Review – Batman Secret Files #2: Five Rogues

Comic Books DC This Week
Batman Secret Files #2 cover, via DC Comics.

Batman Secret Files #2 – Andy Kubert, Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, Mairghread Scott, Steve Orlando, Tim Seeley, Writers; Amancay Nahuelpan, Carlos D’Anda, Eduardo Risso, Patrick Gleason, Artists; Giuseppe Camuncoli, Penciller; Cam Smith, Inker; Trish Mulvihill, Luis Guerrero, Tomeu Morey, Dave Stewart, John Kalisz, Colorists

Ratings:

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Solid Batman Stories

Ray: Essentially a mini-anthology devoted entirely to DC’s most popular character, Batman Secret Files #2 features a few of DC’s top creators telling short stories dealing with Batman’s world. This time, in anticipation of the villains taking over in “Year of the Villain” and “City of Bane”, Batman Secret Files brings on the bad guys with five stories spotlighting villains who will play major roles in the upcoming storylines. First up is Joker, in a story written by Andy Kubert and drawn by Amancay Nahuelpan. It’s a bizarre, oddly intimate story as Joker has Batman chained up and is trying to get his uniform open – only to discover one booby trap after another in the costume. It almost feels like a Looney Tunes sketch at points, but it made me laugh.

Corrina: This particular story kinda made me laugh. It’s the kind of Joker story with him having a laser focus on Batman–as Joker does–and failing anyway. I hate Joker stories but this one worked well, probably because of the intimate focus and personal stakes.

Ray: Far more serious is the Psycho Pirate story by the writing team of Lanzing and Kelly with art by Carlos D’Anda. It casts the Pirate as a twisted cult leader, luring people who have experienced tragedy into his web with promises that he’ll take away their pain. Of course, his “cure” is more of a drug than actual help. The story ends with Batman showing up and fending off the cultists as gently as he can before drop-kicking Psycho Pirate out of a leadership role, but the hopeful end in the final line does a good job of spotlighting Batman’s gentler side.

Corrina: Psycho Pirate is an underused villain, probably because he’s both so powerful and so unpredictable. Here, he genuinely believes he’s helping others by eliminating their pain and self-will. Batman, of course, is the king of self-determination, so that was never going to work. Effective tale.

Ray: Riddler is the focus of the third story by Mairghread Scott and Giuseppe Camuncoli, focusing on him in therapy after yet another capture. He pulled off an elaborate plot targeting Batman and multiple people who wronged him, only to fall short again. The story tries to double up by serving as both a mystery for us to solve and a spotlight on Riddler’s character, but it works better as the latter than the former. The mystery is a bit inscrutable and it’s more fun to just follow Riddler’s unique brand of crazy as the doctor picks at him.

Corrina: I’m not sure of the mystery but this story gives us a good window into the Riddler, peeling back what’s behind his riddles and his compulsion. He’s both more and less than he seems.

A twisted trap. Via DC Comics.

Ray: The best story by a mile is Steve Orlando and Eduardo Risso’s twisted tale of Dr. Hugo Strange trying to figure out Batman’s psyche by kidnapping a group of men and forcing them to become Batman – by putting them in a deathtrap designed to see how far they’ll go to save themselves. Risso’s gritty art is unlike anything else in the issue, and Strange is one of the best Batman villains and the most underused. Orlando usd him effectively in Night of the Monster Men, and this spotlight manages to be the only true dose of horror in the issue.

Corrina: I don’t know that I enjoyed this story–it definitely veers into torture porn, though with a point–but I guessed Hugo Strange as the villain because that’s his thing. And Orlando gets Strange’s obsession absolutely right. Meanwhile, the art with the Batman tied to the torture wheel is chilling.

Ray: The final story, by Tim Seeley and (in maybe the last DC work for the new Marvel exclusive) Patrick Gleason, focuses on the mastermind, Bane. It gives us a rare glimpse of Bane as a teenager, being visited by a kind journalist as a young inmate. That journalist, of course, is a loose end once Bane becomes the monster we all know. The art here looks great, but this story feels more like a sad foregone conclusion than anything. Overall, aside from the Orlando story, most of these tales are good but not great. That one, though, is worth the price of admission alone.

Corrina: Anything that adds complexity to Bane is, for me, welcome. He’s always going to fall on the side of villainy but he’s also always going to be the child abandoned to a horrible fate and yet survived anyway. If Batman is the king of self-determination, Bane is the dark mirror of that self-determination.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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