Batman Secret Files #2 review

In the late 1990s and early 2000s the Secret Files and Origins specials from DC Comics were an occasional treat. Sure, their mix of short strips and Who’s Who-style feature pages didn’t always make for brilliant, essential reads, but the gem-to-clunker ratio made them worthwhile buys.

And now here’s Batman Secret Files #2, a tie-in to the City of Bane story in the regular Batman title. While no origins were promised, surely we could expect some secrets? Sadly, of secrets, there are none. This is simply a collection of strips featuring characters from the storyline, the usual Arkham Asylum suspects; there’s no new information illuminating the showcased baddies.

The sheer familiarity of the selection is manifest in the choice of lead strip, If the Suit Fits, a spotlight on the Joker, DC’s most overused villain. It is, though, the best thing in the book. The premise is that the Joker has kidnapped Batman and wants to have fun in his suit – but first, he has to get it off the Caped Crusader.

The art by illustrator Amancay Nahuelpan and colourist Trish Mulvihill is a treat, crisp and lively, while letterer Steve Wands adds to the gaiety with the in-favour Jokerfont. I especially like the use of low-angled shots, and the little cowl shapes on the Bat-boots – branding has always been vital to Batman. The big surprise is that this is written by artist Andy Kubert – mind, given he’s lettered, coloured, inked and pencilled in his time, why wouldn’t he be able to put a script together. Is someone planning a bit of writer-artistry, I wonder?

He Helps Us garbs the Psycho-Pirate in a truly grim Glam Rock costume, with matching hair, for a brief outing as a cult leader, to push the current Tom King line on Batman’s psyche.

No thanks. Collin Kelley and Jackson Lansing write, Carlos D’anda draws and I draw away.

The Riddler tale, Alone, may be too clever for me. The set-up is that an Arkham psychiatrist is talking to the Riddler about a recent killing spree, flashbacks show us Batman getting closer to the villain, ultimately capturing him.

I love that writer Mairghread Scott challenges the reader to solve the puzzle, but without an opening question I didn’t know what I was looking for. The script seems to know what it’s doing otherwise. The art by penciller Giuseppe Camuncoli and inker Cam Smith is decent.

The visuals by illustrator Eduardo Risso, colourist Dave Stewart and letterer John Workman in Doctor of Psychiatric Medicine are striking, but I’m surprised that the clever Steve Orlando is behind this Hugo Strange focus, as it’s pretty much torture porn.

Really unpleasant stuff.

‘Alethephobia’ means ‘a fear of truth’ and it’s the title of the final story. It involves yet another flashback to the early days of Bane in Santa Prisca prison and comes closer than any of this issue’s other entries to providing insight into a villain.

In the end, it’s just the old ‘Bane won’t be seen to be vulnerable’ bit, though well-crafted with a sharp script by writer Tim Seeley and dynamic art by Patrick Gleason. As a lead-in to last week’s Batman #75, this will likely be enjoyed by Bane fans, but I’ve never been one for bulky baddies who speak in the third person.

Andy Kubert and colourist Brad Anderson’s cover is a fine piece of work, hinting that Scarface and the Ventriloquist were at one time slated for this issue. It’s a shame they’re not here, as they’re always good fun.

As it is, this is a serviceable collection of tales, with one outstanding story. There’s every chance you’ll enjoy it more than me. If you do, let me know. And if you can explain the Riddler story, extra points.

17 thoughts on “Batman Secret Files #2 review

  1. I don’t think any reviewer at comicbookroundup had any idea what the Riddler’s clues were about, though I didn’t read every review. All I noticed is one thing, but don’t know if it’s obvious, and in any event don’t know what it means. Riddler is in some surveillance room – I don’t know where it is, nor how Batman finds it. In the hospital basement, though, Batman spots a green security globe on the ceiling, so maybe he is able to trace that to the surveillance room. (Aren’t those globes usually an opaque black?)

    Anyway, Riddler has put 5 post-its on the monitors in the surveillance room. They are monitors for Cameras A, L, O, N, and E, spelling the story’s title.

    Why or if that has any significance, I don’t know. Does Riddler do all this because he feels lonely?

    And does that tie in to what he says to the doctor, “I told you why I battle Batman before I even got here. Your’e just too stupid to see it.”? He battles Batman because he would otherwise be alone?

    Why does Riddler pop some pills? (Is he in general known to have a drug problem? Or he just taking some Advil before he gets beaten up?) Does Batman beat him up off-screen? The doctor says he saw the footage of some beating. Does that mean there is also a camera in the surveillance room itself?

    I wasn’t that fond of Mairghread Scott’s now-finished run on Batgirl, and this story didn’t improve my impression.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much TN, sounds likely. I was confused by the pills too… maybe he’s dying, that might make him feel alone. Mind, that wouldn’t explain all the years of messing around with Batman. So it’s likely exactly what you suggest, and nothing more – he’s ever so lonely.

      I do wish comics wouldn’t over-explain things – he’s The Riddler, he’s fascinated by puzzles, and loves to challenge others to solve his. What more do we need?


      1. I was expecting classic Secret Files stuff. King suckered me into buying Batman for the first time in decades with a take on his persona that felt totally pre-Denny O’Neil as editor. Then the wedding didn’t happen for plot induced stupidity and the stories became unreadable. I can’t read King’s Batman with any joy anymore or anything that ties into it…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Haven’t read all of this book yet (I missed last Wednesday’s new comic day on vacation), but I read the Riddler story first since there was a mystery to be solved. And I can see one thing — though it might be to simplistic to be the whole story, and doesn’t explain the pills. But the answer to why Riddler needs to torment Batman *is* a simple, Golden-Age-style motivation. The couple he terrorizes in the diner are the Kants. The theater he targets has only the word PLAY of playhouse lit. And then he highlights ALONE in all the security cameras. Why does he torment Batman? CAN’T PLAY ALONE.

    But I’ve no idea what that has to do with the pills, the significance of Caitlin’s name, or the golden ratio, or why Arkham’s new shrink looks so much like Hugo Strange, etc. Maybe if I read the stories in order some of these things might be clearer; I guess I’ll find out eventually.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To amend: on page one of the Riddler story, the lawnmower explosion wiped out the “GOTHAM” of the end zone “GOTHAM U”… leaving the “U”.

      So the “hidden message” is “U KANT PLAY ALONE”…


      1. Close but you missed the panel where they talk about an apartment on the corner of Knight and rook, 2 chess pieces, so the answer is actually….

        U Kant play chess alone

        Pretty clever u guess…


  3. To me, the “golden ratio” was a clue meant to lead Batman to the next word in his cryptic phrase. I presume the paper found with the “KANT” bomb had a clue that led Batman to the playhouse, and the leaflets there had a clue that led Batman to the hospital…

    (It also would had been nice to see/read those clues…)

    The apartment at Knight and Rook must had been a “red herring”… and happened to be in the way to the hospital. (I am told the Batmobile’s lights made the location literally red… and thus blatantly obvious…)

    And I agree that the pills were three types of painkillers, given the parallel of the line, “No one would want a beating like that.” The “payment to play”, I presume…


    1. Yeah, cheers Xum – but how disappointing that an educated man like Edward Nigma would find ‘U’ and ‘Kant’ acceptable in this context.

      And thanks for asking the questions, Rob!


  4. I read the rest of the book now, and generally agree with your assessments… though maybe it’s my years of reviewing horror movies, but the Hugo Strange story read more as a black comedy to me than anything truly disturbing. Those guys were just part of Gotham’s standard attrition…NEXT!

    I also liked the Bane story more than you. I think stories of this length about continuing characters are usually meant to reinforce what we already know about the characters, and I thought Seely & Gleason did a good job providing a story that fit those specifications. It’s a really rare gem that gives us new insights, so I try not to judge these things by that standard.

    I agree, that Joker story is the most fun one of the bunch. And quite a great job on art, too!


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