Jim Gordon’s Batman has finally joined the Justice League, as Bruce Wayne’s former allies realized that the damaged man can no longer be the Dark Knight. But what good can Gordon do in a team of gods and superpowered beings? The one thing he’s always been good at: Detective work.
Spoilers ahead for Detective Comics #46, by Peter J. Thomasi, Marcio Takara, and Chris Sotomayor.
Gordon’s first outing as an official member of the Justice League is one that, on his part, feels like a mission filled with the desperate desire for him to prove his worth. The above opening shot of the rest of the League gazing into the mecha-Batman’s visor sets the tone immediately, even before you get to Superman asking this new Batman what he thinks of their situation.
So it’s a good job that the first mission is to solve the mystery of a corpse’s appearance in the Himalayas. Why is the League involved?
Well... it’s one hell of a big corpse.
It’s the perfect scenario to prove that Jim’s Batman has a place alongside the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash—after all, it’s what Jim has done for decades prior to taking on the Bat-Mantle. But also, as Aquaman quickly points out, Bruce was the League’s closest thing to a detective. So why not see what the best detective Gotham has to offer can do for them?
Jim sets to work almost immediately, discerning that the alien corpse died from a nasty wound to the back of its head, as well as discovering a nearby stalactite as the murder weapon, as the League find themselves cornered by what might be the murderer: a giant, horrifying monster that pounces upon them after the discovery of a second corpse.
The League try to jet into action and are immediately incapacitated, save for Batman and Cyborg, but it’s here, in a moment of frustration at his uselessness, that Gordon actually gets to piece the whole scene together, in only the way he can having scene all the evidence.
It turns out that the creature was the child of the two alien corpses—a couple who, upon crash landing on Earth, had to commit suicide one after the other in order to give the survivor sustenance to carry on. The father died first, and then the mother, after giving birth to her child. The monster isn’t a cruel being; it’s a creature alone, dying, and grief-stricken over its parent’s death. He comes up with a plan to rescue the league that involves projecting an image of the alien child’s mother over her skeleton, to distract it long enough to free the trapped League members. Naturally it works, and Batman gets to save the ass of his colleagues on their first mission together.
But it’s what happens after that that makes you realise what the League really needs from Jim Gordon, just as they really needed from Bruce Wayne. Someone who’s not superpowered, or a godlike being in their own right. Jim, like Bruce before him, is simply human rather than superhuman, and can be there to relate and understand people in a way that these heroes and gods can’t really do. The day saved, the League has to respond to an Earthquake in El Salvador, but Batman chooses to stay behind: as a parent, he decides that he should be there to comfort the alien as it lies dying by the sides of its own parents’ bodies, singing it a lullaby he sang to his own children once.
DC has always told a lot of stories about the differences between its godlike heroes and the humans they strive to protect, so it’s unsurprising that the New Batman will carry on that storytelling legacy. But Detective Comics #46 gave us a really good example of why the Justice League still needs a Batman after Bruce Wayne, and why Jim Gordon is so much more important to them than as just a mech-armored superhero or as a Detective.