Friday, February 09, 2007

BATMAN versus O.G.R.E
Rules of Engagement: Part Two (DC comics)
Batman Confidential #2 When: March 2007
Why: Andy Diggle How: Whilce Portacio

The story so far...
The dichotomy of vision between Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne is extrapolated when the businesses vie for a contract to develop technology to benefit Gotham City.

WayneTech's designs are ones of peace, utilizing state of the art technology to create search and rescue robots with the use of neural-link transmission pilotting.
Conversely, LexCorp concerns itself with the potential threat of an ever changing world full of the fantastic and bizarre. Luthor's proposal is built on advanced weaponry and proactive peace creating agents, as opposed to Wayne's more passive tools.

With a verdict to be decided, things take a nasty turn for WayneTech when their rescue OGRE droid attacks Lex Luthor outside the very building the proposal was made in. Will the Batman be able to solve the mystery of the rogue robot?

Previous Form:
Batman (#1): Batman defeated another giant killer robot, in the form of Amazo.
WayneTech OGRE: The OGRE robot has not yet been featured.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: WayneTech OGRE 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Batman 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: WayneTech OGRE 6 (Generator)
Agility: Batman 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Batman 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: WayneTech OGRE 5 (Lasers)

Situations like these are always pretty awkward because there really isn't any previous data to draw upon for the OGRE droid, and it's not likely there will be any more after this. Thems the breaks, I suppose.

Batman is Batman. He finished 2006 as the top rated fighting superhero in comics here on Secret Earths, and he did it with only one defeat to his name. [Batman and the Mad Monk #1]

OGRE is a robot built to be able to sustain the most uninhabitable conditions, which inadvertently means he's highly durable and incredibly powerful, with much of the technology being geared toward rescue and retrieval in disasterous situations. This gives it a huge advantage of strength against the human Batman.

The equaliser, as we well known by now, is in Batman's endless arsenal of technology, which under other circumstances could logically include this very piece of hardware. This array of technology is especially efficient when combatting other technologies, with the Batman able to access minds capable of strategising even where he can't.

Although not necessarily a disadvantage, OGRE is pilotted by a human, which also scales down the fantastical extent to which he can analytically combat Batman. This is man versus man controlling machine, and Batman's had much worse.

The Math: Batman (Meta Class)
The Pick: Batman

What went down...
So, the OGRE generally menaces around as it stalks Luthor, ripping effortlessly through the high-grade armor plating of Luthor's limo. Luthor attempts to bargain with the machine, but the implications of his fortune are lost on the bot.

Batman shows on the scene, tossing a clunky Batarang into the field, but OGRE is able to catch the projectile before it strikes -- unwittingly catching a flash-grenade variety batarang! It stuns the robot's sensors momentarily, giving Batman opportunity to place a frequency jamming device on it's back.

The device proves unsuccessful in stopping the machine, allowing it to continue freely on it's rampage. OGRE wrenches the street lamp Batman perches atop from the ground, whipping the hero into the air.
Thermite acid proves to barely be a distraction as he analyses his options.

Luthor's entourage fire on the machine, while Luthor exercises his greatest muscle [His brain... sickos... - Miscreant Mike], recognising the sewers as a viable escape route that would prevent the bulky machine from following.

While Luthor makes his escape crawling through waste on his hands and knees, the OGRE droid pounds at the ground attempting to gain wider access than the narrow manhole.

Batman attempts to contain the distracted machine, but knows full well that his multi-walled nanofilament grappling cable will have little effect on the man-made beast. It snaps it like it were little more than ribbon, and just like that, gives up the fight. With it's in-built rocket thrusters, the OGRE makes a clean getaway.

Meanwhile, back at WayneTech the machine's pilot is found dead in the saline filled deprivation tank form which the machine is controlled. Thus posing the question -- was the controller killed before or after the attack?

One illegal autopsy later, Batman discovers a synthetic medical implant that was no doubt responsible for the pilot's death, but undetectable to conventional investigation methods. The technology fits directly with the boasts of Lexcorp, proposing a connection between the victim and the OGRE attack.

Batman's deductions prove valid when he finds the OGRE at a Lexcorp compound seeking out radioactive materials to power the machine reactor.
Batman connects the events, realising the pilot was presumably working for Luthor from within WayneTech, but was killed while in the tank, leaving his mind to somehow embue the machine with a pseudo-sentience.

Batman tries to talk the "ghost in the machine" out of it's quest for revenge, but is met with a violent response.

Unfortunately for OGRE this time Batman came prepared. Rather than engage the machine once more, he uses his technology to shut the machine down and eject it's memory cortex.

The violence is stopped and Lex Luthor's life, and the lives of untold Lexcorp workers are no doubt saved, but the Batman can't help but feel he has blood on his hands, as this adventure comes to a close.

The hammer...
Well, before anyone else says it, I'm just going to cop to it and acknowledge how full of crud I am. Batman emerges victorious in this second month of 2007.

I was honest in my predictions of a quieter year for the Dark Knight, but I guess when push came to shove, I just couldn't resist getting him on the site again to represent for the D, the C, and the worthy top fivers. 'Cause as much as I love Moon Knight, c'mon...

I digress, I definitely selected this issue for the story more than the fight.
This new title, Batman: Confidential, replaces the cancelled Legends of the Dark Knight, which essentially served a very similar purpose, serving up stories that more comfortably slot into previous decades or eras of the character.
In that respect, the launch of this new title feels underwhelming. As interesting as Diggle and Portacio are under their own individual merits, you can see where it may have previously been less obvious, how this book differs from the All-Star line.

I actually like Whilce Portacio's work, and as the sometimes forgotten Image Comics found, I do tend to wonder where he is, and why he isn't compelled to pick up a pencil and do something high profile. We know the work's out there, having reviewed his work previously. [Iron Man #2]

Portacio's pencils are understandably poorly received by some. His layouts and scenes feature many characteristics of the nineties, with over the top action in most panels, and overlapping page layouts that appear unruly and hyperactive compared to the pseudo-realistic subdued approach of most contemporary reads.

Portacio's stylized approach could be described as moody Jim Lee.
His peculiar trademark of thick black shadow around eyes, even when lit otherwise, is actually something I kinda enjoy. It's not what I'd want to see in every book, but as something unique to Portacio, it's interestingly effective.
Likewise in Iron Man, Portacio's darkness reflects surprisingly well on duplicitous corporately driven characters, with Lex Luthor and even Bruce Wayne appearing appropriately sinister at times. Something we saw on the Civil War/Ultimates-esque Tony Stark during Heroes Reborn.

As for the story itself, it's very similar to an episode of the anime TV seres, Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040, in which a deep sea miner is crushed by his collapsing facility, and the droid he operates becomes corrupted with the pseudo-sentience of his controller.

As a stand alone episode Bubblegum Crisis was able to tell the more rivetting of the two stories, with an emotional line of a neglected wife (ultimately widowed) being the driving component of the story -- rather than this book, which presumably uses this revenge plot to point to corporate espionage, which will no doubt further the book beyond this issue.

It isn't bad, but it would be very easy to tear the book apart, perhaps unfairly-so. Actually, I think it's interesting to note that it deserves at least a second read. Twenty-twenty hindsight adds depth to the action earlier in the piece, explaining with new meaning events such as the failed signal jammer (assuming the controller has already died), and why Luthor offers the machine the prospect of a deal.

For this, Diggle has to get full credit, but as the launch of a brand new feature Batman title, the delivery is somewhat underwhelming.
Editorially, the story itself is actually quite baffling. It reads like a very good Legends story, but to launch a book like this it's surprising more high profile guest characters weren't used. Not that I condone that sort of thing, it just would've made more sense.
Mind you, I guess I'm discounting the value of Lex Luthor as a villain in a Batman book. Likewise, maybe I'm not recognising how deliciously subtle this hero/villain story has come to be set up.

I can't guarantee my sustained interest, but I have to admit, the more I look at the book, the more I can at least pick out the positives. Overall it's a pretty average read, but if you somehow arrived at this paragraph before the previous, you might enjoy the secondary layer one attains from the conclusion.

This isn't typically the kind of book I'd review here, but hey, I'm being contemporary while I can. It's not like I piss money, and buy comics every week. Yes, I'm looking at all of you other over indulged comics bloggers and laughing. Bitterly.

The Fight: 3 The Issue: 5

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