With Batman R.I.P. selling a bajillion copies and generally being a big (if controversial) hit so soon after The Dark Knight was an even huger hit with even more people, DC seems to have decided to cash in on the Batman brand, launching eight or nine new Batman-themed books of varying quality. As you all may recall, Batman & Robin #1 (Morrison/Quitely) was a huge hit with us and many others, while Batman #687 (Winnick/Benes) and Red Robin #1 (Yost/Bachs) were a little more mixed, here and in other places. Today saw the beginning of yet another: Batman: Streets of Gotham #1, the first of two books by excellent Bat-scribe Paul Dini.
This particular book deals with the supporting cast of Gotham City, at least for the most part. Though this gives the book a slightly schizophrenic feel at first – and Dini sometimes does an absolutely terrible job at introducing us to some of the lesser-known members of the cast – for the most part it works out quite well, feeling in a lot of ways like the pilot to a great ensemble TV show like Freaks and Geeks in the way it jumps from characters to character, plot to plot, while maintaining an overarching theme. In this single issue we see Jim Gordon, Harley Quinn, Batman, Robin, Huge Guy I’ve Never Seen Before, Hush, and, finally, the villain of the first arc: Firefly. Many of these character narrate brief segments of the book, a standard writing device that somehow manages not to feel cluttered at all in Dini’s hands.
Nguyen does an excellent job on art, his slightly cartoony style adapting well to both the book’s darkest moments and its lightest. While there’s nothing revolutionary about the art, it’s fun, and flows just as naturally as the narration along the many winding paths the book takes, a task I would imagine to be more difficult than it sounds.
Along for the ride, for those that didn’t know, is the return of Marc Andreyko’s critically-respected Manhunter. Kate Spencer is the new D.A. of Gotham City. Her first task: tracking down who murdered the last D.A.! Andreyko is joined here by Georges Jeanty who does an excellent job (and whose art seems to fit quite well in the book with Nguyen’s) despite the extremely muted, slightly off-putting coloring.
Andreyko doesn’t have a whole lot of space here, but he makes the most of it – in a small amount of pages, he manages to explain why Kate made the decision to move to Gotham, dealt with her leaving her son, Ramsey, she met a few of Gotham’s major players, shook down a snitch, beat someone up, etc…. If all the back-ups are written so concisely and so well, this should be an immensely successful move for DC.
Despite the raised price tag, this is Dini, Nguyen, Andreyko and Jeanty doing some great work, and it’s worth every penny.
– Cal Cleary