"Rules of Engagement (Part Two)"
Writer: Andy Diggle
Artists: Whilce Portacio (p), Richard Friend (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
It is because of the Legends of the Dark Knight (the title that this one replaces) and my fond memories of the stories from that series. It is because of reminders of the cartoon Batman series (both BTAS, its movies and the current The Batman one). It is because of while that other Confidential series (y’know, the one with that alien fella) has a "sentient" kryptonite, this one has a "living" ass-kicking robot. Maybe, despite all them Zero-Crises, the Bat-mythos hold up better than that for any other DC character (created around the same time as this one). Maybe it is because of my recent exposure to the duo of Whilce Portacio and Richard Friend in Wildstom’s Wetworks. I am familiar enough to accept (or is it "ignore") their style. Then again, it just may be that while Superman may have been one of my first three favorite comic characters (with He-Man and Spider-Man being the other two), compared to the torrential storm that is my Bat-FANaticism, my Super-FAN comes across as a Japanese hand-held silk fan. Whatever the reason (and despite the fact that at three issues in, I am considering dropping its Superman sibling), Batman: Confidential has all but confirmed its place on my pull list, (the one left from the LotDK’s ending.)
Now before anyone says, "Holy blind-faith Batman!," I will be the first one to admit that this is NOT a perfect fairy tale story. For one, the whole human conscious in a mechanical body bit doesn’t work for me. It never has, and it never will. Had the attacking robot in this issue (the same one from the last one) been just a renegade machine gone wrong because of some overload or glitch in the circuitry, I would have happily accepted it (after all, the project is still somewhat in the prototype stage). Secondly, even though Portacio’s visuals carry a sense of pace, his style is certainly not my ideal choice for this sort of a setting. This is the story of a relatively new Batman, one who despite his years of training and travels is more of a cocky (and sometimes seemingly out of his depth) man-in-a-costume than the Dark Knight that he is destined to become. Even though it is able to convey the emotions and actions, the art of this title is just a bit too dark night for this specific set up. Moreover, that over abundance of the color black, that don’t help matters any.
In my review of the first issue, I gave a nod to the three-part "World’s Finest" story from the DCAU and evoked Bruce Wayne’s short lived partnership with Lex Luthor (in that story), which, by design or by chance also had giant robots in it. While in the animated story, the robots were used against Batman and Superman, and while in the first two issues of Batman: Confidential, the robot is after Luthor, in both stories, the real puppeteer behind these behemoth puppets is Ol’ Lexie himself. Although not stated here, the back page solicit for the next issue clearly states Luthor’s reason for this. As for the robot itself, and the human mind "inside" it, it gets its just Bat-rewards, even if does get its knocks in earlier in the issue.
As for one salvo of the plus-minus missile, while I liked the Batman still trying to find his footing (even after having been in the crime fighting business for more than a year), I am still not sold on Lucious Batman Begins Fox. In my opinion, the best Bat-movie till date, and possible the best DC-movie too, the still in its infancy "mythos" of Batman Begins should be kept away from the comic universe. Do note that I have similar feelings for the Superman mythos and DC’s bending over for the recent Superman Returns movie, especially that cheap dollar shop quality plastic looking S-shield. (Check out the first Post-OYL, "Up, Up and Away" arc for that.)
Conclusion: Does the team of Andy Diggle, Whilce Portacio, Richard Friend and I.L.L. seem as at ease and polished as the one of Darwyn Cooke, Tim Sale and Dave Stewart over at Superman: Confidential? Maybe not. Okay, most probably not. However, content wise, the second issue of this series entertained me more than the second issue of that series, and at the end of the day, that (and not the re-write/re-invention of the respective character) is what I am looking for in both these titles.
You can find more reviews by Bruce Logan at www.xcave.net
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