BATMAN ON FILM, 'The Dark Knight Fansite!' Est. 1998.



Author: John Bierly
Thursday, February 28, 2008

FROM DC COMICS: "Beginning the 4-part arc 'Wrath Child,' with art by Rags Morales (IDENTITY CRISIS)! Batman and Nightwing become embroiled in the return of a major nemesis who was thought to be dead long ago: The Wrath has returned!"

Now that the odd, unnecessary and utterly repulsive Joker origin is out of the way, BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL carries on with a new four-part story arc in issue 13.

BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL is much like its predecessor LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT in the sense that once a multi-issue story begins, you're stuck with it for better or for worse. If it's good, that's great. If not, you're looking at months before you can get your hands on another story you like.

Four parts is luckily pretty manageable, and that's what we're going to get with "Wrath Child." Writer Tony Bedard, whose work has appeared in COUNTDOWN, BIRDS OF PREY, OUTSIDERS and last year's very solid Black Canary miniseries, handles writing chores with Rag Morales on art duty. Morales's work, of course, is one of the major elements that made much of IDENTITY CRISIS so powerful and all too human. (The shot of Batman holding a berserk-with-grief Tim Drake covered in his murdered father's blood is gut-wrenching. "Batman and Robin. Orphans." Wow.)

The story here is that The Wrath, an old villain who once tried to assassinate Jim Gordon, deduced Batman's secret identity and nearly beat Alfred to death, has returned. Which is mysterious in itself, given that The Wrath fell to a fiery death after a brutal battle with Batman.

The Wrath also has a connection to Dr. Leslie Thompkins. He held her hostage in an attempt to trade her for Gordon and now his former lover, Grayle Hudson, is helping Leslie at her clinic in an attempt to make right all the evil things he was doing behind her back.

(And for the record it's good to see Leslie in the pages of a Batman book after the disgusting character assassination heaped upon her by Bill Willingham in the pathetic WAR CRIMES storyline. I wish Superboy would have punched that one out of existence.)

We begin with a Scotland Yard cop, in town for the World Law Enforcement Summit, prowling the seedy side of Gotham in search of the kinds of kicks a cop should be kicking instead of partaking in. He sees who he thinks is Batman in a back alley, until the caped, pointy-cowled figure pulls out a nasty looking gun and puts a bullet in the man's face. The Wrath is back, continuing his war against "hypocrites" -- look in a mirror, pal -- and vowing to destroy "the one here in Gotham who deserves it more than any other."

Gordon calls Batman; the top brass have got a S.W.A.T. detail protecting Gordon since they know The Wrath's back in town. (And I like the little moment where Batman snaps the cigarette out of Gordon's fingers.) Gordon's afraid The Wrath will try to pop another cop, and Batman's off on the case.

Meanwhile, a couple of toughs try to bully Leslie at her clinic, but the mere presence of Grayle Hudson spooks them. (Turns out she's a mafia princess, too.) But as Leslie says, she's got no shortage of guardian angels, as she and Grayle find the thugs strung up on street lamps thanks to Batman. He wastes no time demanding that Grayle tell him how The Wrath faked his death.

Next we get a long, fun scene in the Batcave, where Dick Grayson (in his first Nightwing costume) is paying Bruce and Dick a visit during a break from Teen Titans duties. I love how Bruce immediately picks up that the food on Alfred's tray isn't for him, and I love how Dick makes his presence known. Leave it to a circus boy to know how to make a good entrance, right? Of course there's the requisite awkwardness between them, with Bruce being silent and Dick trying to lighten the mood with jokes. I like how Batman quickly reminds him that he knows EVERYTHING that's going on with Dick and the Titans. Classic.

This is a period of Bruce/Dick history that we don't see a lot of, so kudos to Bedard for picking an interesting and different time to play around in.

The banter between Bruce and Dick is a lot of fun in this scene. The only thing I have trouble with is that Bruce and Alfred never told Dick the truth of Alfred's torture at the hands of The Wrath. Alfred says they didn't tell him because he was only 13, but let's face it -- Dick Grayson was NEVER "only 13." He could have handled it, and Bruce and Alfred would have shared it with him because they'd have known he'd be facing such situations for the rest of his life.

Anyway, The Wrath -- but which Wrath is it -- threatens Grayle Hudson, and then gets beaten up by a "cop" who's really Batman in disguise. Did he kill Grayle? We don't know. But what we do know is that Batman's probably going to follow through on his promise to knock out all The Wrath's teeth next issue.

This issue has gorgeous art by Rags Morales and a fun script by Tony Bedard that focuses on a time in Batman's history that we don't get to see that often. The plot feels like a old LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT story, but it's told in a fresh, fun way. Not the best Batman story I've ever read, but it'll be fun to see where it goes.

Indiana native John Bierly started writing for publications when he was 17 and never stopped.
His favorite things in life are family and friends, concerts, burgers, Mountain Dew, his amazing girlfriend Chelsea and, of course...
You can read his blog at JOHNBIERLY.COM.

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