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Author: John Bierly
Friday, June 12, 2009

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OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: "Facing the rogue Gotham City police officer who was "created" by The Joker Commissioner Gordon and Batman receive desperate help from an unusual source: young Barbara Gordon!"

Between an emotionally satisfying exploration of Dick Grayson's first days behind the cowl in Judd Winick's BATMAN and Tim Drake-Wayne's decision that the rumors of the one true Batman's demise have been greatly exaggerated in RED ROBIN, this was a really good week for Batman comics.

And that even applies to a couple of moments in issue #30 of BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL.

I had nothing but problems with writer Andrew Kreisberg's original storyline (in issues 22-25) that introduced Gotham City police officer Geoff Shancoe, who got the life-shattering job of being the cop who processed The Joker's first visit to a Gotham lock-up after being apprehended by Batman.

The story was filled with The Joker's preposterous kills, including Shancoe's wife via a prank phone call. If someone called me out of the blue and claimed to be my doctor, I'd probably know it wasn't my doctor. And if this "doctor" told me my blood work revealed a rare disease so terrible that I should just commit suicide immediately, I'd think a) I haven't even had blood work done in a while and b) maybe I should get a second opinion and c) why am I even entertaining these notions in the first place when the cackling nut on the other end of the line is obviously not even my doctor in the first place?

But it worked, and the space behind Shancoe's eyes became home to squirrels juggling knives. He put his partner, Robbie, in a wheelchair, and shot Jim Gordon, too. For his efforts he ended up with his very own cell in Arkham -- right beside The Joker, who continued to taunt him 24 hours a day with jokes about his dead wife. And that bothered me a lot. Why would Arkham allow that? I guess that was my problem with the storyline. Everything was built on convenience and ridiculous coincidence.

Oh, and Batman made a joke about being the world's richest garbage man.



After a two-issue break for the superb King Tut story by Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis, Kreisberg returned in issue 29 for more shenanigans. Shancoe was still locked up beside The Joker, who still taunted him mercilessly and talked him into escaping on a mission of murderous rampage.

Bruce Wayne, meanwhile, saw the Bat signal and coldly, cruelly abandoned a woman he'd just had sex with. (Whatever happened to the old "I have to go to an emergency international business conference call" excuse?) I didn't like it when Batman made the "world's richest garbage man" joke, and the humorless, brooding jerk who abandoned his bed buddy was no better.

Anyway, the issue ended with Shancoe shooting up a bunch of young rookies, including Renee Montoya. And that's where we pick up with issue #30.

As Shancoe defeats Montoya, Batman, and the wheelchair-bound Robbie over the course of the first few pages, we learn the real reason why he's taken on the "Bad Cop" persona.

Batman actually has a really good moment with Montoya before going back to The Batcave to lick his wounds and continue studying for his Ph.D. in brooding. Gordon, meanwhile, abandons the case of the massively murdered rookies to take his daughter, Barbara, to the video arcade.

This is just terrible writing. Commissioner Loeb demands of Gordon, "What are you going to do RIGHT NOW to bring Shancoe in?"

Gordon, surrounded by ambulances hauling off shot-up cops, says, "Nothing. I have a date."

What time of night is it? And why aren't they hunting down Shancoe the cop-killer RIGHT NOW?

Oh, well.

So Jim and Barbara go to the arcade, where Shancoe forces the showdown teased on the cover. And plucky little Barbara Gordon does something very brave and inventive -- and spectacularly clever -- to save her father and Batman and even Shancoe himself.

So at the end of the day, I guess the real hero of this story is little Barbara Gordon. And she also gets a great little moment with Batman that's even better than the grim but believable bit of advice Batman gave to Montoya earlier in the issue.

The Joker, meanwhile, obviously didn't have any plans to answer for his latest scheme. The idea of the ending isn't bad, but its arrangement and execution are indicative of more silly circumstances.

As always, Scott McDaniel's art is dynamic and energetic. And in Mr. Kreisberg's defense, there are some really good ideas in this story -- especially those involving the true goal of Officer Shancoe. But I just have a hard time getting past the weak characterizations and outrageous coincidences that ultimately get us from scene to scene.

With Bruce Wayne not appearing in the other Bat-books, his appearances in CONFIDENTIAL need to be nothing short of amazing. You won't find that in this storyline.

On a bittersweet note, this is the final issue of BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL that I'll be reviewing for BATMAN ON FILM.

I'll still be reviewing DETECTIVE COMICS (by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III), and I'll also be taking on STREETS OF GOTHAM (by the "Heart of Hush" dream team of Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen).

The astonishing Paul Casey will be taking over review duties on CONFIDENTIAL, which is great news for you since he's a much better writer than I am. And thanks as always to Jett (for the continued opportunity to be a part of this community) and to all the awesome Batman fans out there who visit the site! We're heading into unknown territory with all of this "Batman Reborn" stuff, and BOF will be here to help. But before I go, I'd like to do a quick summary of some of the previous storylines:

* "Rules of Engagement" (1-6): Batman's first tussle with Lex Luthor. Lots of silly technological mumbo-jumbo and ugly art. Batman zooms around in a Bat-shaped airplane that launches a flying motorcycle out of its air intake. Pffffft.

* "Lovers and Madmen" (7-12): Yet another totally unnecessary Joker origin. More ugly art. And an ugly story, too.

* "Wrath Child" (13-16): Gorgeous art by Rags Morales. Batman and Nightwing battle the "Evil Robin" of a villain long thought dead, with some really great twists and turns and tons of AWESOME action. There were some plot conveniences that bugged me, but those were easily forgiven because of the incredible action. I really, really, really liked this story (written by Tony Bedard).

* "The Bat and the Cat" (17-21): Fun, handsome, expressive art by Kevin Maguire as Barbara Gordon's Batgirl has her first big battle with Catwoman, but the story stumbles with problems of tone. There's a brutally awful and uncomfortable sexual torture subplot, and yet there's a naked slap-and-tickle chase scene between Barbara and Selina. So are women sexual victims, or funny sex objects? Batman doesn't appear until the end, and does something very un-Batman-like. Lots of fun dialogue (by writer Fabian Nicieza) and really great art just didn't quite overcome the shifting tone problems for me.

* "Do You Understand These Rights" (22-25): The first part of Andrew Kreisberg's "Bad Cop" saga, disliked for all the reasons stated in the review above.

* "A New Dawn" (26-28): Big fun, big action, big intrigue, and lots of Batman being Batman in this engaging, entertaining story by writers Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis with art by the legendary Jose Luis Garcia Lopez. Be sure to check out BOF's interview with the writers right HERE.

* "Bad Cop" (29-30): Better than "Do You Understand These Rights?" but suffers ultimately suffers from too many of the same problems.

Your turn, Paul! And good luck, sir. - 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...
You can read his blog at JOHNBIERLY.COM.

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