Every parent needs a break from their kids from time to time, and Paul Dini is no exception. Much like he did with Gotham City Sirens, Dini takes a short break from his creation and gives way to Chris Yost for a two issue arc on Streets of Gotham.
Leviathan part one is basically a treatise of the Huntress. Yost uses first person narrative to explore her character, in particular her belief that lethal force is necessary to rid Gotham of its villainess existence. Man-Bat is the foil for Yost to convey Helena’s values and opinions. Throughout their issue-long fight scene, she is particularly focused on how Batman and Oracle are responsible for the continuous scourge of criminals like Kirk Langstrom by preferring rehabilitation rather than her aforementioned permanent solution. The cover to the issue leads us to believe that Huntress and Man-Bat share equal billing. In fact, Man-Bat only seems be an instrument for Helena’s character exploration. The story’s true antagonist is Father Mark. Once an eager newcomer to the hardship and turmoil that is Gotham, he is psychotically transformed by the city’s tumultuous events like No Man’s Land and R.I.P. Perhaps next issue Yost will delve into the reason for Langstrom’s rampage, but for now it plays a back seat to the main plot. Batman, Robin and Oracle all make cameos, but nothing to veer from the focus on Huntress.
Yost obviously likes employing first person narrative, using it in Red Robin as well. Unfortunately I found his style to be lacking in intelligence and depth. The writing reminded me of a poorly written Marvel comic. Compare this issue with Dini’s narrative from the extraordinary #4. I think you will see that Yost narrates in a throwback style before editors realized that the average age of comic book readers wasn’t ten years old. Conversely, the dialogues for Father Mark’s scenes are filled with symbolism and profound meaning.
Before I criticize too much, I think the contradictory writing may have been intentional. The art is treated with a similar duality. Dustin Nguyen’s pencils are par to his usual effort, but Father Mark’s scenes rely on broad black inks and shadows, while Huntress’ panels are filled with bright cartoony colors. I find this interesting being that Helena is portrayed as a dark hero but is almost colored like she was in the BTBTB episode. I checked to see if the inker and colorist had changed from last issue, but it’s still Derek Fridolfs and Jon Kalisz. I need to bring up a pet peeve I have with Dustin Nguyen. Please look at how Father Mark’s face is drawn on page one. Then check out his previous work and how he draws a young Bruce Wayne or Tommy Elliott as Bruce. The faces are almost identical. Nguyen is so talented but can be so lazy sometimes.
The first page of this book as depicted in the Batman Universe preview had me believing that this issue was going to be as exceptional as the last. Unfortunately for me, alternating styles between the protagonist and antagonist focused scenes kept me from really getting involved in the story. The intrigue I felt when reading Father Mark’s pages was tempered with graphic and cerebral boredom by the Huntress. I just had a thought though…..have I been so captivated by J.H. Williams III and Rucka’s Batwoman, that I am not capable of appreciating another female Bat-character? I am finding the new Batgirl completely un-readable as well. Did you guys like this depiction of the Huntress or is it just me?
Oh, a comment I should have asked Dustin to put to Mike Marts: Having characters crash through glass ceilings has become a Bat-cliché done to death. I hope Paul Dini is enjoying his respite and I would prefer to see how Leviathan is wrapped up before I give part one a rating. However, based solely on its own merits…
Batman: Streets of Gotham #5:
Reviewed by Tiggerbrown