Ahh, the Zero Year… when Batman was a pup, Hurricane Sandy hit Gotham and Jim Gordon stole Rick Grimes’ gun for a swanky cover shot. Such was my first impression of Detective Comics #25.
The story begins as all young Jim Gordon stories must: one good cop, a city full of corrupt cops, rain and the docks.
Essentially, this story delves into Gordon’s early days as a GCPD detective, as well as the origin of the new-not-new Black Mask. While gathering crucial evidence on a dirty deal involving Roman Sionis going down at the docks, Gordon is betrayed by his partner. The thugs rough Gordon up, and the corrupt cops are directed by Sionis to throw him off the New Trigate Bridge. They do just that, but Gordon is next seen miraculously walking out of the river with nary a scratch on him.
More internal narration tells us that the Red Hood gang’s spree (which has been the heart of Zero Year so far) has inspired several new masked gangs to pop-up, the most violent of which wear black masks. Stories of a new costumed vigilante are beginning to pop-up, which is good news to Gordon because every single cop he encounters on the force is either corrupt, incompetent or both. It’s quickly revealed that the GCPD are actively avoiding investigating these gang crimes, and Commissioner Loeb is ordering everyone to bring in the vigilante. Gordon refuses, tries to confront Simonies, and as his reward ends up being held at gunpoint by his partner in the middle of the station. Luckily a young, svelte officer named Bullock has Jim’s back and takes the dirty cop down.
We then see that Sionis has gone underground as the Black Mask, and the cops that were on his payroll are being killed one-by-one. Loeb commends Gordon for his honorable work, and silently concedes that he’s no longer effective as the commissioner.
The feature story ends with the revelation that Gordon only survived the jump because Batman swooped in to save him before he hit the water. A bond is born.
In the back up, Kirk Langstrom is flipping out in a crowd of people standing around a body that’s been picked clean. He knows it’s the work of Francine. Officer Wallace recognizes Langstrom in the crowd, but Langstrom morphs into Man-Bat and slashes the cop across the face before flying away.
Once I saw the cover, this issue had a hill to climb for me. I mean I’m 95% sure Fabok just mimicked a still shot from Stallone in Cobra and changed the gun to a Dirty Harry/Rick Grimes revolver. Luckily the story kicks it into low gear and slogs up the hill enough to save this issue.
Fabok’s art shined throughout the issue, though the omnipresent rain reminded me of Seven. The story sticks pretty closely to the normal Jim Gordon characterization: the one good cop brave enough to fight battles inside and outside of the GCPD. The mention of the Red Hood gang works well within the context of the story, and it’s nice to see a link in logical progression that is rarely applied to comic villains. It feels more realistic that someone like Black Mask would evolve from an example set by another criminal into something distinct, instead of just being birthed into the Gotham criminal underground fully formed. Everybody has an influence, even despots.
It’s also a nice move by Layman to use that same theme in moving from the flashlight to the Bat Signal.
The reveal that Batman saved Gordon shouldn’t have surprised me, but it actually did. It’s a classic Batman save, and once again is a good way to set the table for everything that comes afterwards. There’s a constantly running theme in the Batman mythos that nobody can survive this war on crime alone, and here we see the first time Jim has to have Batman there just to stay alive.
All in all, I liked this issue a lot. While certain elements felt borrowed from previous works (the internal narration's tone reminded me of Sin City to an uneasy extent), but it all came together nicely for an enjoyable read.
Detective Comics #25:
Reviewed by Benjamin Scott