After a strong opening to Batman Reborn with Batman and Robin #1, I was hopeful that the trend would continue with Paul Dini’s new ongoing series: Batman: Streets of Gotham. After all, Dini did an incredible job on Detective Comics (when he wasn’t resurrecting Ra’s Al Ghul) so giving him his own ongoing makes perfect sense.
Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Inker: Derek Fridolfs
Colorist: John Kalisz
Story: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We start with Jim Gordon talking to another officer on their way to a crime scene. They briefly discuss Batman. As soon as they get to the crime scene, a man is thrown through a window. We see Harley Quinn from the window, in her street clothes, shouting at the top of her lungs about how she was just trying to shop.
Gordon is surprised to see that Harley has money. Harley gives a brief mention about helping a friend. (Harley helped Catwoman, along with others, steal Thomas Elliot’s fortune at the end of Heart of Hush). Gordon then lets Harley go.
On her way out, Batman pulls Harley up onto a building rooftop and warns her to stay on good behavior. Robin asks to cut out Harley’s tongue. Batman awesomely replies “Maybe next time, Robin.” As Batman leaves he says “For your sake, let’s not have a next time.” Quinn comments that it’s getting where a girl’s not safe anymore. (NOW it’s not safe anymore? All those other times it was just fine but when there’s a new Batman it’s not safe? She really is crazy.)
We cut to a young girl named Katy being sized up by her pimp to a man named Mr. Charles. Katy thinks to herself that if she does not scream then she won’t get hit again. Katy says she is just a shell; a doll and that dolls don’t cry (3 panels in and I’m already feeling bad for the girl.)
A very big man walks up to Katy and starts talking to her. The man asks Katy how she got into this business. Katy lies about her name saying it’s Candi and that she’s 18. The man deduces that Katy is ten, maybe twelve. Katy asks the man to go away. The man does not and keeps talking.
Katy’s pimp then attacks the man. The man stops Katy’s pimp from stabbing him. The man breaks the pimp’s hand and throws the pimp over the limo Mr. Charles is in. The man gets in the limo, holds Mr. Charles and punches him hard with knuckle braces.
The man then asks Katy her name again. Katy answers truthfully that it’s Katy. The man shows Katy Mr. Charles forehead. It reads “ABUSE.” The man says “This is me. Take care of yourself, Katy.” Katy stands there stunned. Firefly then bumps into her as he walks by. (Is Abuse someone old or new? I don’t remember ever seeing him so I figure he’s some new vigilante in town.)
We get a nice transition to Firefly narrating how he’s been since Battle for the Cowl ended. How he got a new lair thanks to Black Mask. Firefly narrates how Black Mask is fighting for a husk and that all Firefly wants to do is burn it. Firefly mocks his new “boss” and all the other villains fighting over Gotham.
We see people standing around a shopping area. They are all very hot. Suddenly they all catch fire (I’m sure there’a Disco Inferno joke in there somewhere.)
We then cut to Damian Wayne playing Chess with Thomas Elliot who is still held up in the secret prison that Dick and Tim put him in. The two have a very interesting conversation about why Damian is there, all the while using Chess metaphors as they play.
They are interrupted when the news reports the fires at the shopping center. Damian leaves while Thomas tries to deduce who it is. Thomas mentions how the lower villains are getting bolder.
Robin arrives as one person is on fire in their car. Robin gets them out and puts out the fire. Gordon is approached by one man on fire begging to be killed. Batman pulls out a gun and shoots the man. It was a foam gun that puts out the fire, Batman tells Gordon’s men to take the ten foam guns he has and use them sparingly.
The Good: Dini has crafted an enjoyable debut issue with Batman: Streets of Gotham #1. This issue has several plot threads to develop along the way as the series progresses. These plot lines will remain specific tales of this title and will not breach any other Bat-books. Dini does a great job of establishing these developing plot lines and getting things going.
All the characters are written very well. No one feels out of character or unimportant to the storyline. So far, the best character has to be Jim Gordon. Though, I did like Damian and Harley Quinn a lot, too. Even Firefly was an interesting character to read about through most of his section of the book.
My favorite scene had to be the exchange between Damian and Thomas Elliot. It was just so interesting seeing these two characters carry on their discussion. Sure Damian isn’t quite the little hellion he’s been in the past, but it was nice seeing him actually have a mature and interesting moment with his father’s enemy. I also liked how Thomas thinks that Damian just wants to use him in order to get to know his father better.
I like how Dini is treating Gotham in this series. He knows it is not a very bright and vibrant place. Dini is showing us exactly what it is: a disease ridden and crime filled city. Gotham is practically a war-zone that you would never want to move to if you had the choice. This is a much more hard-boiled version of Gotham than what we’re getting in Batman and Robin. And I appreciate that Dini is taking this view of Gotham City.
Jim Gordon is great chooice to be one of the main characters of this title. It appears that Gordon will have as much screen time as Batman himself. Dini writes an excellent Jim Gordon so I look forward to Gordon getting more panel time.
The scene with the man called Abuse was quite interesting. I liked how it starts out calm with him just trying to talk to Katy and then turns into a bloody mess. I hope we get more out of Abuse next month.
Dustin Nguyen continues to wow me with his great artwork. Though, I have to say that the coloring here is where it is turned up to the next level of greatness. The colors work nicely and add a very cool vibe to each page. If not for two complaints I have then Nguyen would be absolutely golden on artwork.
The Bad: While this issue had some great moments, the biggest weakness is that Dini wrote this issue in a rather disjointed fashion. The various seperate plotlines that Dini jumps between did not blend well with each other. They practically feel like a bunch of short stories, in a sense like an anthology series. And since they all range in different themes and are using different characters for completely different moments; it really stands out and can be very frustrating to completely switch gears when the reader turns the page.
While I mentioned that Firefly’s moment was good, I can’t deny it ran a little too long. Narration can be great and most of the time here it was. However, damned if Firefly likes talking to himself just a little too much.
My two complaints with Nguyen’s art are fairly simple. The first is with the shading. Nguyen has had this issue before, but here it is just as annoying as ever. Often parts of characters are shaded out to where it is frustrating to the reader. An example of this is how half of Robin’s body is hidden in darkness when he’s out in broad daylight.
My second, and much bigger complaint, is the way Nguyen draws Katy, the young prostitute. I know that women can get sucked into this business at a very young age. I’m not going to pretend like comics should not acknowledge that truth.
My problem is how Katy looks like a 4 year old. This girl looks like she belongs in a Barney television show not Gotham City. Nguyen does not seem to do well with age and size in that he cannot balance if someone is a later teen or a tween without making them look like a little kid either way. Nguyen had the same problem with Tim Drake as Robin.
Overall: Paul Dini fans like myself should be pleased with Batman: Streets of Gotham #1 and its chilling tales. This titles does have some issues that need to be buffered out over the next few months. And Nguyen seriously needs to start distinguishing ages with younger characters. Having said that, if you’re a fan of Dini then you should check out Batman: Streets of Gotham #1.
Also if Morrison’s Batman and Robin was too wild and over the top and you are looking for a more gritty take on Gotham, then I would recommend getting Batman: Streets of Gotham. This title should quench that thirst. Overall, Batman: Streets of Gotham #1 was a strong debut issue despite it’s flaws.