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From the Archives: Batman – Streets of Gotham #1

batman_streets_of_gotham_0001Ignition!

Writer: Paul Dini
Penciller: Dustin Nguyen
Inker: Derek Fridolfs
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Steve Wands
Assoc. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Dustin Nguyen
Publisher: DC Comics

[ This review originally written for and published at comiXtreme/cxPulp some time back while the issue was new–within the first days to a week that the issue was available for sale. ]

This may be only the first issue of a new series…but it feels like something I’ve been reading for ages–and I mean that in a good way!
We open with Gotham’s police responding to an alarm to find Harley Quinn in civilian guise on the scene. Batman steps in, and we see Dick’s interaction with her (as well as an amusing bit from the new Robin, displaying his personality quite well). As the issue moves on, we’re introduced to Firefly and his latest scheme, as well as the interaction Batman has at present with Gordon and his police.

In some ways, this is a typical Batman comic. Then again, typical as it might be, there’s a whole lotta "new" under the top layer, as we have a new Batman, a new Robin, and with them whole new dynamics with existing characters (particularly Jim Gordon and the Gotham City police).

The writing is great stuff–Dini certainly knows his characters. I’ve enjoyed his issues of Detective Comics that I’ve read; and brought the expectation of that sort of enjoyment to this book. Thankfully, he delivers. Though not a focal point for the issue as a whole, the scene with Harley made the issue for me–I heard the character’s voice from the animated series in every word she spoke here, and it was a blast to read. She’s one of very few characters created for a tv show that I think works perfectly integrated into a comics universe afterward.

Nguyen on art is also a blast from the past–and still quite enjoyable. Some of the linework and shadows seem just a bit strange and over the top–but on the whole, a specific gritty, darker-but-not-too-dark tone is established that works really well for the book. The visuals are a bit stylized, and won’t appeal to everyone, though.

This series seems set to focus more on Gotham City and the things going on in the city and her people moreso than on Batman and Robin. That the two are the primary protectors of the city necessitate their appearance, but it seems we’ll get more of the GCPD in here, with Batman and Robin serving more of a well-noticed supporting role. While it’s no Gotham Central, this issue ges off to a good start, and has me interested in seeing more of the character interactions–almost more than finding out what happens after the cliffhanger.

Manhunter

Story Title: Strange Bedfellows
Writer: Marc Andreyko
Penciller: Georges Jeanty
Inker: Karl Story
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Colors: Nick Filardi
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts

Manhunter/Kate Spencer moves to Gotham to take a new job. While we see her interacting with her new surroundings, we get flashbacks showing us what brought her to this point, giving context to the new status quo for the character.
Overall, I’m unfamiliar with the character, but for whatI’ve seen of her, this segment does not seem out of place. I’m not sure if the story here sums up what happened in the end of the ongoing singular-titled series or not, or if this story is simply the bridge from that series to the new status quo we’ll get as the co-feature in this title. Either way, the story’s simple, to-the-point, and not bad.

The art’s good, too. It’s not spectacular, but it is solid stuff and gets the story across with no trouble.

Whether the character was moved to Gotham because of the move to a co-feature in a title such as this I don’t know–but it works for me. All the more because we’ll get to see even MORE of Gotham through this character and her corner of things. The primary drawback is that with just under half a standard issue’s page-count, there’s less room to really get into the story–just as it gets moving, the segement concludes.
It’ll definitely be interesting to see the writer play with pacing given the page-count and whether or not–or how–it affects the story.

Like Blue Beetle in Booster Gold, this is another co-feature that actually feels worthwhile to me–I’ll probably never be thrilled paying $3.99 for a comic, but for the main story and the co-feature…this is a combo I can definitely handle for now.

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Batman: Streets of Gotham #3 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Batman: Streets of Gotham
Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5

Manhunter
Story: 2.5/5
Art: 3.5/5

Overall: 3.5/5

Batman: Streets of Gotham #1 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Batman: Streets of Gotham
Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5

Manhunter
Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5

Overall: 4/5

Batman #685 [Review]

Catspaw

Writer: Paul Dini
Penciller: Dustin Nguyen
Inker: Derek Fridolfs
Colors: Guy Major
Letters: John J. Hill
Asst. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Alex Ross
Publisher: DC Comics

Having thrown a wrench into Hush’s plans, Catwoman gains some small measure of revenge on the man who so horribly wronged her recently. However, in her own machinations she has need of the man who would impersonate Bruce Wayne. After explaining to Hush what role he’ll play, we see the plan set in motion, but with a nice twist at the end that is very fitting.

Dini’s story continues here, in the conclusion of another two-parter begun in Detective and concluded in Batman. This filler has much more significance, though, while also nicely playing with the Faces of Evil theme, and in a post-Batman Batman world. Nothing bad to say about the writing.

I’m not a huge fan of Nguyen’s style on the art, but it works here, and has a good consistency to it. It doesn’t blow me away, but it fits with the story and isn’t bad.

All in all, a solid issue that seems to set the stage for Hush’s status quo of present.

Worthwhile, but probably not essential.

Story: 8/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3-D #2 [Review]

Writer: Grant Morrison
Pencils: Doug Mahnke
Inks: Christian Alamy w/Tom Nguyen, Drew Geraci & Derek Fridolfs
Color: David Baron
Letters: Ken Lopez
3-D by: Ray Zone
Assoc. Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover: Mahnke, Alamy & Baron (sliver by JH Williams)
Publisher: DC Comics

I’ll say it from the start: this issue was an expensive, confusing mess. I think it was supposed to be something with metatextual elements/commentary to the readers–a bit of “breaking the fourth wall” or whatever–but I’m not entirely sure. Despite being a long-time comics reader and following Superman for the entire time, I felt rather lost here.

This issue basically has various Supermen from different Earths in the multiverse fighting something/someone for whatever reason. For most of the issue, I wasn’t even sure which of the Supermen was supposed to be “my” Superman from the current/official DCU, as even that character seemed “off” somehow.

The art for the issue is–in itself–quite good. It is tainted, though, by the stupid 3-D stuff. The 3-D seems to be just some arbitrary gimmick…and if “3-D-ifying” parts of the issue is what caused the four or five months or whatever it’s been since the first issue, that is entirely inexcusable to me,and leaves me regret at having supported this by buying it. If it’s this “late” due to timing of plot elements, I do wish that had been made more apparent up-front.

If you’re enjoying and “getting” what’s going on in the main Final Crisis book, this issue’ll probably make sense to you. Otherwise, it doesn’t seem like you’d be missing anything much by skipping this issue. The only reason to get this issue would be if it proves to in and of itself be totally essential to Final Crisis itself.

Story: 3/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 4.5/10

Detective Comics #852 [Review]

Reconstruction

Writer: Paul Dini
Penciller: Dustin Nguyen
Inker: Derek Fridolfs
Colors: John Kalisz
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Andrew Robinson
Publisher: DC Comics

As far as I can tell, this issue opens shortly after Heart of Hush (and handily spoils said story, which I have not yet read). Thomas Elliot has gone from top of the world to having nothing, thanks to miscalculations in his last attack on Batman/Bruce/Catwoman. This issue follows him from being defeated and suicidal on to several incidents where he is able to successfully impersonate Bruce Wayne. By doing so he begins to reconstruct his power and wealth while regaining confidence in his ability to get revenge. The issue’s end plays a bit in the metatextual realm–I for one was put in mind of Iron Man and how amusing this could be to play on that character–and ends on a nice little moment that I’m sure would mean so much more if I’d read Heart of Hush.

The art on this issue is pretty good. I recall Nguyen’s art from a stint he had on Batman back in ’04 or so; I think I like this current work better than that, though. Nguyen’s art seems to work well with this story, and I have nothing worthwhile to complain about with it.

The story itself works well despite the cliched rags-to-riches bit. Even so, it builds on established continuity and continues to build on the Thomas Elliot character in a believeable way, keeping the character’s story moving forward. The character is being developed in a way that–to make a comparison–feels much more organic and reasonable than what’s been done with Jason Todd. For that I certainly have to give Dini points.

It’s been a couple months now since Batman: RIP wrapped up, and I wish I’d had a clearer map/checklist of what the Bat titles were going to do for these last few months as they’ve been all over the place with fill in stories and whatnot. This is another story that looks to be the same creative team with the story appearing in both Detective and Batman. With a story like this, though…I could handle reading Dini’s stuff in both Bat-books and be quite satisfied.

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 8/10

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