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BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL #23

Author: John Bierly
Friday, November 14, 2008

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: "The Joker continues leaving his psycho mark on Gotham City in Part 2 of this 4-part arc as Batman struggles with what the appearance of a villain like The Joker must say about The Dark Knight's own affect on the city! Is Batman stopping crime or just inspiring deadlier, more insane evils?"

Oh, Batman fans.

*sigh*

Be glad I like you gals and guys, otherwise I wouldn't still be buying this BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL.

Issue #22 began a new storyline called "Do You Understand These Rights?," which tells yet another version of the story of what happens the first time Batman drags The Joker into police custody.

Having recently seen a Nolan/Ledger version of this incident, the story written by Andrew Kreisberg was simply no comparison. Ledger's Joker sat in his cell, smirking, calculating, and all-powerful even though the cops and crooks around him didn't know it yet. The Joker in Kreisberg's story made funny faces for the camera and played comedian for his fellow inmates before killing a detective's wife by using his one phone call to call her, tell her he was her doctor, make up some crazy disease she had, and then urge her to commit suicide. Are you kidding me? If someone claiming to be my doctor called me with the results of blood work I hadn't even gotten done and told me to hang myself immediately, I'd like to think I'd at least get a second opinion. Kreisberg's story was trite, weak, contrived, and terribly clichéd. (The widowed cop spent the first few pages talking about how much he loved his wife and how much she'd changed his life. Gee. I wonder how that was going to turn out.)

Issue #23 isn't much better. Batman is still blaming himself for the cop's wife's suicide and having the same old conversations we've heard a million times before (and better) with Gordon and Alfred. Gordon gets some good stuff here, such as asking the widowed cop's partner if his buddy needs a boss or a friend, but The Joker continues to be the focus -- and the problem -- of this story.

As I said about last issue, David Goyer, the Nolan boys, and Heath Ledger raised The Joker infinitely high in THE DARK KNIGHT.

And while I'm the only person I know who didn't like the recent Brian Azuela JOKER graphic novel (aside from Lee Bermejo's awesome art) because I found it too ugly, too vile, and harsh to a point that it wasn't even entertaining, you have to admit that it took The Joker to some of the darkest places we've ever seen him and did so in a way that was different and new and fresh.

Then you've got the Grant Morrison version who's giving himself a snake tongue with a razor blade and dressing like he's ready to give Batman's soul a lobotomy, or the Kevin Smith version in BATMAN: CACOPHANY who's obsessed with poop jokes, gay jokes, sex jokes, and gay sex jokes that aren't really jokes.

Whether you're a fan of any or all of these incarnations, the fact is that lots of writers right now are doing different things with The Joker. (My favorite recent Joker moment in the comics is the cameo he had in DETECTIVE #849, watching Batman's "better than Christmas" interrogation of Jonathan Crane with admirable glee.)

All Kreisberg offers here are more lazy clichés. And if you thought The Joker's suicide-persuading killer phone call from last issue was preposterous, wait until you see how he kills someone in this issue. Yet again, Kreisberg hammers us over the head with both the method and the victim, and The Joker's execution of his plan involves so many convenient (or flat-out impossible) variables that it comes across as simply ridiculous.

Without spoiling it, I'll say that there's a bracelet involved, and we are shown close-ups of the bracelet several times, but we can't even read what it says, so how could The Joker read it from far away? I guess he could have known the information on the bracelet beforehand, but the way he accomplishes the actual kill is silly.

There are a few good moments here. Longtime Bat-Family artist Scott McDaniel's pencils are dynamic even when his subjects are at rest, and he draws one hell of a kinetic action sequence in the middle of this book (with an inspired moment of rescue that's 100% Batman).

But the bottom line is that Joker stories won't be seen the same way for a long, long time after all of the different variations we've recently seen on film in the pages of various comics and graphic novels. Kreisberg's story isn't just business as usual. It's less than adequate, built around contrivances and lazy writing. And like I said, I'm only buying this stuff so that you guys don't have to, and I hope the next issue takes things up a notch. As a whole, this book really needs a lot of work for its continued existence to remain justified. - 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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