Tuesday, December 09, 2008

One of the more enjoyable things about the Dark Knight was that for the first time in years of Batman TV shows, cartoons, and movies; we had a competent, capable, and hardcore Commissioner Jim Gordon. Although the role gets overshadowed since it's not the flashy one, Gary Oldman builds up the character a lot; making it clear that the fate of Gotham City isn't resting on Batman's shoulders alone. Previously, Gordon had been portrayed as a likable if harmless-seeming authority figure; and it was pretty obvious Batman was the one who got things done in Gotham. (The recent the Batman animated series may have been on the right track with former X-Files actor Mitch Pileggi as the voice of Commissioner Gordon, but I can't recall him getting a whole ton to do...)

But every so often in the comics, when he's not a hostage, or a talking head to deliver exposition to Batman, or catching flak for needing a costumed vigilante to help him police the city; so not very often at all then...but sometimes, we get to see Gordon being a cop. Sometimes. It may be a fine line to walk: if Gordon is too good of a cop, why would he need Batman? And the rampant graft and corruption of Batman: Year One has to be reined in a bit, or that really makes Gordon seem incompetent.

So, this week we're going to take a couple of looks at a moment for the commissioner to shine: the 1997 mini-series Gordon's Law, written by Chuck Dixon, art by Klaus Janson. The story opens with a bad one: Robbery at a federal reserve bank, with hostages. Gordon arrives as the cops receive word the first hostage has been killed; but the building is too fortified for tactical/SWAT teams to take it. They receive a call from a squad car in a shootout a couple blocks away, that armed men are making for a car, and Gordon deduces the robbers blew through a subway line and are trying to get back out there.

Redeploying forces to cover their escape, Gordon and some men stay behind to go into the bank for the hostages. Before he goes in, though, Bullock calls Gordon: they've got their area locked down, but no sign of an explosion, a shootout, or the robbers. They hadn't, in fact, gone anywhere yet, and in an armored car plow through the men remaining.

At the funeral for the lost officers, Pat Dougherty approaches Jim to give his condolences. He's introduced to Barbara and Sarah Essen (and the reader) as having "adopted Jimmy when he was new to Gotham." Neither Barbara nor Sarah like him within moments of meeting him. Dougherty tells Gordon he's at the four-six precinct now if he needs him.

Months later, some of the money has been found in unrelated raids, and an uncirculated thousand-dollar bill from the heist is found pinned to a corpse in Gotham. Gordon discusses the case with Batman, but won't give him the bill to examine. They suspect the Manklin crime family of at least moving the money, but probably too-small time for the heist itself. Gordon seems insanely frustrated by the lack of leads.

It's not Batman!
Meanwhile, the chief of detectives offers an undercover post to a new rookie. Shades of the Departed, although this one predates that movie by like a decade. I can see why they use rookies--they won't be recognized, unlike the guy driving a squad car for five years--but they have no experience, either. We don't see Officer Bell's face, but on the previous page we see Batman swing by while their conversation starts, so it's not Batman. Probably.

Later, a vice bust runs across a traditional-looking cement overshoes party. Does anyone still do that, or are there easier ways of ditching a body now? One of the perps, "Checkers" Hoagland, contacts Gordon about a deal; and gives him a hotel that has something in the safe for him: another of the thousand-dollar bills from the heist. "Checkers" wants a manslaughter charge instead of murder ("I only mixed the cement, for god's sake.") but will only talk to Gordon, no testimony. Since the fed heist was pulled off, by cops.

That would explain how the robbers used the emergency frequencies for a diversion. Gordon goes to listen to the tapes of that evening, only to find they had been wiped. He begins to set up a deal for Hoagland. Batman meets with Gordon with some info on the Manklins, and Gordon tells him to butt out. This one, is a police matter. Batman seems almost bemused at first: "Aren't they all?" Gordon goes off on him then:

This one's running a little long, so we'll take a look at the rest of the series later; especially since there's a twist that's a bit of a cheat.

1 comment:

Sea_of_Green said...

Darn it! You ALWAYS have to leave it a cliffhanger, don't you? :-(