Batman: Confidential #1, February 2007, DC Comics
writer: Andy Diggle
penciller: Whilce Portacio
inker: Richard Friend
colorist: David Baron
letterer: Travis Lanham
associate editor: Tom Palmer, Jr.
editor: Mike Carlin
Batman: Year One. Batman: Year Two. Batman: The Long Halloween. Legends of the Dark Knight. Batman: Journey Into Knight. The Untold Legend of the Batman. Batman freaking Begins. What can possibly be confidential about Batman’s past?
Apparently, the origins of Bruce Wayne’s corporate rivalry with Lex Luthor, and the heretofore untold story of the Waynetech robot dubbed O.G.R.E. Huh?
The launch of the Superman and Batman “Confidential” titles implies that their respective histories have some pressing unanswered questions begging to be addressed. I’ve read the first two issues of the Superman series, and thus far I’ve been impressed, not so much with the logistics of the story about the introduction of Kryptonite, but with the insight into Kal-El’s character, and how each of his early adventures presented a different challenge that he feared would be the one to end him. In issue #2, Superman is disoriented in a lava flow, and when his lungs instinctively breathe in the hot molten rock, he panics that his insides may not be as invulnerable as his skin. It’s an interesting thought in the context of the Man of Steel’s humble beginnings. How Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor almost collaborated on a robot-based project with piqued government interest . . . isn’t.
Further, it’s derivative. The “World’s Finest” crossover episodes of the characters’ animated series uses a similar concept, with far more entertaining results. In fact, every aspect of this issue is derivative of the Batman mythos in some way, not answering any questions but in fact generating a few new ones. In one scene, Bruce is holding the gun that apparently killed his parents, and claims he “took it from the G.C.P.D. evidence depository last year.” In Year Two, we specifically see presumed Wayne murderer Joe Chill toss the gun in a nearby bush, where a young Bruce later recovers the weapon and hides it in the foundation of Wayne Tower. Was this minor detail really worth an alternate explanation? Would Batman really have to steal evidence when he could easily lie to Gordon and swipe the gun under some bogus pretense? It’s uncharacteristic, yet indicative of the reckless abandon writers take when tackling these mythos. Let’s stop treading the past, and write some stories about the future, eh?
Then again, that could be the problem. Frank Miller’s chilling and highly entertaining vision of Batman’s future in The Dark Knight Returns was less of a benchmark in the character’s lore than it has become a challenge for writers to best the effort. Miller’s Batman was so unlike anything readers had read before, yet Frank managed to keep the hero’s essence and integrity intact. Aspiring impersonators are so consumed with stamping the context with their voice that they’re forgetting, Batman already has a voice. Sure, it’s gruff, but it’s clear, and with so much source material available, it should be harder to mess up than it is. But it is.
And, I’m sorry, but Whilce Portacio’s artwork was just plain sloppy. Bruce never looked the same from one panel to the next, and he never looked handsome (at the risk of how that sounds, but you know what I mean). I’ve seen him do better, and with Lee on the All-Star series (if it still exists, thanks to Frank falling victim to the curse he initiated) and the Kuberts on the flagship title, he has some worthy company to keep. Even the cover kind of stinks. I’m just not that impressed.
I’m a Batman fan. Yes, I can like other kinds of comics, too, you anti-superhero blowhards. But I’ve been having a hard time finding him lately. He certainly isn’t in this issue. Batman himself is what’s been kept confidential these past few years . . .