Batman: Streets of Gotham #18

After months of theorizing, it's official: "Batman: Streets of Gotham" is wrapping up come March 2011. It's unfortunately not much of a surprise; it was either absent or presented almost as an afterthought in the write-ups of last month's Bat-book reorganization, just waiting to conclude once "Heart of Hush" did as well.

Unfortunately, now that there are only a few months to go, "Batman: Streets of Gotham" is once again on some unsteady ground, as the main and second features once more swap places. "Heart of Hush" this month only gets ten pages, and it feels like the book's barely gotten moving before it unexpectedly comes to a halt. This isn't the first time this has happened, but it's frustrating because Paul Dini's new villain Bedbug has some potential and it feels like this story is stopping before it even kicks into high gear. I suspect I'm also not the only reason who feels like Hush's position in his own story is also getting lost, here, with barely an appearance before the cliffhanger. On the bright side, Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs (who are now also the new art team for "Batgirl") continue to turn out some nice pages of art. With them it's often the little things, like the angular trails of gas pumping out of the vents, that make the pages stand out for me, but whatever the cause they're still doing a good job.

Expanded into the rest of the issue is Fabian Nicieza and Szymon Kudranski's Ragman story, although with the second features gone from DC Comics after this month, I'm not sure where we're going to see it conclude. It's too bad because Nicieza's been tackling some interesting story ideas; fighting the forces of gentrification, and when the villain isn't always quite so clear cut. It reminds me of books like "The Question" and "Nomad" that tried to do something different, and I suspect this story may get lost in the shuffle and never brought back. I suspect if people do get lured back, it'll be due to Kudranski and colorist Nick Filardi's work here, which reminds me in many ways of a cross between Bill Sienkiewicz and Denys Cowan. Images like the Ragman's suit burning as he leaps out of a building, or the exterior of Arkham, are nothing short of gorgeous. Kudranski's a strong artist and I'd like to see his work get some more attention.

Still, at the end of the day, this issue is disappointing; the "Heart of Hush" feature feels truncated, and "Ashes to Ashes" may never come to a conclusion. It's a little apt that "Ashes to Ashes" deals with those who get adversely affected by destruction and rebuilding a neighborhood. The end result may be great, but there's still at least one victim that is quietly getting pushed away. In the case of the otherwise strong gentrification of the Bat-titles, our victim has turned out to be "Batman: Streets of Gotham."

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