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Batman Confidential #21

Posted: Monday, September 15, 2008
By: Jon Judy

Fabian Nicieza
Kevin Maguire
DC Comics
By now, you folks know me. You, my loyal, loving, and rabid readership. Literally. My readership has rabies. The resulting brain damage explains why they would want to read my reviews.

OK, the point is that you and I, we know each other. We have a “thing." A groovy kind of love, if you will, and a love of this kind can’t survive on a foundation of dishonesty. So from time to time I like to rip asunder the veil of secrecy and expose to you the inner workings of the Bulletin. You’re not going to get that kind of respect from most of the writers around here. They don’t respect you like I do. Anywho, this is one of those veil-ripping moments, a little “behind the scenes” tidbit you might find interesting.

I was all prepared to do a review of Booster Gold this week when I got an email from my editor telling me he had some young, hot, highly-touted rookie waiting in the wings to write a Booster review, and could I please pick another book to review. Any book. My choice. So long as it came out this week. And it hadn’t already been reviewed on the Bulletin. And it wasn’t Booster Gold. Other than that, have at it.

Now to say I was disappointed would be an understatement; I was so excited about once again trying to come up with some novel and new way of saying, “God, I really want to like this, but it’s mediocre at best.” I mean, wow, who wouldn’t be pumped over that?

Add to that the difficulty I had in finding a book I had already picked up this week that hadn’t been reviewed. Ultimate Origins? Nope. Ultimate FF/X-Men. Uh-uh. Ex Machina? They slugged that bee-otch. Final Crisis: Revelations? Ixnay on…umm…that-ay.

Anyway, I wouldn’t really have wanted to review any of those. I was at best mildly disappointed in each of them, and I’m so damn tired of writing reviews for books I don’t feel excited about. I mean, the Ultimate books are a letdown right from the start – I mean, any Ultimate book. They do understand that “ultimate” means “last” right? By definition, there should be no Ultimate issues that last beyond issue one. It’s false advertising is what it is.

Anyway part the second, I then noticed that no one had reviewed Batman Confidential this week, and that was all you had to say mofonaka. Of course, Batman Confidential is arguably false advertising as well, depending on what one assumes the title means. The very fact that these stories are published indicates that they are not confidential, for they are distributed publicly. On the other hand, perhaps they mean that these stories are confidential within the confines of the DCU, that not everyone in that reality knows these stories. But what then would make these stories any more confidential than any other Batman stories? Oh, confused am I!

Once more I only picked this arc of Confidential up because of the Kevin Maguire art, and had the story been five issues of turd-ocity, it would have been worth it. Maguire is better than he has ever been, and this story arc has been proof of that. The action sequences and storytelling are clear and flow easily from panel to panel, and his facial expressions and body language remain some of the best -- if not the best -- in the business.

Some for instances: check out Barbara’s expression and posture when she realizes Blockbuster is behind her. Or her joy at spotting Robin, whom she assumes will be the life preserver she needs as she runs the gauntlet in Arkham Asylum, facing down one baddie after another after the hellacious evening she had in the last four issues. Or her shock upon reaching the end of her journey, and seeing…well, that would be entering into spoilers, and I don’t want to do that.

So, yeah, on art alone this was a joy to read. But you get more than that. Nicieza has turned in a terrific piece of work on this storyline. The plot has been fun and funny, with one great turn after another, but all of which make sense and remain light and entertaining. In short (and you know how I value conciseness) this story has been tremendous fun. Beyond that, Nicieza routinely demonstrates a mastery of the form in these five issues. His last page reveal of Batman in an earlier issue was terrific, but you get more of the same here. The last four panels of the last page of this issue, for example, are nearly identical, which serves to emphasize the change in the last panel. Lesser writers might have broken that down into two panels, which would have conveyed the events occurring in the story, but not have created the pacing necessary for the optimum effect.

Speaking of effect, we get two whole splash pages in this issue -- count ‘em, two, and they both serve a storytelling purpose. The story opens with a splash to emphasize how beaten and battered Babs is, then we also get a splash during the story’s falling action, emphasizing how triumphant she is. Oh, yeah, falling action: Fabian gives us four pages of it, so the story actually feels like it has come to a satisfactory conclusion, and the characters actually seem to have grown and developed. That is, of course, an illusion. Mainstream superheroes do not demonstrate real change, as they must always revert to an accepted stasis. We don’t want Spidey to be married and to mature and to enter “real” adulthood. Ergo, at some time he must lose the supermodel and go back to being a shmo. The trick, then, is to present the illusion of growth where there is none, and in judging a superhero story with a corporate property, that is the standard one should use. By that standard, Nicieza hits a homerun here.

If you picked up any of the previous issues in this story, you know I’m not engaging in hyperbole. If you haven’t picked any of them up, go grab them up. Now. Don’t wait for the trade.

OK, before I take off, I would be remiss if I made my long-awaited return to you, my aforementioned, beloved readers, without being completely, totally serious and absolutely, perfectly honest, and I have not done that. So let me now conclude by rectifying that, as you should be no deceptions among us.

Rabies does not cause brain damage per se, although it may lead to hallucinations.

Did you folks miss me? This is my first review in weeks, and I’m sure you missed my tight, concise prose, the no-punches-pulled, no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point analysis of the latest offerings in the world of comics. When I think of how long you’ve had to endure without me, it breaks my heart. I’m sorry, my children. I shall not desert you again.



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