Beacons in the Darkness
As an avid Batman fan, I do think that there are several reasons why the Bat-verse stands so high among readers and is a source for so many great stories, and while the most important reason is up to everyone's own opinion, I think that it is hard to argue that one of the most important reasons isn't the supporting cast, their relationships with each other and the very world they inhabit. They all share a depth and complexity that is unfortunately relatively rare in such abundance in comic books and perhaps even more importantly, they can all be wrong in something. Especially Batman, as he has often been. They are flawed individuals, who just struggle to overcome those flaws and just do the right thing, not always succeeding, and to me makes them so relatable and even more heroic to me.
A central relationship over the past two decades has been the friendship between Batman and Jim Gordon, which has at times been throughly tested and strained, but has always proven to be a beautful thing. About five years ago, I think, DC published a five-part miniseries called Batman: Turning points, with each issue taking place at a crucial point in Batman continuity and fleshing out the evolution of their relationships at those points in original stories. It was mainly written by Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker and it doesn't shy from it's depence on continuity, relying on the reader to know something about the points when they took place. Still, I thought it was a great read and decided to share the crucial discussions in them here, with the exception of the fourth part, which takes place during AzBat period. It is good, but it feels a bit separate from the other parts. I actually posted this back at old S_D, but it bears repeating.
First part takes place shortly after the two come to an agreement Batman: Year One. Each issue in is artistically, and also in narratively, styled after a period in Batman publishing history, with the first part taking it's cues from B:YO. For those not aware for some reason, in B:YO Gordon is unfaithful to his wife, kissing a detective working under him, and at the end of the story the two have decided to give their marriage another chance. The issue begins with Gordon arriving home from work.
A crazy man quoting Byron and holding a semi-automatic gun has invaded a church wedding and taken everyone there hostage. Gordon arrives at the church, stopping the sociopaths working in the SWAT unit from invading the church, and then tries to negotiate with the lunatic. Even though the speech isn't easy to follow, Gordon understands that he is suffering from a broken heart and tries to reach out. It doesn't work and an officer comes around to tell Gordon that they identified the crazy man as a doctor Corbett, whose wife and three year old son died that morning in a car crash. Gordon wants to take they guy in alive and Batman approaches him from the shadow, asking for a chance and his trust. Gordon gives both and Batman manages to take out the guy inside the church with no one getting hurt. Corbett however manages to crawl to his bag and fetch a photo of his dead family, which he cradles as he goes unconcious.
After the situation has been handled, Gordon heads home.
The second part takes place shortly after Dick Grayson becomes Robin and stylistically is modelled after the 70's Batman, right up to Mr. Freeze's appearance. The beginning finds Gordon conflicted as he listens the story of an arrested goon of Freeze, who tells how Batman caught them with the aid of a brighly colored young boy. Something being told by many around town. So Gordon heads to the roof to confront Batman about the situation.
The duo are waiting for the released goon in his apartment and soon afterwards Gordon gets an anomous tip about Freeze's location, which happens ot be an old warehouse filled with props. A nice shoutout to the old comics and their weird things. Anyway, the cops and the Dynamic Duo raid Freeze and manage to arrest his goons, but Freeze manages to get his freezegun, killing a cop and taking Robin hostage. The boy manages to free himself, leading Gordon to congratulate him, while still telling Batman Gordon's earlier warning is still true. That leaves Gordon with one last thing to do.
The third part takes place after The Killing Joke and Death in the Family and is styled after the nineties, with Batman trying to deal with tragedies in his own way. As he is, as mentioned, a flawed human being, that way is somewhat unhealthy. Basically he distances himself from the police, even avoiding answering the signal, and focuses on being able to take out criminals and exit before anyone even realizes he was there. Meanwhile a new serial killer is stalking Gotham, dubbed the Garbage Man as he dismembers his victims and then dumps them a garbage bin. Batman provides a lead to Gordon by leaving it to his desk, but it's less than Gordon is hoping for. Finally, someone goes to visit Bruce.
The following night, Gordon stands alone at the roof with the Bat-signal on, sighing as he turns it off. However Batman, apologizing for his silence and asking how the serial killer case is going. Gordon says they are making progress, but wonders that isn't this something closer to Batman's experience.
The final part took place in the then-current storyline in Batman comics, with the style of course matching. At that point Gordon had been shot by a guy he once arrested and as the result of the soul-searching caused by the incident, he decides to retire, with a new comissioner taking over. At this point, Corbett, the guy from the church, arrives to Gotham with his new family and tries to contact Gordon and Batman by phone and by going to the precinct, drawing a blank on both times. Finally, he decides to take action.
Naturally, both head to the roof, Batman getting there first, seeing Corbett waiting by the signal with his wife and daughter.Gordon is close behind the Bat, rushing the roof with other police officers with their guns drawn, demanding to know what Corbett wants His daughter is scared by this as well as Bats sudden appearance behind them, leaping to his father's arms.
There is a lot I could say/write about these scans and how beautifully they weave the relationship between the two over the years, with the exception of their strained relationship after KnightFall/Legacy/NML, but that was a bit of a long and complicated period to cover in a couple of issues and it works well without it. I however find myself hesitant to add anything, because although I could ramble on for a small eternity over all the small details, but the story tells it so well that I'll just leave it to that.
I will just say that I love that last panel, because it sums up the roles of those two men so well. They're the lone starts in the vast darkness, tired and old, having suffered more than most of the other heroes in DCU could even imagine, yet who continue to stand tall. They're extremely human, with moments of doubt, frailty and weakness, yet to me they are among the greatest heroes in comics, probably due to those very reasons. I guess I'll just leave it that and hope you enjoyed these scans as much as I did.