visage, but details like green trees and warm street lights make it a bit less foreboding, if not more welcoming. The desert is a bright contrast with warm tones that lend depth to its sheer size, and — although it’s beautiful — it’s no less dangerous.
More adventure than mystery, “Our Gordon at War” concludes in the next issue. The creative team will likely give this story a turn for the creep-tastic next issue as we learn just what Gordon’s old unit found in the desert and what’s come back for revenge. While this issue isn’t a good jumping-on point for new readers, it is a treat for Jim Gordon fans, whether or not you’re in favor of him as Batman.