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COMIC BOOK REVIEW

BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL #17

Author: John Bierly
Saturday, June 21, 2008

FROM DC COMICS: "Batgirl tracks Catwoman and the notebook stolen from Commissioner Gordon to a posh nightclub — where costumes are optional!"

At the end of issue #17, Barbara "Batgirl" Gordon chased Catwoman -- who'd stolen Commissioner Gordon's notebook -- to a meeting of the Gotham Hedonist Society. Selina had no problem dropping her costume and traipsing into the naked melee, leaving Barbara to decide if she could do the same and follow. Part of Selina probably thought Barbara wouldn't do it, just as another part of Selina probably wanted her to follow just so she could test the girl's limits. Would Barbara take Selina's naked challenge?

(I can't believe I'm even writing this stuff.)

(Hell, I can't believe THEY are writing this stuff.)

We get our answer on the first page of issue #18, where Barbara is wearing nothing but her Batgirl mask and uncomfortably trying to cover everything else with her cape. Her face and her posture make her look scared and ashamed, and already I'm feeling very uncomfortable for her. I'm no prude, but this really seems disrespectful.

The next two pages have Barbara easing her way into the party, enduring verbal and physical harassment, which is written in a way that tries to make it funny but still comes across as creepy. (And since this is early in her career as Batgirl, just how old is she supposed to be?)

Finally she notices Selina Kyle sneaking into a backroom to talk to a big naked Russian man, the stolen notebook in hand. Barbara uses some quick-thinking and an apple to provide a Batman-worthy distraction, and I do enjoy the glee on her face as she rushes out of the room with the notebook in her hand.

But the scene immediately turns into a big naked fight in the big naked Gotham Hedonists meeting, with punches and flailing bodies just barely covering the strategic body parts of the shocked, naked onlookers who probably aren't used to seeing THIS kind of physical contact. Is this meant as comedy? It just comes off as exploitative. Oh, well.

Barbara should take the notebook back to her dad's desk, but she's got the detective bug and goes to the junkyard for some peace and quiet to give herself some time to figure out what Catwoman could possibly want with that little spiral-bound book.

And then out of nowhere, Catwoman attacks, and then while they're fighting, Catwoman gets shot at.

As Barbara takes her time pondering scoring angles and bullet trajectories to figure out where the shot came from, I'm thinking, "A good sniper could already have shot both of you." But this makes time for a puppy -- because cats hate dogs, ha! -- to snatch up the fallen notebook and run away while Catwoman chases it. So you've got Catwoman playing slap-and-tickle with a puppy and Barbara standing on top of a car playing detective with a sniper still on the loose, though at least Barbara makes note several pages later that maybe the shooter was "just trying to scare us." Lucky for you, Babs.

(Though I did laugh at her line about telling dad that a dog ate his notebook.)

Then Catwoman gets attacked by the puppy's bigger, meaner, junkyard dog friends, whom Selina tussles with while Barbara coaxes the notebook out of the puppy's jaws.

Barbara grapple-guns to safety with the notebook ... until Catwoman grabs her cape and they fight AGAIN, with Barbara demanding to know why Selina needs the notebook and Selina asserting that it's very important that she gets it because ... she needs it to save someone's life!

And then!

The forgotten sniper strikes! Bullet to the shoulder! And Selina falls off the roof!

And then!

“To be continued….”

Writer Fabian Nicieza has some witty stuff going on in this issue and Kevin Maguire's handsome art is solid as always, but this issue wasn't as zippy as the last one and the whole Gotham Hedonist Society aspect still feels sensational, exploitative and silly.

Added to the fact that this is another issue of BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL without Batman. Next issue won't have him, either.

I still can't figure this book out. The Lex Luthor story was awful, The Joker’s “origin story” was a putrid mess of writing and art, but the "Wrath Child" storyline was really entertaining and left me hungry for another great Batman story. And now we're branching out into Batman stories without Batman?

DC already killed SUPERMAN CONFIDENTIAL. Without a clear vision of what it is, I sometimes wonder if BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL might be next.

See you next month -- which will still be one more month before we can talk about Batman in his own title. -- 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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