A hypnotized Harley Quinn is about to blow up Selina Kyle with a rocket-propelled grenade.
Batman swoops in to save her. Selina says, "I don't know what came over her, Dick. One minute she was asleep in her room ..."
"Selina," he interrupts.
"The next she was staggering around like a zombie!" she continues.
"Selina," Batman says. "It's me."
I won't tell you what happens next. I will, however, share some initial reactions, such as YES! HIGH FIVE! VICTORY LAP! WHAMMY!
Because as much fun as I had with the high profile, highly publicized Bruce Wayne stories in BATMAN: THE RETURN and BATMAN, INC. this week, there's only one Batman homecoming that TRULY felt like home to ME.
His homecoming to the streets of Gotham ...in issue #17 of STREETS OF GOTHAM.
As written by the pen of Mr. Paul Dini.
I was so happy I could have cried. Maybe I even did a little. I don't know.
These pages are currently home to a sequel to Dini's criminally overlooked HEART OF HUSH epic from the pages of DETECTIVE COMICS. Thinking he's the real Bruce Wayne, an old enemy of the Wayne family recently released from prison has kidnapped Tommy "Hush" Elliot to complete his vengeance against the Wayne legacy. But as crazy as Tommy is, he's not a coward. Especially when he's cornered. And by issue's end, tables have turned, secrets have been revealed, and the Wayne legacy is in more danger than ever.
And as good as it was to see Bruce and Selina together as only Dini can write them, we also get some absolutely amazing flashbacks involving Thomas Wayne and the girl he'll someday marry -- Martha Kane. Martha is helping another familiar face, Leslie Thompkins, open up her clinic, but the mob has its own plans for Crime Alley. Enter Thomas Wayne and his butler, Alfred Pennyworth, who gets one of THE most spectacular Alfred scenes of ALL TUNE in this issue. I want to tell you everything about it, but I also want you to read it for yourself.
Another thing I love about what Dini does here is that he doesn't ignore what's going on in the larger Bat-picture right now. But he has a way of distilling it down and pushing it aside with a single line.
When Selina challenges Bruce about why he tested her without revealing his identity in THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE: THE ROAD HOME - CATWOMAN, the conversation they have isn't just the real way their reunion should have gone down but possibly also Dini's commentary on all of the silliness surrounding Bruce's reappearance. But he justifies it in ways that are respectful of what the other writers have done. He doesn't toss out anyone's work, but instead reframes it to fit his vision. It's so well done. You won't find any concepts or gimmicks at work here. Just two people who aren't necessarily good at love but who still love each other very deeply.
Even when Bruce Wayne wasn't in these pages, STREETS OF GOTHAM felt like home because Dini never stopped building what I like to call his "Dini-verse" -- a Gotham of past and present filled with familiar faces and themes. Especially when taken as a whole, it's a huge and wonderful tapestry of work.
And with him as always is the amazing art team of Dustin Nguyen (cover and pencils), Derek Fridolfs (inks), and John Kalisz (colors). Nguyen is far and away my favorite Batman artist right now, and his work in this issue is all kinds of exemplary. From his rendering of Bruce and Selina's big moment to the energy of the action scenes to his depictions of young Martha and Leslie (who are adorable and nerdtastically hot, respectively), there's a lot to see and love here.
A new backup begins in this issue, this time focusing on Ragman. Writer Fabian Nicieza gives Rory Regan a new job that's pretty brilliant in terms of how it interfaces with his work as Ragman, and the moody art of Szymon Kudranski is perfectly enhanced by the atmospheric color palette of Nick Filardi. When the Manhunter backup began in the first issue of this title, I didn't know anything about Manhunter but I wanted to. This backup didn't make me an immediate Ragman fan, but I still found it really interesting and look forward to seeing how the story develops.
But that's not why you should buy this book anyway. I don't know if we'll see Bruce in these pages again as the Hush story concludes over the next four issues, but I hope there's a place for Dini in the wild new world of Batman. We need his voice…and so does Bruce.
Grant Morrison is taking Batman out into the world, while Dini keeps taking us deeper into the world of Batman. And that's what feels like home to me.