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Move over, Dark Knight. Harvey Bullock’s rumpled trenchcoat is the new cape and cowl in Gotham. – Batman: Bullock’s Law

April 26, 2012

Harvey Bullock is a walking cliché. Created as a corrupt element within the Gotham City constabulary, a counterweight to Jim Gordon’s straight arrow, he’s evolved over the years into a character trope that we’ve seen roughly 7,395 times in literature and on screen. He’s a fat, doughnut-gobbling cop in desperate need of a shave and a clean, ironed shirt, a gumshoe who’s not all that Miranda friendly but one who’s ultimately a force for good in a city ravaged by crime. If you thought of him as a mashed-up Play-Doh ball of Dirty Harry, NYPD Blue‘s Sipowicz (minus the bare ass-cheeks, THANK GOD) and any other COP WHO DOESN’T PLAY BY THE RULES, you wouldn’t be wrong.

So he’s not all that original. But he’s rather interesting (clichés can be fun too), an alternative to the clean-cut authority of Commissioner Gordon, and he deserves more than this book. A late 1990s offering (smack dab in that post-Gotham City earthquake hazarai), it’s a mostly Batman-free romp pitting Bullock against the Black Mask and his gang of oddly disguised freaks. When Mr. Mask offers Bullock dirt on his criminal rivals in exchange for the good detective’s assistance in helping one of his goons beat a rap, our fat protagonist is forced to walk a moral and professional tightrope. Can he use the Black Mask’s info while staying (mostly) on the right side of the law? Will he go all the way and help this B-level villain in exchange for the inside info? If he double-crosses the guy, will he come out of this mess alive?

Sounds good. But it’s not. The story from Chuck Dixon is utterly predictable, and Flint Henry’s and Tom Palmer’s art that does nothing to help things out. The art is especially out of place, and falls squarely into that late-90s uber-cartoony style that seemed to be everywhere in comics at the close of the millennium.

If Harvey Bullock is a cliché, I guess it’s no surprise that another of the oldest ones in the book is trotted out here. Hey, it wouldn’t be a story about a fat police detective without a department physical and a scolding doctor, right?:

Batman himself only shows up for a couple of pages (justifying the “Batman” portion of Batman: Bullock’s Law), to be a good angel on Bullock’s shoulder and to keep his portly ass in line:

YEAH I’M A COP I’M A GOOD COP!!! (Is Batman perched on a powerline or something? What’s with the streaks? Also, if Batman gives Gordon special pipe tobacco for Christmas, what does he get for Bullock? Pure cholesterol?)

Long story short, Bullock pulls through by the skin of his teeth. And THANK GOD that we get resolution to the professional Sword of Damocles that is his poor health:

Yes. Parking tickets. Thank you, story.

This isn’t as worthless as the wan Bullock simulacrum, Max Eckhardt, that showed up in the first Tim Burton Batman movie. (Remember him? The fat slug that Jack Nicholson plugged before he made his vat-dive?) But it’s pretty weak. The art isn’t my cup of tea — if it is for others, good. Enjoy and go in peace. But to me Bullock here looks more like Fred Flintstone: Detective. Or Ralph Kramden. Take your pick. Point is, it’s surprising that he at no point propelled a squad car with giant bare feet. That’s a problem, at least for me.

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