Once upon a time, James Gordon was a police officer. His story has always been that he was a good cop in a bad city. Sure that city has a superhero in it but Gordon has always been a man with a job and he was always professional about that. So why would you make James Gordon into a superhero? After Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo “killed” Bruce Wayne, someone had to step into the vacuum and wear the proverbial cape and cowl. The logical choice now is probably the same as it was in 2009 when Grant Morrison took his spin on “killing” Wayne and having tried and true Dick Grayson, the first of many Robins, step into the role. And even Grayson wasn’t the first Bat-stand in. So after all of these decades of Batman stories and other substitute Batmen, it was just simply Commissioner Gordon’s turn in the Bat suit. He was probably next in line anyway.
Batman #46 reads like an issue where Snyder and Capullo are trying to get ahead of their critics. They know that the Bat-bunny suit is ridiculous. They know that Gordon’s time as Batman is limited. They know all of this, but they’re not going to let that stop them as the march defiantly onward with as they turn Batman into some second-rate Iron Man. He even gets a wide array of different styles of suits and boy is that timing good as Mr. Bloom, the gangly villain who skewers his victims with his long and spindly fingers, seems to have some back door into Gordon’s Bat-bunny armor.
Capullo engages with Snyder’s story by steering into the outrageousness of everything and constantly going bigger and bigger with his artwork. The silliness of Gordon’s Batman, from the bunny eared helmet to the introduction of a new Bat-cycle that’s appropriately updated for this corporate superhero, gives Capullo the room to go crazy on the page with each new toyetic add-on to this Batman. In this issue, he gets different armors and new vehicles that feel like an amassing of new novelties in the story and Capullo plays into that.
But for all of those wonderful toys, this new Batman ultimately is a man in a bodysuit, and this Batman often has to be reduced to being a man and just his own wits. And when that happens, Capullo draws Gordon-as-Batman far differently than he does Wayne-as-Batman. This new Batman doesn’t carry himself as a cop who has walked a beat in his lifetime, but physically Gordon is not Bruce Wayne so of course he doesn’t stand or fight like him. Capullo misses the mark by not drawing Gordon as a cop, who has been weighted down by years of protecting the mean streets of Gotham. The Gordon, who is wearing the metaphorical cape and cowl looks much more like a marine than a cop.
And for a new superhero, it’s only appropriate that he has his own new villain, and Mr. Bloom fills the role of Gotham City rogue much the same way that Snyder and Capullo’s Court of Owls or the Joker have in past storylines. Maybe even more so than about the man in the Batsuit, their Batman has been about the villains and the secrets of Gotham City that they know. Mr. Bloom is the latest in the line of Bat villains who hints that he’s a more deeply-rooted (pun intended) part of the city than the Batman is. While he can put on a good show for the civilians when it’s just him and the Batman, he doesn’t need to rant and rave. He doesn’t need to stab people just to show that he’s serious. Just the shot of him sitting in the window of a darkened warehouse, without all of the bluster and showmanship the creators show in the first part of this issue, demonstrates that there may be more to this character than we’ve yet seen.
But that’s also the problem with this issue. Snyder suggests and hints at so many things in here that it’s difficult to come away with any idea of what the point of it is. A new Robin is introduced. The strangely amnesiac but happy Bruce Wayne proposes to a woman who has a dark past that’s (wow, really?) possibly connected to his own parents’ death. The idea of a unique Batman-in-every-city is introduced only it isn’t that unique and it wasn’t that long ago that we saw that as Snyder seems to be binge recycling Grant Morrison concepts in Batman right now. And even if some of the plot points weren’t retreads of things we didn’t read that long ago, this issue rushes through them without placing much of anything in any larger context. A new Robin? That’s a lot to take on with a new Batman. Bruce Wayne getting engaged and his father-in-law may have sold his parents’ killer the gun used? WOW! But we’ll get back to all of this later on in another issue.
Snyder and Capullo are charging ahead with this Gordon as Batman plot, but Batman #46 is an issue that shows how many narrative balls they can juggle in the air without really taking the time to get to dive deep into any of those stories. With a lot of characters, Snyder and Capullo spend a little time with character A and then with character B and C before heading back to the beginning again. The snippet of character moments creates the sense of a lot happening, but none of the stories are developed in a completely satisfying way. Luckily, Mr. Bloom carries the weight of the issue, creating a threat for Batmen new and old.