Batman Confidential #26-28

Written by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir
Penciled by José Luis Garcia-López
Inked by Kevin Nowlan
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

When is a Batman villain not a Batman villain? For the longest time, the answer to that particular riddle could have been, "King Tut." While the character appeared five times in the 1960s Batman television show (more than any other villain created for the show), he’d never actually been in the comics—well, for over 40 years, at any rate. I have to give Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir credit, while the idea seems more than a little silly, the duo have found just the right angle that warrants this particular story.

Someone’s attacking the staff of Gotham City’s Museum of Antiquities, dressed up as an Egyptian Pharaoh and reciting strange riddles. The latter makes the Riddler the obvious suspect—but in theory he’s locked up in Arkham Asylum. If it is the Riddler, why is he changing his outward appearance when up until now he’s been content to leave blatant signs of his involvement at the scene of the crime? And if it’s not the Riddler, should Batman really take the Riddler’s offer of help? And just what is King Tut really planning in doing to Gotham?

The basic thrust of DeFilippis and Weir’s Batman Confidential story is one I appreciated, because it quietly tweaks the expectations of the story. For example, the Riddler offering to help Batman isn’t merely a matter of the Riddler wanting to stop an imposter, or being good at solving riddles. I like the idea that the Riddler’s mind works in such a way that he doesn’t just solve King Tut’s riddles, he’s actually able to anticipate what the next one will be. From there, it turns into a massive game of cat and mouse, with the question of who is hunting whom forever switching back and forth. Add in a slightly enigmatic and creepy King Tut and you’ve got a nice script. In many ways, this story reminds me a bit of what we’d have seen back in the old days of Legends of the Dark Knight, and in a good way.

DeFilippis and Weir especially luck out, though, in that José Luis Garcia-López and Kevin Nowlan drew their issues of Batman Confidential. I’m actually a little surprised that we don’t see more work from Garcia-López because in a perfect word he’d be forever in demand. With those early scenes of King Tut, Garcia-López understands how to make a character appear menacing and creepy without having to say a single word. From the frozen reaction shot of his intended victim, to the regal pose of King Tut with the sunset framing him perfectly, it’s hard to not find him a little unnerving. Garcia-López and Nowlan work so well together, too; Garcia-López has such a strong grasp of human anatomy and body poses and positions, followed by Nowlan’s trademark slickness and fluid inks that just give that extra little touch of greatness. It sounds silly, but just looking at the creases around the eyes of one of King Tut’s intended victims is all you really need to know that Nowlan worked on this book, and that’s a good thing.

Honestly, for a book that I keep expecting to see cancelled, this story is actually almost too good for Batman Confidential. DeFilippis and Weir turn in a solid script that not only lends itself to a sequel but actually makes the reader want one, and Garcia-López and Nowlan drawing any comic at all is cause for celebration. It actually worries me that this story may very well sink without a trace from the minds of comic readers, because at the end of the day? It’s a solid, well-told comic where everyone involved can be happy with the finished product. But really, all of these creators belong on a higher profile project.

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