Overview

Batman: Streets of Gotham #1

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Batman: Streets of Gotham #1

Credits

  • Words: Paul Dini/Marc Andreyko
  • Art: Dustin Nguyen/Georges Jeanty
  • Inks: Derek Friedolfs/Karl Story
  • Colors: John Kaliz/Nick Filardi
  • Story Title: Ignition!/Strange Bedfellows
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Jun 17, 2009

Batman and Robin are back but some wonder if they are the real deal and the city is ready to test them to the limit.

The Bat-titles again explode from DC Comics and I am reminded of the late 1990’s to early 2000’s when each one of the Bat-Family titles had a distinctive look and focus. Now DC returns to this idea – splitting up the different aspects of Batman, his supporting cast, and spin-off characters into a number of different titles. The aim of Streets of Gotham is to try to take a literal street level view of how the citizens, the police, and even the petty criminals of Gotham react to the darkness and insanity that pervade the city and the masked vigilante who tries to bring some order to the chaos. But does the title achieve this aim?

Gotham City is still a wreck but police and citizens are beginning to put things back together… of course the criminal element is doing so as well. As both police and criminals question if Batman is dead and, if so, who is the man under the cowl now, one criminal in particular has some explosive and horrific plans for Gotham – plans that may well test the mettle of the new Batman and Robin.

Meanwhile, in the backup feature, Kate Spencer, A.K.A. the vigilante known as Manhunter, has come to Gotham City at the death of the former District Attorney and with an eye towards becoming the next D.A. She is about to learn, however, that Gotham is a different breed of city that presents its own challenges to both her heroic identity and her civilian one.

Paul Dini, famous for his work on Batman: The Animated Series and his run on Detective Comics takes up the mantle of the Bat for Streets of Gotham. Despite dealing with the fall-out from Final Crisis and Battle for the Cowl Dini turns in a solid story with a truly horrific plot at the heart. As for the mandate, however, to tell street level stories focusing on how others see Batman… well… there it sort of falls down on the job. Aside from what seems like a few throw-away lines from Commissioner Gordon and a sequence with Harley Quinn that borrow heavily from the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Harley’s Holiday", there is little here that does not focus on either on the new Bat-family or on the big, bad villain of the issue, setting up the plot.

Dustin Nguyen’s art is top notch really but it seems to subtly shift every few pages or so, taking on different characteristics as it goes. I’m not certain if this is Nguyen’s pencils or Friedolf’s inks which are responsible. It is, thankfully, not really distracting but Nguyen’s work is mostly noted for a kind of sharpness that does take some getting used to. The result is a mixture of stylization and comic book detail.

There are probably a lot of fans out there who will rejoice at the Manhunter co-feature in this issue. A series with a small but vocal fan following, Manhunter has been saved from cancellation several times in the past and the last time had seemed somewhat final. Now given another life as a co-feature, the series is being written by original creator Marc Andreyko – which should also make fans happy. Andreyko does a good job here of making the story relatively new-reader friendly as well as sliding the character of Kate Spencer into the Gotham City setting in a logical way. Despite the short page count he also packs quite a bit of action and drama into the story and it reads and feels like an entire issue all on its own. So far as this reviewer has seen all of the writers on the new co-features have been stepping up to the plate and hitting home runs in crafting fulfilling stories in a smaller amount of space.

Also standing out here is Georges Jeanty’s gorgeous and moody art. In contrast to Nguyen’s work, Jeanty goes for soft, rounded edges and a kind of watercolor realism. His figures have a very "everyday" look to them and his work on the facial features is perfect as they convey every emotion clearly.

On the whole, Streets of Gotham is, so far, nothing that readers have not seen before. The story has an interesting hook – enough, perhaps, to pick up the next issue to see how things turn out – but here’s hoping that in the future a little more time is spent on those streets of Gotham and not in the mind of the supervillain or the new Robin. Streets’ new partner, Manhunter, is sure to make a legion of fans happy as it does not disregard what has gone before in order to make a bit of a new start for new readers. With a tough, conflicted, female main character and plenty of action, this series might just finally gain more of the readership it deserves.

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