“Batman Confidential” has been a mostly useless series since its inception. Launched as a replacement for “Legends of the Dark Knight” with a sub-par Andy Diggle/Whilce Portacio story, the ratio of hits to misses has been far higher than the series it replaced. At least “Legends of the Dark Knight” had the occasional Mike Mignola story, or Kevin O’Neill doing Bat-Mite, and launched with a Denny O’Neal story followed by Grant Morrison’s “Gothic.” “Batman Confidential” gave us sixteen consecutive less-than-good issues in a row before finally showing what it could do with a five-part Batgirl/Catwoman story drawn by Kevin Maguire. It wasn’t much of a story, but at least it looked great, and it was fun to see Barbara Gordon in the early days of her costumed career.
But to be honest, the first 25 issues of “Batman Confidential” were more than skippable. If you didn’t read a single one you didn’t miss much. But in issue #28 we get the conclusion of a three-part arc, titled “A New Dawn,” that’s finally worth reading. It might as well be called “King Tut — you know, from the Adam West television show — makes his comic book debut,” because that’s what it is, though writers Nunzio DeFillipis and Christina Weir have said that they originally pitched the story with a newly-created villain in mind and editor Mike Carlin said, “why not just do King Tut?” So it’s not all that similar to the 1960’s tv incarnation, and that’s probably a good thing. But it’s not their version of King Tut that makes this issue — and the whole arc — worth reading.
And it’s not their story, either, which is a pretty good detective tale as the Riddler helps Batman follow the clues to get to the bottom of this Egyptian mystery.
It’s Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. Inked by Kevin Nowlan.
This is the best-looking Batman comic since J. H. Williams gave us three issues of Black Glove-centric splendor. Garcia-Lopez is one of the all-time greats, and he has rarely looked as good as he has while inked by Kevin Nowlan. There’s a classical sense of weight an proportion here, and Nowlan’s inks add just the right amount of depth and texture. He has, of course, the wonderful Garcia-Lopez pencils to work from, and there may not be a better superhero storyteller than this legendary artist. But without a good inker — a few years ago, for example, he was inked by the very talented Sean Phillips on a “JLA Confidential” story, and it didn’t look nearly this good — Garcia-Lopez is merely a solid draftsman with a good sense of composition. But coupled with Nowlan, these pages dazzle.
This story from Batman’s past feels like it could have been written thirty years ago (although it would have been told in one or two issues instead of three), and Garcia-Lopez gives it a classic look that places it in that late-Bronze Age period as well. But in this era of Tony Daniel’s “Battle for the Cowl,” stuff like this looks refreshingly new and vibrant. It’s the veterans coming back for one more swing at the pitch, saying, “no, youngster, it’s supposed to look like this,” and slamming it over the fence with ease.