Like so many comics lately from DC, “Batman: Gates of Gotham” has been going through a last-minute creator shift. (With the tight schedule to build up approved digital editions of the new comics, left and right everyone’s dropping out of their existing projects to start tackling the new ones.) Like the previous issue, Ryan Parrott stepped in to co-script with Kyle Higgins, and Trevor McCarthy is replaced this issue by Graham Nolan, Dustin Nguyen, and Derec Donovan. It’s hard to say if all of these changes is why “Batman: Gates of Gotham” #4 feels a little lighter than previous issues, or if it just has to do with the structure of the story itself.
The high points of “Batman: Gates of Gotham” #4 are easily the flashback scenes. It turns what would have been a rather standard comic about a madman attacking Gotham’s buildings and bridges into something much more interesting. It makes the comic feel like it’s something greater, that this isn’t just the work of a single individual but rather a big legacy. It’s the idea of Gotham City as a character in its own right, one that I’ve always approved of, and it’s hinted at here within the dialogue.
There are some slightly simplistic bits in the present day sequences, like Cassandra conveniently finding the exposition book, but at the same time it feels like this issue’s main purpose is to set us up for the finale. I’m actually all right with that, in part because of the transition nature of the comic as the plot picks up speed, and in part because the flashbacks are much more lush and enjoyable.
Nguyen and Donovan (over layouts from Nolan, who had a nice run on “Detective Comics” a little over a decade ago) keep the same look and feel that McCarthy created for “Batman: Gates of Gotham,” which is a pleasant surprise. Both artists have a nice crisp, clean looking art style like McCarthy, and the deep reds from Guy Major look to almost glow right off the screen similar to the interior of a submarine. Best of all, though, is once again the flashback sequence. It’s just beautiful, from the sepiatone coloring, to the attention to detail on the suits, and even the earnest expressions on their faces. I think it’s what I’ll remember the most about this mini-series, and it’s nice to see all parties involved keeping that intact with this new issue.
While there’s a slight drop in quality this issue, it’s hard to keep from still being excited about the conclusion around the corner. The Architect looks wonderfully creepy here (almost like a Guy Davis creation), and it’s nice to feel like anything could happen in its final issue. With so many comics from DC sputtering to conclusions this month, it’s a pleasant sensation to still be interested in the final issue about to be published.