BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL #16
Author: John Bierly
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
FROM DC COMICS: "Concluding the 4-part 'Wrath Child' adventure! All is revealed about the mysterious return of one of Batman's most mysterious foes from the past!"
"Wrath Child," the latest BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL arc, concludes in issue #16, and all is revealed.
As I said when this arc began, BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL reminds me a lot of the now-departed LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT title in that when a story begins, you're stuck with it for better or for worse. If a storyline isn't doing it for you, you know you've got four or five months before the next one starts and hopefully offers something that's a little more up your alley. And that can be a depressing thought.
"Wrath Child" started strong with the seeming return of a particularly nasty Batman rogue long thought dead. His name was The Wrath, and during his first tussle with Batman he tried to assassinate Jim Gordon and even tortured Alfred after deducing that Bruce Wayne was Batman. But it soon became apparent that this new Wrath was not the original.
Writer Tony Bedard tried to develop the Jim Gordon backstory with mixed results; it initially seemed that he was replacing the BATMAN: YEAR ONE notion that Gordon came to Gotham (from Chicago) at the same time Bruce Wayne was returning home (from training to become Batman) with the BATMAN BEGINS version that Gordon was the beat cop who comforted young Bruce the night his parents were shot. As it turns out, Bedard was doing both and ended up miring himself in too many coincidences. In other words, his method felt anything but natural.
Gordon's in-self-defense shooting of a dirty cop and his wife created the original Wrath (who was their child they'd brought along on their heist) on the same night Bruce Wayne's parents were shot, and Gordon was then shuffled off to Chicago to cover up the dirty cop story. So Gordon creates the Wrath on the same night that Joe Chill creates Batman, and then Gordon just happens to return to Gotham years later at the exact same time Bruce Wayne is coming home to be Batman? As I said in my review of last issue, it's just too many coincidences to accept.
But the "Wrath Child" story has been packed with some pretty awesome action, and action is just about all this final issue is.
In the previous issue, we discovered that the new Wrath was basically the original Wrath's Robin. So Batman and Nightwing track the new Wrath to the airport thanks to a homing device Batman planted on him. But The Wrath violently forced the homing device down the throat of the original Wrath's lover, mob daughter Grayle Hudson, and he's tied her up inside his huge, rugged Wrathmobile while remote controlling it from afar…but not TOO far.
The new Wrath is nuts, trying to kill Batman and Nightwing in the Batmobile while taunting poor Grayle as she screams in terror. Dick ejects himself out of the Batmobile and soars atop the air traffic control tower where The Wrath is hiding while Batman gets pushed in front of a landing airplane by the Wrathmobile. And of course The Wrath is pleased that he'll be killing not only Grayle Hudson and Batman but also "a whole planeload of jackasses."
But Batman saves Grayle and the airplane because he's Batman, while Nightwing confronts The Wrath and tells him they've figured out everything about him. The Wrath gets crazier and crazier as Nightwing tells the tale, and then Batman steps in with the ultimate truth: All the other orphans taken by the original Wrath for "training" didn't make it because none of them were born killers like this nut-job. Furthermore, Batman posits that this guy would have died at the original Wrath's hands, too, if the original Wrath hadn't died first.
(I'm not so sure about that. This guy is pretty capable and has gone toe-to-toe with Batman since the arc began.)
Great shot as Batman tilts his head to avoid the throwing stars flung at him by The Wrath, and I love the awesome circus move that Batman and Nightwing use to keep from going over the edge of the tower. And then it dawns on the new Wrath: He'll never be what they are because his master was a monster who saw him as nothing more than another tool in his arsenal, while Batman and Nightwing are truly a team built on trust and respect.
The ending happens really fast. Gordon gets a medal for stopping the new Wrath's cop-killings, the new Wrath gets dumped in Blackgate (not Arkham?) with a vow to get revenge, and Bruce tells Dick and Alfred that we just can't help being who we are.
Grayle Hudson is comforted by Leslie Thompkins, and I do like how The Wrath narrates the ending. "I hear Grayle is just fine, though I like to think she dreams of me sometimes ...and wakes up with her heart in her throat."
Overall, this storyline was okay for me. I think it started stronger than it ended, but I appreciated the action and the mystery throughout. I also liked seeing the interaction between Bruce and Dick, though at times I felt that Bedard fell into the all-too-common trap of making Bruce too much of a jerk to Dick.
The Wrath was a worthy villain with an interesting back story, and it's nice to see a bad guy who's at least got some skill to balance out his insanity. I liked the narration that Bedard wrote for The Wrath, and I've always responded well to the quality and humanity of Rags Morales's handsome artwork. Morales really nailed the action in these action-packed issues.
Other than some misgivings about too many coincidences and a bit too much shoe-horning of Gordon's origin, this was a fun read with lots of interesting character interactions and a fun villain whose defeat was quite satisfying.
Next issue begins an untold tale of Batgirl and Catwoman. Let's just say I hope it involves Batman, too
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