Batman: Officer Down

The Gordon family can just not catch a break.

First Barbara’s shot and paralyzed by the Joker.  Then Sarah is shot and killed by the Joker.  Now Jim has been shot three times in the back by an unknown assailant.

Not going to lie, I wondered if the Joker would be the guilty party once again.  Luckily, he must have been out of town during this particular crime.

Out with his co-workers, begrudgingly celebrating his birthday, Gordon leaves a local bar to head over to spend time with his daughter.  Along the way he encounters Catwoman, pulls his gun, and promptly falls to the ground, showing three bullet wounds in his back.

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Therein lies the plot for Batman: Officer Down.  Batman and co. pull out all the stops to find Gordon’s shooter.  For much of the comic they’re tailing Catwoman, the prime suspect since she was seen fleeing the scene of the crime.

Eventually caught, Catwoman says she vaguely saw the shooter, and identifies him as a cop, though she’s not sure which one.  With a bit of detective work, the team eventually learns that the culprit is a former mobster from Chicago, whom Gordon put away years prior while on the force in the windy city.

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Unfortunately, there is no hard evidence proving his guilt, and the cops have no choice but to let him go free.

Through all of this Gordon’s fate is tenuous at best, as he undergoes multiple surgeries to remove the bullets.  Eventually he wakes up and is back on his feet, but the events of the comic have greatly affected him.  He makes the ultimate decision to retire from the police force, a decision that doesn’t sit too well with Batman:

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Mercifully, the two eventually stop arguing and Batman accepts this massive change.

This comic was particularly poignant, and seems to have ushered in a pretty big shakeup to Gotham.  Gordon has been Batman’s ally on the police force since his very first appearance in Detective Comics #27, and the thought of the G.C.P.D. existing without him seems unthinkable.  Given the events of the past few years, it makes sense that Gordon would want to step down and enjoy what time he has left, away from the death and injustice of the police force.  Still, he has become such an institution in Gotham that it’s tough to imagine how Batman will operate without him.

While these events alone were plenty to make this story significant, the emotions behind them were even more compelling.  When Gordon is shot, the Batman team instantly flocks to Barbara, offering any and all support they can.

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All, that is, except Batman.  Batman slips into a guilt-ridden silence as he stands vigil at Gordon’s bedside.  He offers no help or support to his team, but instead single-handedly bears his own guilt and pain.  Alfred even confronts Bruce about this, stating quite matter-of-factly that he needs to stop acting like a petulant child and go out and actually do something to help the case.  Unmoved, Batman remains silent as Alfred says he is quitting Bruce’s employ.

Truth be told I didn’t really care for Batman all that much in this trade. I understand he’s upset, but is his pain really worse than anyone else’s? Is it worse than Barbara’s?  He’s so wrapped up in his own mental state that he doesn’t bother to offer help to those around him who could benefit from his wisdom.  While the rest of the Batman team is out tracking down Gordon’s shooter and being useful, Batman himself has retreated into an introspective brood that lasts for just about the entire storyline.  If anything, I enjoyed this portion of the story only insomuch as it showed Bruce’s more childish side and showed that there’s a part of him that still needs to grow up.

Overall this was a great, harrowing, heart-felt comic.  I’m sad to see Gordon leaving the position of commissioner, but I can’t really blame him after the year he’s had.  He helped Gotham survive No Man’s Land (at great personal cost) and helped the city get back on its feet afterwards.  He’s given so much to the city that he deserves a respite.  Still, I can’t help but feel that his presence will be missed.  His replacement has some pretty big shoes to fill, and I can only hope he’s up to the challenge.

-Jess

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