The four-part “Impostors” storyline comes to a close this week in DETECTIVE COMICS
#870. The arc began as something that could have passed for a pretty solid BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL
run, but between #869 and this final chapter, it earns that “should have been in BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL
” status all too well. That’s not necessarily a condemnation, but it’s certainly not a compliment.
First of all, let me come clean about being entirely incorrect about what I thought was the reveal of the Impostor Batman in last month’s issue. In my defense, it seemed pretty well telegraphed -- teenage kid dresses up like Batman, holsters a gun, dismisses his younger brother who immediately appears in the following panel hiding behind the Impostor Batman on a rooftop. (I should have known that the teenager we’d just seen probably couldn’t pull off the Bat-Axe and giant machine gun, but then again, this ain’t THE LONG HALLOWEEN.) It was confusing at the time, but in retrospect I feel pretty silly for thinking what I thought.
This entire issue is built on last month’s ridiculous notion that the police would allow a huge carnival/fair to take place during open warfare between gun-toting Batman impostors and juiced-up Joker wannabes with power tools and knives. And of course the gang war spreads through the carnival like wildfire, with lives being lost left and right. Artist Scott McDaniel’s kinetic pencil work brings great energy to panels that crackle with action, but it all just seems so silly and over the top.
Then we get the true reveal of the Impostor Batman, along with his origin, which of course involves him blaming Batman for his misfortunes. This leads to yet another variation on the conversation we’ve heard countless times before -- that Batman’s presence is the reason the freaks flock to Gotham. David Hine writes it well at first, before it devolves into histrionics...
Batman: “You think you’re the only person who ever lost someone they love? We all lose people. We don’t all turn into murdering psychopaths.”
Impostor Batman: “No. You went one better. You took a whole city down with you. You hear them out there? Your people. Welcome to your Gotham, Batman. WELCOME TO HELL!”
Grand-scale fisticuffs ensue, the villain escapes, Batman talks some been-there-done-that philosophy with Alfred, and of course we get the setup for -- you guessed it! -- a sequel.
And that’s fine, I guess. Just put it in BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL next time, okay? DETECTIVE COMICS stands for something much bigger and better than this.
Next month begins a new run by writer Scott Snyder and artist Jock, with Dick Grayson wearing the cowl. That’s a huge disappointment to me -- after the Batwoman run (which was excellent, by the way) and all the fill-in issues since then, I was really excited about getting Bruce Wayne back in these pages. Alas. But Snyder’s enthusiasm in interviews is high, and I love Jock’s art, so hopefully we’ll get something worthy of the DETECTIVE brand. - John Bierly