Batman is one of the few characters in comics that really could be thrown in a 1940’s noir film and be right at home. I’ll make no bones about it; my favorite genre is Noir. Films, books, whatever.
So, imagine my surprise when I found BATMAN: GOTHAM NOIR.
Not only is it a story of my favorite characters set in one of those noir films I love, but it was written by Ed Brubaker. Fan Fact: this was his first swing at a superhero comic. Given his pulpy, noir sensibilities, Batman is a perfect fit.
But, he isn’t alone here. We also get his frequent collaborator; Sean Phillips. Sean has a very distinctive style. His line work is very reminiscent of David Mazzucchelli (BATMAN: YEAR ONE). Which is a HUGE plus.
What kind of story could this creative team bring to the table? How could it be different than anything we’ve seen before? Well, let’s get into it…
This story totally changes the city and citizens of Gotham as we know them. That includes Jim Gordon. Now a World War 2 veteran, Jim is a very scared, broken man. No longer a police officer, Gordon takes to the streets as a private detective straight out of a classic noir film. The opening panels show him being pursued by “The Bat” as he is called in this world.
What is going on? What happened?
Brubaker does an excellent job throwing the reader into a new, twist-filled Gotham from page one.
As the story progresses we get introduced to this world’s Harvey Dent, who is still the District Attorney and Gordon’s confidant.
As well as Selina Kyle, who is a club owner and (hope you’re sitting down) Gordon’s Ex-Lover.
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Jack Napier is present and is smartly put to the side, but only at an arm’s length. Everyone loves The Joker. However, it’s nice to see him on the sidelines so that other villains can be put into the spotlight.
Bruce is later introduced as a fellow WW2 Vet. Not just that, he was also Gordon’s lieutenant. Along with the use of WW2 as a way for characters to know each other, it also sets up a really great character arc for Jim. His journey to let go of the past while facing his inner demons really deconstructs his character in a very emotional way.
The central story follows the murder of Rachel Hollingsworth. The resolution of the mystery does not go the way you think and it’s very refreshing. It’s dark, visceral, and will either make or break this book for you.
What is Batman doing during this mystery? Well, the biggest problem I could see people having with this story is the use of Batman. By, that I mean the lack thereof.
When I say this is a Gordon story, I definitely mean it.
While there are plenty of Batman moments, he is very much not the central figure. It worked for the story and for me, but I could see how that could be an issue with some.
Bottom line, I really loved this book.
It’s masterfully written and drawn by Brubaker and Phillips. The story keeps you on the edge of your seat with constant twists and plenty of nods to not only to the mythos of Batman but to classic noir films as well.
If you are wanting to see what a noir Batman story can be like, look no further than BATMAN: GOTHAM NOIR. – Justin Lee