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BATMAN: STREETS OF GOTHAM #16
Author: John Bierly
September 24, 2010
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OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: With Bruce Wayne soon to return to Gotham City, the secret past lives of his parents, Thomas and Martha, have come back to haunt the family legacy in chapter three of this 6-part sequel to "Heart of Hush"! What bizarre experience in their past is connected to a horrible plan that Tommy Elliot has set in motion?

And in the co-feature, Two-Face's desperate grab at power continues as he and his gang hold an entire subway train hostage! But how could he possibly escape capture with the FBI waiting for him at the next stop?

As happy as STREETS OF GOTHAM #16 makes me (especially in light of how much I hated #15), it also makes me sad, because I feel like we’re on the verge of losing something really special from our weekly visits to Gotham City.

More on that in a bit…

First of all, the usual warning applies yet again -- nothing mentioned in DC’s official description of this issue actually happens in this issue. But at least we’re back to Paul Dini’s “House of Hush” story, which was missing entirely from last month’s installment.

And if you love what Dini’s been doing in Gotham City, you’ll love every second of the yarn he’s spinning here. Not only does he continue to deepen and build the “Dini-verse” he’s been creating inside of Gotham since his magnificent run on DETECTIVE COMICS began, but he also expertly, effortlessly, and inconspicuously ties things in to events happening outside of his regular purview. He also works in some of the best elements from the tragically departed MANHUNTER backup that used to grace these pages. I really, really miss it.

While Tommy Elliot is using Bruce Wayne’s face and clout to get dangerous criminals out of Arkham, including the sinister, skinless mess of raw muscle and sinew known as Jane Doe, newly released-from-prison mobster Judson Pierce hates the universe for denying him the chance to kill Thomas and especially Martha Wayne. The only thing that will ease his inner vengeance engine is to murder their son, Bruce, and since Tommy’s currently impersonating him, well, do the math.

Dini capably weaves a tale of present and past that shines more light into Martha Wayne’s history and the intertwined childhoods of Bruce, Tommy, and Zatanna, whom Alfred asks to accompany Tommy to an awards banquet. Tommy’s cruelty knows neither depths nor bounds as he speaks to Zatanna like a dog, all while fawning over her to the press. He knows which knives to twist and how to twist them, and Dini continues to write this guy on levels of nastiness and danger that not even Jeph Loeb could muster.

(For example, Tommy thinks of her as “a filthy gypsy,” which builds on the character’s hatred of women that Dini so effectively crafted in his “Heart of Hush” storyline.)

And even though it’s as a child in a flashback, we do briefly get to see Bruce Wayne in this story, and Dini nails him as always.

Dini’s Batman stories feel like home to me. His Gotham City feels like a real world. While other writers (and I’m looking at you, Mr. Morrison!) write Batman stories that are international, supernatural, and flat-out science fiction, Dini’s making a breathing, lived-in place that anchors his superior stories beautifully.

The art by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs has been a massive part of creating this Dini-verse, and these guys just keep getting better and better. “Handsome” and “unique” are the words I always come back to for Nguyen’s lines, and his watercolor cover is another knockout that ties together all the best elements of the story. And as always, much love goes out to John Kalisz’s warm colors. I especially love how he colors the flashbacks.

Unfortunately, Dini has yet to be mentioned as the writer of a Bat-title after this Hush story ends, and Nguyen has been shuffled away to BATGIRL. So I’m afraid we’re going to lose these guys from the world of Bruce Wayne before he even returns to it, and that makes me sadder than I can stand.

The main story is actually 21 pages this time, with 9 pages for the Two Face backup which actually begins in a really interesting way but gets outrageously dumb by its final page. Two Face without his coin could have sparked a really interesting moral exploration of who and what Harvey really wants to be, but all Ivan Brandon can do with the concept is undo it with a ridiculous “TO BE CONTINUED?” twist stating that now Harvey’s more dangerous than ever because he doesn’t have his coin, and he’ll just be bad all the time, and Gotham’s in the biggest trouble ever! Boring. What a wasted opportunity.

But that’s fine. Because Dini’s Hush story is back to its deserved prominence in this title, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next. Oh, Tommy. You wanted to be Bruce Wayne so badly. And now I think it’s going to get you killed. - John Bierly

GRADE: A ("House of Hush")/D ("TWO FACE" Backup)

John Bierly still can't believe he
gets to write for BOF.
Check out JOHNBIERLY.COM to read about the other things he writes about.

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