Streets of Gotham is one of the best ongoings on the shelves right now. It’s the sleeper hit of the Batman Reborn status quo and easily has been trumping all the other bat-books in my opinion. Dini took a break for 2 months and thankfully is back and better then ever to stuff our stockings with Christmas cheer the Gotham way. Did he give us a great present or a lump of coal? Let’s find out!
Writer: Paul Dini
Art: Dustin Nguyen
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Batman and Robin save 2 cops from their burning cars. When Batman asks the cop who it was she says it was Santa and soon they head out. Robin comments about how he likes Christmas enough and how Talia would get him things like a private island. Batman reminisces that if Alfred was allowed to make eggnog it was a big Christmas. Robin quips that you get better things if you’re a real son. (Oh, burn! I think he’s calling you out, Dick!)
We see Humpty Dumpty trying to fix his car after nearly killing the police earlier. He says he didn’t mean it as he keeps trying to fix the car. He talks to himself for a bit then Abuse shows up and helps him get his car back up. When Abuse asks him about the police, Humpty hits him with a Crowbar, gets in his car then drives away. (Worst. Santa. Ever.)
Humpty walks into an orphanage and smiles as he sees the children in their bed. He puts broken toys next to them in bed as Batman and Robin arrive. Batman asks what is Humpty up to and after a moment of talking Robin figures out the kids aren’t moving. He pulls off the sheets of them and finds out they are all dead.
Robin gets angry and yells at Humpty. Humpty explains he found the kids all in the river. He thought if he could bring them a real Christmas maybe it could help. Robin tries calling in for the police but chokes up and throws up. Robin promises he’ll get the monster that did this and Batman agrees.
Abuse thinks about how horrible that was and that he’ll have to find the killer on his own. As he goes into a nunnery (or some Catholic place of praying and what-have-you) a nun hears a door slam and checks on the boy Colin to see if he’s all right, he says he’s been asleep and behind him we see Abuse’s brace knuckles and his jacket and hat on a chair. (Subtle, Dini, real subtle)
As we see nuns singing it changes to children in cages, one of them is pulled out of a cage and thrown into a ring. We see men shouting down into the cage with fists full of money and we see a bloodied child on the floor dropped out and the other bloodied and holding a knife. Zsasz explains that the newcomer must fight the current winner, and that then whoever wins this round goes onto the final match and wins their freedom, only the final match is against him.
The Good: Streets of Gotham #7 was an absolutely excellent read from start to finish. All the characters, the story, how it all develops is amazingly well pulled off and some of the best story telling I’ve seen all year.
I wasn’t really expecting a Christmas themed issue with this one. I know the cover has Manhunter in winter background but I just figured that was going to tie into it being December and nothing else. But Dini really impressed me with how he took the fun idea of a holiday story and totally twisted it.
Yes this issue is far from something for the little kids kind of holiday specials. You won’t be seeing Batman drinking hot coco as Robin tries to catch Rudolph for Santa’s sleigh. This is a harsh story and while it does tie into a Christmas theme it’s far from your fun little Christmas story. Though I love it even more for it.
Dini took a fun little concept of Christmas in Gotham and turned it into a dark eerie story that also ties into the larger story of how he’s been building up a confrontation with Zsasz.
This is what I’m talking about when I praise how Dini is able to so well tell a single story in one issue but all the while advancing a larger plot. Such as Humpty being found it because of files Batman stole from the Broker in issue #4 and Zsasz’ recent plans that have been developing for quite some time now.
Dini is using this title in a brilliant way so just about each issue is it’s own solid story but it also advances a larger plot. We don’t see this a lot in major comics nowadays like the Batman titles so Dini doing this is a really fun and unique thing right now compared to all the other books.
Dini is at his A-game with Streets of Gotham. This is some of his best writing along with the Heart of Hush storyline and of course his work for the DCU animated shows. Dini is really excelling with Streets of Gotham and making it an incredible read with each issue.
Dini really nails the characters well. We can easily tell this Batman is not Bruce Wayne as he actually likes talking and comes off as more friendly even if he still has that sharp edge. Dini writes the character of Batman very well by showing how sympathetic is to both Humpty and to Robin as they both are upset over the murders and the way Batman reacts is very much in line with the character of Dick Grayson.
Dini also excels with how he shows us Humpty Dumpty. A villain I’ve never really cared for who never really contributed much to the Batman Rogues Gallery. He’s fairly plain and big and that’s his shtick. He’s a big guy, not very exciting when it comes to villains really.
Though Dini took a boring villain and made him a lot of fun to watch. Humpty isn’t really a villain but more of someone who just is on the wrong side of the law and doesn’t get it. It’s a shame as we see here he’s a really nice guy who doesn’t want to hurt people but he just ends up doing so even if by accident.
He’s a very sympathetic character and Dini makes it work without making him feel overly sappy and boring to watch. I like sympathetic characters, heroes or villains, but when you play it up too much it gets really annoying. Here Dini does it to a right level where it gives Humpty a charming quality of how we do still care about this guy.
Then there was Robin who I swear Dini gets better then his own creator, Grant Morrison. Morrison always paints Damian as this very bland and annoying character who’s just a snobbish brat who can be a badass from time to time. Dini has taken Damian’s characters and added a layer that makes him much more interesting.
He’s still a badass who could kick your ass in the dark but we finally see a more human side of him in this issue when he gets upset over the head kids. We’ve seen Damian before get upset over a failure when he failed to save Scarlet in Batman and Robin #3 but Dini really goes the extra mile and makes Damian more compelling.
In this one issue of Streets of Gotham Damian has gotten more development then he has since his debut a few years back in the Batman and Son arc. Dini hasn’t taken away the hardened young hero he’s just shown us that he, like everyone else, can be vulnerable at times and get a little emotional.
Dini is working magic for the character with making him much more interesting to read about. His banter with Batman about Christmas was hilarious and it also fit the character well since there was still that attitude of “I’m awesome” as he spoke. I really like how Damian is developing as a character and it works well to advance the character.
Dini has been using the characters very well and spotlighting more then just Batman and Robin and it’s become very effective for the series in helping show a wider range on Gotham City and its inhabitants.
We finally have an identity for the Abuse character. People speculated that it was Colin since he did get a lot of Venom in him during the Heart of Hush story arc last year. It is nice to see Dini continuing with characters from prior storylines as it’s really nice to see him building a larger story and adding more characters to Gotham even while doing a great job with already established characters.
As I said Dini is able to tell a singular story all the while advancing a larger plot. In this case the larger plot has been Zasz as he has been building up a dream he’s had for quite some time that is now being funded by Black Mask since Zsasz saved him during issue #2.
It’s really great seeing how Dini can develop a large plot even while telling a singular story like the Broker or Hush’ taking over the Bruce Wayne persona. It works incredibly well and it was cool finally seeing Zsasz’ plan and use of the abandoned Gotham children.
It’s a sick twisted and grim plan that Zsasz is doing and it fits the disgusting horrific character well. Zsasz has always been absolutely insane and seeing him finally use that insanity for something other then killing random people is really effective in finally turning this D-list villain into a credible threat.
Zsasz has always been a creepy villain but not much else. He mumbles creepy stuff then stabs people and after that he cuts a mark into his skin. An okay gimmick for any psychotic villain but it can only go on for so far until the gimmick gets worn out and we get tired of him.
Zsasz has mostly been fodder to showing Batman be badass and saving someone. Not much else. He may kill a few people and be creepy some more but not much else. He’s never ascended to the credible threat that other villains like Joker or Mr. Freeze have. He’s always just been around for a short while then he hides away until some writer wants to use him for a 10 panel fight scene and then back away.
Dini plucked Zsasz out of his boring little corner of Gotham and finally upped the ante by turning his depraved mind into a landscape where horrors are born. We see a terrifying version of Zsasz who is so mentally out of it that he’s using orphan children as gladiators in his sick rendition of a Roman Coliseum.
Zsasz has gone beyond his bland ways and has become a truly terrifying and monstrous villain. This is just plain gruesome stuff that’s beyond just stabbing someone and marking yourself. Dini took a boring villain and made him incredibly interesting and scary boosting the villain greatly.
Nguyen also shines this month with some excellent artwork to go along with the great story. Nguyen has come a long way over the years since he first did work on Superman/Batman. While his work has always had a unique style to it the recent issues of Streets of Gotham have really propelled him as a top-artist at DC.
He’s work here is nothing short of gorgeous as he does a great job with all the characters, all the emotion and important moments are conveyed beautifully here and it all looks absolutely amazing.
Also once again the coloring is really strong to add to the already great artwork.
Overall this issue was a near flawless read that was just tons of fun to read and the best issue yet of the already great young series.
The Bad: I must admit that while I liked the grim twist this story had, others will obviously not. Batman is a dark series but while Gotham itself is a dark and horrific places there is still lots of room for enjoyable heroics.
If you’re looking for more action oriented heroic stories you probably won’t like Streets of Gotham. The series focuses on the dark corners of Gotham that only the Batman can face and while I love it, others may not.
I did have one problem with the art and that was the snow effect which got really annoying at times. I wasn’t sure exactly how it was done. It didn’t seem to be drawn in but the snow looked like splattered paint and it was annoying at times.
While I liked the reveal that Abuse is indeed Colin (or so we can figure) it was a little obvious. Still it worked well.
Overall: If you haven’t been liking what Morrison is doing over with Batman and Robin (I know I haven’t) and are looking for a great Batman series that focuses on Gotham City as a whole and is really interesting and compelling then this is the series for you. This issue just proved once again why Dini is a modern master when it comes to writing Batman.