"Rules of Engagement (Part One)"
Writer: Andy Diggle
Artists: Whilce Portacio (p), Richard Friend (i), David Baron (colors)
Publisher: DC Comics
Batman, as a character, has one thing that his counterpart, the other BIG name of DC, Superman, doesn’t. (Come on, Wonder Woman despite being in the so-called "Trinity" can’t even start to compare to the spread of these two.) What that is that despite all the changes that he has gone through, even now the core Bat-story remains the same (even after the whole IC shebang). Supes, on the other hand, has a million and more takes on his origins, to the point where I am not even sure which one to follow. Oh, I know that he was the sent out as a baby from a dying planet and that Terrans (i.e. Earthers) Jonathan and Martha Kent found and reared him, but other than that..., well..., it's all in the air. In his place, we have Bats whose continuity/history can even now be tracked back to this first appearance more than 65 years ago and even through all these Crisis-Schmisis, his stories have held through.
Why all this ranting? One simple phrase, Legends of the Dark Knight. With over 200 issues and sadly about to end soon, the LotDK series has not only tied many of those past stories but also introduced new ones, many of which have further bled into other "in continuity" stories in other BAT and Bat-starring titles (‘Tec, Batman, Gotham Knights, etc.). LotDK has given Batman one of the most largest "storage vaults" for any character, and for the same reason I believe that DC has started Superman Confidential (to do for Big Blue what it did for the Dark Knight) while continuing the Bat-collection with Batman Confidential. That it gives an opportunity to tell both new as well as old stories is a welcome point.
Kicking off a year after Bruce first donned the Cape n’ Cowl, we get to see a Batman/Bruce Wayne who along with being younger is also much more..., what is the word..., oh yes..., emotional. As for the emotions, in keeping with the Dark Knight persona, most are dark ones. Anger, despair, sadness, you name it, he has it, all stemming from the survivor’s guilt he has had festering within him since the night of his parents’ murder. Heck, he has even stolen, from the Police's hold no less, the gun that Joe Chill used that fateful night.
Onto the main plot and enter DC’s Baldy-Supreme, Lex Luthor. It is interesting that while Superman Confidential has Superman going against casino owner Tony Gallo; here we have Bats going toe to toe with Super-Big Baddy Luthor. However, one thing that is common in both titles is that it isn’t in their costumed persona but their civilian ones that the heroes meet the opposite side (though granted in SMC Clark hasn’t been shown alongside Gallo, yet).
A nod to the three-part World’s Finest story from the DCAU (Superman: The Animated Series and The New Batman/Superman Adventures), Bruce Wayne’s involvement with Lex Luthor here rises from their (companies’) interest in defense contracts. While they are on opposing sides here, there are the giant robots (as was in World’s Finest).
The artwork had me going in two different directions all at one. The action scenes as also the general movement of the characters did have a sort of fluidity that made the visual experience very fulfilling. At the same time the characters’ facial features had me pausing and not in the good way. The emotions and expressions are there but along with the (sometimes) oddly drawn heads, the extra dark inking was a downer. In short, the Bat-scenes were great but the Bruce-scenes not that much. Nevertheless, already exposed to Whilce Portacio and Richard Friend in Wildstorm’s Wetworks, I personally found it easier to get into their style in this story than I did with Wetworks #1.
Conclusion: As first issues go, story wise at least (content and pacing) Batman Confidential comes across faster if not better than its Superman Counterpart. What is intriguing is that while SMC is tooting the "Aww Shucks" innocent small town boy horn, BMC goes Dark Knight from the get go.
You can find more reviews by Bruce Logan at www.xcave.net
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