Issue #14 of STREETS OF GOTHAM
is here, and it was a bit of a step backward for the title.
That isn't to say that the primary story by my Batman comics dream team of Paul Dini (words), Dustin Nguyen (pencils), Derek Fridolfs (inks), and John Kalisz (colors) isn't awesome. It is. But it's also ... not primary?
At first I just assumed the story was written so well that it just breezed right by. But when the Two-Face backup by Ivan Brandon (writer) and Ramon Bachs (pencils) began dragging on and on, the reality of it all came like a kick to the gut.
The "primary" story was only 12 pages, and the "backup" clocked in at a staggering 18.
Those first dozen pages are exceptionally well done, as Paul continues building his "Dini-verse" in a new storyline called "House of Hush," a sequel to his dynamite 2008 arc "Heart of Hush." Posing as Bruce Wayne hasn't been everything it was cracked up to be for our nasty nemesis Tommy Elliot, especially with a gaggle of heroes watching his every move.
His depravity is slowly seeping back out through his dreams of murdering his babysitters, and his confinement in his family's old mansion has given him time to unearth old letters and diary entries about previously unknown connections between his family and the Waynes.
One of the best parts of "Heart of Hush" was its creepy flashbacks to Tommy's formative years, and now we're going back even deeper in time, before Thomas Wayne married Martha Kane. Tommy's mother is just as nasty a young socialite as she was a bitter and cruel old woman, and her treatment of Martha at a fancy Gotham restaurant is pretty despicable.
We also get an appearance by Zatanna's father, the great magician John Zatara, and some big mentions of Martha's early connections to Dr. Leslie Thompkins and her clinic. Again, it's a wonderful example of world-building, and Dini's been effortlessly doing this since he began his landmark run onDETECTIVE. I just wish his efforts weren't being relegated to a satellite title like STREETS; only Dini could pack this much amazing into just 12 pages.
There's also a subplot about a man who wants to kill Bruce Wayne, and another about Tommy's attempt to use his Bruce Wayne face to get a certain Arkham prisoner released who has a massive connection to the regretfully departed and outrageously awesome MANHUNTER backup that ended last issue.
Instead we get a pretty awful Two-Face backup that's six pages longer than the main story. Lots of gunshots and tough talk, and artist Bachs can't decide if Dick Grayson's Batman gloves have two fins or three. I had to push myself just to finish it.
So basically I just paid $3.99 for a 12-page Paul Dini story. And as much as I loved Dini's story, it's very difficult for me to call this issue a good value