I hate to say it, but the thing I found the most interesting about “Batman: Streets of Gotham” #14 was that we’re finally seeing a shifting in the page lengths for second features. I remember when they were first announced, and it was brought up that they didn’t have to be a “back up” feature, that maybe some months the second feature would be the longer story and the opening feature would be the short one. That’s what we got here, something that came as a bit of a surprise.
With all of the new Batman titles announced for later this fall, I think it might be safe to start wondering if “Batman: Streets of Gotham” is on its way to a close. Paul Dini’s had several fill-in stories over the past year, and now that he’s finally back, his first issue only has him writing twelve pages. On the surface that doesn’t sound bad, but it feels like he’s wrapping everything up. “The House of Hush” looks like it might be the end (for now) of the character that Dini has been trying to make interesting, never a good sign if you’re starting to think a writer’s days are numbered.
The story, itself, is just all right, too. We’re starting to see a new bad guy in town, and Hush himself is starting to make his move to try and break free of the Bat-family of characters once more. (There’s even a nice tie-in to the Manhunter second feature that just concluded last month.) But there’s a lot of pages given to new bad guys, flashbacks, and other flights of fancy. It’s not until the end of those twelve pages that it feels like there’s any traction happening, so in the end the main fun comes from seeing more art from Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs. Their blocky, expressive art looks nice as ever, and seeing him draw rich socialites at a cocktail party works well in their care.
The bulk of the issue is devoted to a new second feature starring Two-Face, and it’s off to an all right start. Ivan Brandon’s script feels fairly standard, and while there are some small hints about a shift going on in Two-Face’s head, it’s too early to tell if there will be any far-reaching consequences, or even a strong enough hook to keep interest going. His adding in Federal law enforcement, though, was a nice touch; after all, there’s only so long that the Gotham City Police Department would be the lone force to try and stop some of the bigger freaks running rampant. Ramon Bachs and John Lucas provide probably their best art I’ve seen yet. I love how they draw Two-Face’s hair, with the little bunches of hair sticking out on one side and matted down on the other, but never feeling over the top like so many artists manage. The background textures of curls and whorls as Two-Face holds up the coin is a nice way to provide some sort of detail without having a distraction of a full background behind the close-up on his face. And when Batman first appears on the scene, his silhouette is perfectly drawn, a real iconic representation of the character.
It’s a little sad that story length was the most interesting thing about the latest “Batman: Streets of Gotham,” but on the bright side it wasn’t a bad issue. But this is a book that feels like it’s starting to struggle a little bit, especially in the face of all these new Bat-books on the horizon. I like Dini’s take on Batman and Gotham in general, so if it is ending I want to see it do so with a slightly more memorable story. At this point, I’m used to something a bit stronger from Dini and Nguyen.