Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Batman: Streets of Gotham #2 Review

Written by Paul Dini
Art by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs
Co-feature written by Marc Andreyko
Co-feature Art by Georges Jeanty and Karl Story

I failed to write a review for the first issue of this, at least for me, much anticipated series. The reasons I didn't write a review for the first issue was because I just didn't know how to take it. It was a series of seemingly random scenes, jumping from street level reactions to Firefly to Batman and Robin and even Hush, who's being kept prisoner by Alfred, Dick and Damian. If you read Gotham Gazette, it was similar to that in how it was more like a series of backups rather than one cohesive story. However, it wasn't bad and I loved Dustin Nguyen's art and the Firefly and Hush parts of the first issue. It just made for an odd title to write a review for and I opted for 'easier' ones last month.

Getting back on track, this second issue, while picking up on what happened last month, is acts as a better first issue than the actual first issue. It has a clear focus in the reaction and fallout of Firefly's mass killings, follows up on Dini's work with Hush and even picks up on threads from Battle for the Cowl with Black Mask. This issue had a purpose and everything flowed from each subplot to the next, something the seemingly disconnected scenes from the first issue lacked.

The highlight of the issue had to be Hush's big reveal at the end. After faking he was a victim of Firefly's immolation tracers, Alfred rushed to save him and was quickly overpowered, freeing Hush. While Batman and Robin were busy with Firefly and Black Mask, we were left wondering what Hush was up to and, as the heroes learned of his escape, so did we, too, learn of his plot - to replace Bruce Wayne. He invited dozens of reporters, the new DA, Kate Spencer (aka Manhunter), and even Commissioner Gordan, to a news conference announcing his return to Gotham and, in an even better twist, donating a billion dollars of Bruce Wayne's money to act as a stimulus for Gotham City and pledging a billion more each month until the economic crisis passed. This act made it impossible for Dick and Alfred to recapture or out Hush and also acts as a way to destroy Batman by doing the same thing that happened to Hush - losing all of his money and assets. Great twist that has me looking forward to reading more.

However, the book isn't without its faults either. I found Batman and Robin to be generic interpretations of the character. If one didn't know, you'd be hard pressed to tell his Batman and Robin from any other Batman and Robin to exist, despite this iteration being Dick and the petulant Damian. There's also the lack of a main character or focal point to the stories. It jumps between narratives for each subplot and there's no real character development. It's like each character is a prop moving a story along more than a person, with few exceptions.

Another problem I had came with Firefly, who was almost on the verge of being an interesting and compelling character. I was liking his inner monologues and buildup over the last issue and a half and, then, as soon as he starts being interested, it turns into a standard Batman captures nutcase story. I'm pretty sure I've seen Batman capture Firefly in this exact same manner - hooking him with a grappling cable and then shorting out his jets - several times before and it just killed any momentum that plot had and ended it without much of an impact or payoff.

Verdict - Check It. All in all, it's a solid read, but the book seems unclear as to what it wants to be about. I'd love to see the Hush angle played up more and maybe even see him taking over the book as its main character, but I suspect we'll continue with the series of interconnected plots playing up Gotham City as the character while the actual characters are just the set pieces.

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