Spoilers for "Batman #41" past this point!
Bad news, Bruce Wayne fans: Batman is dead after his final battle with The Joker... And that means a new Batman is needed to help protect Gotham City. Turns out, that new Batman is none other than former Commissioner Gordon in a mech Bat-suit. But that's, surprisingly, the least crazy thing in "Batman #41," a new reader friendly issue that begins a bold new era for the Dark Knight.
But to take a larger view (and we'll get into what's cool about this issue in a moment so HOLD ON), there's a pattern emerging with DC's soft relaunch of their comics line -- something that began last week with "Action Comics #41," among others. The publisher is revamping their icons, giving them big, buzzy new storylines... But that's just the start of the story, and with the best titles is leading to something deeper and more exciting than their line-wide relaunch with the "New 52" back in 2011.
But back to "Batman," which raised as many eyebrows as the new, dudebro look for Superman, with the new, mecha/Bunny-eared Batman when it was first announced. But like "Action Comics," which presented a new look and status quo, but aimed to get to the core of who Clark Kent really is; "Batman" is attempting to do the same, but with a brand new man in the suit.
The issue, while semi-skirting spoilers, is essentially a first issue origin story. It starts with Gordon on a mission in the suit, but flashes back to when, how and why he decided to become his former partner in fighting crime.
As they've done on their run on "Batman" for the past four years, writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo (along with Danny Miki on inks, FCO Plascencia on colors, and letterer Steve Wands) aim first and foremost to deliver an action-driven Batman story that could only take place in Gotham City.
And that's present in spades here, as Nu-Bats ends up fighting an electricity powered baddie who has a deeper, darker secret that ties back into the team's run on the title. But that's side to at least two shocking reveals beyond the mecha-suit involving Gordon, a great joke about his trademark trenchcoat, and a cliffhanger that throws everything we've learned so far into doubt.
That all said, it really is about what makes Batman the icon he is... There's a lot of discussion about the bunny suit, and whether just calling someone Batman makes them the hero. So what is it, really? Is it just a name? Is it a hero in Gotham City? Is it having your parents murdered in an alley and literally never getting over it even for one second?
If anything, there's two ideas that the team starts to explore in this issue... The first is Batman's sense of justice, which Gordon shares. He's nowhere near as brutal as Bruce Wayne was -- though he explores that side a bit in the issue -- but he knows the difference between what's right and what's wrong.
The second, one that ties back to the very first issue of "Detective Comics" is the first part of that title, something that often gets lost in the epic soap opera/superhero action that is Batman's life: he's a detective.
It's an aspect that Snyder and company get to bring to the forefront because they put Gordon in the suit, and it's a joy to watch. He's always been a cop first, rather than a tragic figure with an axe to grind. So Gordon finally -- for all the bells and whistles that have been added -- returns Batman to his investigative roots, and it's a joy to see.
Actually, that's another aspect that shouldn't be ignored with this issue: joy. There's a sense of fun and play, nowhere more prevalent than a hilarious section where Gordon finds out how to change the look of the new Batsuit that involves some amazingly designed emojis. It's something that's been missing in Batman for a good long while, too.
Gordon doesn't underestimate the gravity of the situation in Gotham... In a way, having been on the ground so long, he probably understands it better than Bruce did. But he's still an older man (not that much older, as he points out during the issue) getting a second chance to jump around and kick butt, in a way he never did before.
There's plenty more twists and turns to come, and the saga of Bat-Gordon is just starting. No-one doubts that Bruce Wayne won't be back as Batman at some point, but as long as this team keeps delivering top notch comics that explore one of the most popular characters in the history of fiction, in a big way, it's a good time to hop on board.