I think we can all agree with a singular statement: Batman: Streets of Gotham is, at best a sub-par, if not brief and forgettable chronicle of Batman’s trials and tribulations. Nothing within the past 4 or 5 issues has really stuck out in the sense that you want to whip it out and read it again. Sure, if we’re really pulling at strings, the whole Carpenter/Director thing was alright, and the introduction of Colin and his conversations with Damian were ok. I guess what I’m really trying to say here is that the book on one hand is struggling for content all the while trying to make a statement for itself, but it cannot mask the fact that the book is just weak. Time and time again the book fails to be memorable. It feels like the stories that are contained within the pages are just throwaways that weren’t good enough for Detective Comics or Batman. If I could say that it was inconsistent it wouldn’t be inconsistent in the way that those books are, it would be inconsistent in the sense that DC is pulling these stories from the trash, dusting them off, and throwing it at a wall to see if possibly something would stick. And so it goes, and although I’m sure I could come up with another handful of bashing remarks for the series as a whole, let’s take a look at this particular issue for a little bit.
The issue begins with Anthony Marchetti being released from jail after spending 37 years in Blackgate Prison. While riding in a car that was sent to pick him up, he looks forward to taking a “private” shower before going out to his favorite restaurant to eat a certain meal that he has been craving for those 37 years. He asks about the state of the crime world nowadays and states that he intends to put a bullet in Bruce Wayne’s head. We then cut to Hush killing Manhunter, obviously it’s Hush practicing his lethal execution of the bat-family again. When he finishes his practice, he steps out of the warehouse and into the rain where he takes off his Hush mask and shows his reconstructed face, of course, mirrored to look like Bruce’s face. In the next scene we see Thomas Elliot getting ready to go to Arkham Asylum to use his influence as Bruce Wayne to influence the release of the villainous Jane Doe so that she can help him with an unknown plan. Elliot’s car ride to Arkham is interspersed with Thomas Elliot finding some old journals that date back to before he was born. Within these pages we learn that Marla Elliot never liked Martha Wayne, after Martha’s father lost their family fortune to a bad business investment. While the Elliot’s are waiting on Thomas Wayne to show up for a business meeting, Martha tries to swindle her way into having Roger Elliot invest in a free clinic for orphans and runaways. Roger Elliot brushes her ideas off, saying that he doesn’t need a free clinic to gain good press. He pays people in public relations to do that for him. He then tells her that he could use the tax write off and tells her to call him next month. Then we see Thomas Wayne drunk, surrounded by women as he makes his way to the Elliot table. Thomas stumbles to the table and nearly falls on Martha, causing her to storm off. Thomas tries to apologize, but Martha says “It doesn’t matter, I doubt we’ll meet again.”
As you may have noticed, Batman isn’t in this issue at all. There is no (to say the very least) flashback to Bruce under the cape and cowl, nor a single panel of Dick as Batman. The only image of Batman is among the dead Bat-family and maybe this was supposed to be an artistic statement or a sign of things to come, but it is too subtle and doesn’t get it’s point across. If that was it’s intention, (and yes I am drawing at strings here) it is not effective at all. While there are new elements thrown into the Hush story it isn’t enough to strive towards anything. Sure, the Jane Doe and Martha Wayne plot points are supposed to come as shocking twists, it doesn’t deliver it’s intended purpose. And although you can state your case in saying that this is the prelude to the actual story-arc, it isn’t a well done prelude. Although all that I have said has a negative connotation to the issue, it was hard for me because I like Paul Dini’s work. The truth of these facts put up against my personal praise for Dini’s work created a standstill in this review with the question being how could I love his work but dislike Streets of Gotham? As I struggled over this I suddenly realized that while I like his writing, his comic book writing isn’t very good. Sure, his work on Batman: The Animated Series was good, but I was in love with that piece of work. I wasn’t a Paul Dini fan, I was a Batman: The Animated Series fan. There is a distinction between the two. Yes of course I can praise his work on The Animated Series , but can I truly praise all of his work, in particular his comic work? No, because Streets of Gotham is bland and uninspiring, and every other reason I have already stated. Does that make me a Paul Dini fan? No, because I only like this one thing that he did, that one time. But of course that isn’t to say he’s over the hill and shouldn’t write anymore, sometimes his comic writing does work and he deserves all that praise that he receives, but it just doesn’t work for me. I feel like he just brushes this series aside to make room for the other things he does, not putting the quality and time into the book, but most of all I feel that he doesn’t really care how the story comes out and how it’s presented. And it’s starting to rub off on me, as I feel myself not caring, as this title moves closer and closer to being dropped from my pull list.
As for the positive side of things, I have to commend the artwork of Dustin Nguyen, he is consistently at the top of his game, showing us his fearlessness and downright artistic master craftsmanship that is both shining and honest especially in it‘s darkest moments. His pencils are gentle and not too line heavy that evokes a sense of immediacy, detail, and sharpness that not only tells a story but moves it with such grace and minimalism, it’s hard to believe that there is a story behind the majestic artwork. The other thing I can commend in this issue is John Kalisz’s colors, while I didn’t notice it at first, after my second read through the subtle colors struck me as something fresh and brand new, it has all the right tinges of color in all the right places while not overdoing, and masking Nguyen’s pencils. Overall the artwork is the only source of worthwhile redemption in this issue.
While it is unclear on whether or not this issue delivers anything immediately worthwhile, what is clear is the fact that it was Dini’s failure to give us anything of substance that really brought this issue down.
Batman: Streets of Gotham #14:
Reviewed by Dane