Bat Signal

Issue 742 – “The Honored Dead”

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Hi there everyone, and welcome back to yet another installment of Bat Signal, my never-ending quest to read every issue of Detective Comics, in random order, and with basically no context. And we’re taking a trip to the relative modern day this week folks, specifically the time in Gotham shortly after the massive No Man’s Land event that took over every Batman-adjacent book for a year. If you aren’t familiar with it, No Man’s Land is a crazy story where the US government abandons Gotham City after a terrible earthquake knocks out all bridges to its island, leaving the people and criminals of Gotham to divide the city up into a weird Mad Max post-apocalyptic gang war. It’s a pretty great story, and when it was done Gotham just kind of had to move on and pretend it was a relatively normal city again, while occasionally reckoning with some of the bigger events of the story. Such as today’s issue.

See, one of the biggest plot point of No Man’s Land was that as the story was wrapping up the Joker murdered Sarah Essen, the second wife of Commissioner Gordon. And, this issue starts up on the last day of the leave that Gordon took for bereavement, ready to throw himself back into his police work after suffering such a terrible tragedy, and that has really gotten Batman worried about him. Batman’s basically stalking Jim, watching as he goes through his new routine of jogging and sitting in silence in gardens, before finally heading towards the GCPD headquarters. And, he isn’t here to be coddled or to waste any time, as soon as he gets into the bullpen he brings Harvey Bullock into his office and promotes him to lieutenant, ready to make some necessary changes in the department to make them more efficient than ever before. Everyone in the precinct is a little ill at ease around Gordon, but they don’t have much time to think about it, because almost immediately they receive word of a fatal drive-by shooting involving some officers, and Gordon himself decides to come along.

 

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Two officers, one a rookie and the other a department mentor, have been killed in what appears to be a gang-related shooting, and Commissioner Gordon seems to be taking a personal interest in the case. Batman, watching from the rooftops, decides to gives Gordon some space, and waits for the Commissioner to leave before hopping down and doing his own research, finding that one of the officers had written a license plate number on his hand. Batman’s somewhat surprised that Gordon had missed such an obvious bit of information, but decides to follow his old friend, who appears to be tracking down a lead in the form of the Cassamento crime family, who have operated out of the Italian restaurant that the shooting happened in.

Batman is really worried about Gordon, but also knows quite a bit about personal anguish and loss himself, so he decides to give Gordon room to breathe, but also knows that he’s going to keep a close eye on him to make sure he doesn’t do anything foolish. Because if someone is attacking the Cassamento family, one of the more powerful mob families in Gotham, it seems like a mob coup is about to begin. Batman follows Gordon as he goes to get more information about the Cassamento’s from a police captain who has knowledge of their organization, and listens in as the man tells Gordon that he should look into a group of Russian mobsters led by a man named Vasily Kosov, who his intelligence shows has been wanting to move against the Cassamento’s. Gordon thanks the captain for the information and storms immediately towards Kosov’s last known location, while Batman follows. And, it’s a good thing he does, because when Gordon gets to Kosov’s home, he immediately kicks in the door and starts roughing people up.

 

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Batman lurks around the room, keeping the other gangsters from killing Gordon, but slips out before Detective’s Montoya and Allen arrive for backup, neither of whom are exactly pleased with Gordon’s behavior. But, obeying Gordon’s orders, they arrest Kosov and his men and bring them back to the precinct to interrogate them. Even though there isn’t exactly a whole lot of probable cause, but whatever, things play fast and loose in Gotham City. Luckily though, Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen are able to get Kosov to admit to being involved with the shooting, and the fact that they’ve been planning a big attack on the Cassemento Family. And, what’s more, they tell the police about a warehouse where several men are fortified in, with a whole assortment of powerful assault rifles that they’re going to use in the coming gang war.

The GCPD then head out to the warehouse, ready for war. But, Gordon has gone on ahead of them, seemingly ready to take on the gang members solo. Which, obviously isn’t going to be okay with Batman. He arrives around the same time as Gordon, and finally makes his presence known to his old friend. Gordon at first seems to resent having Batman watching over his shoulder, but ends up admitting he could use his help eventually. So, Batman and Gordon work together, with Gordon watching the exit while Batman goes inside to try and take out the men. But, Gordon does get his moment to shine when one of the gang members leaps from a window and takes off into the shipyard near the warehouse, hiding until Gordon is able to successfully talk him down into giving up. And, while the GCPD make their arrests Batman watches from the shadows, a little more convinced that Gordon is going to be alright.

 

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This issue is quite different from the typical stories we talk about here on Bat Signal. There’s still a very specific crime being committed that Batman is setting out to solve, but it’s far more of a character piece, really laying in on the inner torment of Commissioner Gordon in a way we’ve never seen before during this project. And I really appreciate it. No Man’s Land is a fascinating story, with it’s own highs and lows, and the aftermath of that story led to some really interesting stuff, and this issue kind of gets to the heart of that. There’s a lot of great Batman/Gordon stuff in No Man’s Land, and this issue serves as a bit of catharsis to that, showing that the two men are still going to work in partnership together, doing their best to save the city they both love. And, what’s also great, this issue clearly serves as a catalyst for one of my all-time favorite comic books of all time, the massively underrated Gotham Central, a somewhat short-lived series that focused on the inner workings of the Gotham City Police Department, featuring a lot of the characters that were show in this story. That book is amazing, and the little glimpses we get to see of it in this story, also written by Greg Rucka, was enough to get me in the mood to revisit that series again.

 

“The Honored Dead” was written by Greg Rucka, penciled by Shawn Martinbrough, inked by Steve Mitchell, colored by Wildstorm FX, lettered by Todd Klein, and edited by Dennis O’Neal and Joseph Illidge, 2000.

 

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