Batman apprehends and attempts to question a killer, which ends up not turning out the way he had hoped. Later on Bruce Wayne finds his company locked in competition with Lex Luthor's for a defense contract funded by the government. Luthor is attacked by one of Wayne's robots and from there Batman begins to try and piece together these incidents. -summary
Those whom are familiar with the DC Universe would probably expect a showdown of epic proportions should Batman and Lex Luthor cross paths. Normally it wouldn't be wrong to expect good things when these two brillaint minds lock in battle, because Lex is among the elite villains who can actually match him in terms of wits. Batman: Rules of Engagement pits the two in battle, and due to a very weak climax the story falls way short of what it could've been. Even after this re-read I really didn't find much enjoyment here once it got to the second half. Do not come into this story expecting what you saw during Bruce's and Lex's encounter in No Man's Land. This story is the first in the Batman Confidential line up, which are stories that take place during and even after Batman's first year. This TPB collects Batman Confidential 1 - 6 and is written by Andy Diggle.
One of my peeves with this series is how it can rope in the reader with such good storytelling in the beginning, and not be able to sustain it during the home stretch. At some point during the beginning, a robot goes on a rampage with its intention to kill Luthor. Batman uncovers the robots secret and learns that Luthor has a plan in motion, but he's at a loss on what it could be. It appears that Luthor will win that defense contract even through under-handed means. This is the side of Luthor that is truly awesome; the cunning business man who will have his way by any means, and he plays everyone like puppets with ease. Batman and Luthor equal each other in coolness here, as you will see Batman conduct his covert operations.
The story is very well paced and even pretty gripping. Unfortunately, everything begins to hit a rather rocky decline come the second half, and it gives off the feel of a very weak summer blockbuster action flick. Luthor degenerates terribly into another mad villain seeking world conquest, and Batman finds himself in the role of a stock action hero. The finale is blanketed with boring and unimaginative action against Luthor's killer robots. This is one of the few times an out of left field Superman appearance would have actually been a good thing.
The artwork is definitely not among Whilce Portacio's best, he's done far better in the early 90's for the X-factor and X-Men titles. He tries way too hard to be gritty; Batman is drawn menacing to the point of looking silly and psychotic. There are far too many dark shades with some of the characters looking inhuman. The robot army is bland and featureless, and feel like they were added in this story just because.
Batman: Rules of Engagement can best be described as good ideas being greatly wasted. I will point out that Andy Diggle is in fact a very good storyteller though; his Green Arrow: Year One is something I will go far enough to consider essential reading for comic book fans. This story however, I would only recommend it to the most hardcore Batman fans. It is self contained and I consider it casual fan friendly, but there are far better stories to choose from.
Pros: -Interesting start
Cons: -Doesn't end so well, mediocre artwork
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