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COMIC BOOK REVIEW

BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL #17

Author: John Bierly
Saturday, May 24, 2008

FROM DC COMICS: "Kicking off a 5-part story by Fabian Nicieza (X-Men) and Kevin Maguire (Justice League INTERNATIONAL)! Batgirl crosses paths with the Catwoman for the first time...and that's bad luck, especially for Batgirl's father: Commissioner Gordon!"

Every time I review a new BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL storyline -- and often during the course of reviewing the storyline -- I make the same argument that you're all probably getting tired of reading: BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL reminds me a lot of LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT in that if a storyline isn't to your liking, you're stuck with it for four or five months of your life that you'll never get back. Or you can just decline to buy it, but you're still going to go four or five months with less new Batman to read, with no guarantee that the next storyline will be any better.

BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL has seen its ups and downs. Its lowest point, I think, was the sloppily written, abysmally drawn Joker origin (“Lovers and Madmen“). Its best arc so far, thankfully enough, was the "Wrath Child" storyline that ended last month, with Batman and Nightwing taking on a legacy of villainy that uncomfortably mirrored their own relationship.

But now we're back in questionable territory with part one of "The Cat and the Bat" in issue #17.

The Cat, of course, is Selina "Catwoman" Kyle.

The Bat is Bruce Wayne, better known as Batman, the Dark Knight of Gotham!

Oh, wait.

The Bat is…

Barbara "Batgirl" Gordon?

Oh. Okay.

That's right. Batman is out of town (and possibly off of planet) on Justice League business, which means we're going to get five issues -- for the not-insignificant price of $15 -- without Batman.

(UPDATE: According to DC solicitations, Batman will show up in August's issue 20. That's still three issues without Batman.)

In this issue we get lots of Batgirl chasing Catwoman around Gotham, with writer Fabian Nicieza often resorting to the Jeph Loeb SUPERMAN/BATMAN trick of having the two characters simultaneously thinking slight variations of the same thing. Only Nicieza takes it a step further and have them doing this nearly word-for-word, in the case of the "complicated and altogether wrong" relationship between Batman and Catwoman.

And for the most part, it works. The physical and verbal repartee between Barbara and Selina stays pretty fun and light, and the pacing is good. Selina probably refers to Barbara as Batman's "pet" more out of her own jealousy than spite, and Barbara's line about wanting to save Bruce from the future divorce settlement that would surely come from any union he might have with Catwoman is classic.

Kevin Maguire's art is always a ton of fun, but Catwoman and Batgirl look the same age throughout the issue and I wish Barbara looked her age a bit more.

But then we get to the ending and I'm not so sure about the issue anymore. Catwoman escapes -- naked -- into a meeting of the Gotham City Hedonist Society and the "receptionist" won't let Barbara chase her inside without proper attire, which is naked person code for "no attire."

So Barbara starts taking her clothes off as we get a "To Be Continued."

I appreciate the fact that Selina is testing/pushing Barbara's limits, but I'm also protective of my favorite female characters and I'd rather not see our girl Barbara be embarrassed like this.

And how old is Barbara supposed to be in this issue anyway? Old enough, I hope. Otherwise this issue is troubling for a whole other set of reasons.

Again, this issue is fun enough, and it's paced well.

But it's also a Batman comic without Batman. And I buy Batman comics for Batman.

Maybe this story would better be told in a miniseries or a one-shot. But in the pages of a Batman book, at the expense of Batman?

Meh.

Oh, well. As always, we'll see where it goes. - John Bierly

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, and, of course...
...THE BATMAN!
You can read his blog at JOHNBIERLY.COM.

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