Batman: Officer Down
various writers & artists
(DC Comics, 2001)

Officer Down collects a cross-over tale spanning the full line of Batman books in 2001, each penned by their respective creative teams. While crossovers of this sort often flop -- in part because of poor direction of the teams -- Officer Down works well to form a cohesive storyline.

Commissioner Gordon, a Batverse staple from the beginning, is gunned down on his birthday outside a policeman's bar. Catwoman, a known criminal and no big fan of the commissioner's, is seen fleeing the scene. Immediately, the Gotham City Police and the Bat team -- Robin, Nightwing, Oracle, Batgirl and Azrael -- are on the case, leaving Batman to do nothing but watch over Gordon's hospital bed.

The story is a little predictable; we know from the start that Catwoman's not the real perp, and we can guess that Gordon will pull through. Still, there is poignancy to the tale given Gordon's history with guns: his daughter, Barbara (the former Batgirl), was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot through the spine by the Joker, and his wife, Sarah (a fellow police officer), was killed in the line of duty (also by the Joker). Now, he himself lies in critical condition with three bullet holes in his back.

For a change, it's the GCPD who do the real legwork and crimesolving here, while the Bat team stays in a supporting role. Unusual, too, is the complete helplessness of the Batman -- who also continues his ongoing trend of alienating everyone around him. A nice scene with Gordon at the end redeems him a bit, I'm happy to note.

Despite the different voices of the writers, the story maintains an even pace and flow. The art is good for most of the book, but again, there are disparities. Part two, drawn by Jacob and Arnold Pander, is ugly; the rest works well although no two artists seem able to reach a consensus about Harvey Bullock's appearance.

It's worth noting that this storyline marked a few significant changes in the makeup of the Batverse. It's also a good stand-alone story for any interested in checking in on the characters without fear of getting caught up in an ongoing plot.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 4 May 2002

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