Heart of Hush holds a special place in my comic book collection. It was actually the first Detective Comics story I bought, and one of the first things I ever started to read in the DC Universe. So when Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen were given their own series to continue working together I was more than a little excited and the promise of a follow up to Heart of Hush should have been an instant success for the duo. Unfortunately, Batman: Streets of Gotham and House of Hush have both been troubled productions, and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon.
If you haven’t been reading the series already, Hush has been masquerading as Bruce Wayne following the events of Batman RIP. This has been problematic for the superhero community, but it has conveniently provided a cover for the real Bruce Wayne while he was “dead”. Now that Bruce is back, Tommy Elliot’s masquerade has become redundant, but that’s really the least of his concerns. A former enemy of the Wayne family has reemerged and taken Hush hostage, thinking that he is the genuine heir to the Wayne fortune. But Hush quickly turns the tables and enlists the disgraced mob boss to help him destroy Bruce and the Wayne legacy once and for all. This isn’t a bad story, but the execution is pretty weak. It doesn’t help that it feels like the Bedbug plot line is mostly filler to stretch out the Hush plot line. Though it does provide a few moments of humor, so it isn’t all bad, but it is still a distraction from the main event.
Batman Streets of Gotham has had a very troubled production history, which has undercut a lot of my enthusiasm for the series. Plots are frequently sidetracked by stories by writers other than Dini. At this point you can’t really trust solicitations for the series any more; you never know what’s really going to ship out to the customer. I don’t know if it’s Dini or the editors who have been causing this, but I wish they would get their act together.
While you can’t trust the plots of this series any more, you can count on Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs’ reliable (and prolific) interior artwork. I would also like to argue that Dustin Nguyen is one of the best cover artists working at DC right now. It’s not only his style or artistic abilities that I like, but the number of different techniques and experiments he has tried over the years for different series. Unfortunately, experimenting also results in duds, and I have to say that this month’s cover is one of them. It’s not a terrible cover, but it’s pretty bland. Next month’s cover featuring Doctor Death is a return to form for Nguyen, so I’m not really troubled by this lackluster entry in his portfolio.
This issue also continues the new back up feature starring Ragman, which started running in Streets of Gotham last month. I don’t think I would ever pick up a Ragman comic if I saw it in my local comics shop, mostly because his powers are really creepy. He’s essentially wearing a suit of talking dead people, and what’s more he can absorb knowledge about people just by touching their clothes. In the wrong hands this would be the M.O. of a serial killer. And yet somehow the protagonist of this story is well adjusted and honorable, though a little worse for wear. This story has a pretty good noir feel to it, and some pretty overt political overtones. Nothing along party lines, but class conflict forms the backbone of the plot, which is mostly divided between a murder mystery and Firefly’s latest acts of pyromania. Not a bad edition to the series, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.
I’m going to stick with the series, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it to newcomers. If you can get a hold of the collected editions at your library or from a friend I would say give it a go, but only pay money for this series if you’re really committed to Dini or Nguyen.
Batman: Streets of Gotham #18:
Reviewed by Erik