On the day of the big announcement that Anne Hot-thaway, er, Hathaway, has been hired as our new cinematic Selina Kyle, it’s only fitting that we’d get an issue of STREETS OF GOTHAM
featuring Catwoman and Bruce Wayne’s Batman sharing a hot moment orchestrated by longtime multimedia Batman architect Paul Dini. Though most of issue #19 is dedicated to Tommy Elliot’s plan to destroy the Wayne legacy once and for all, the few pages of Bruce and Selina that we get at the end are plenty to whet the appetites of all the romantics like me who wish these crazy kids would just stop looking for excuses not to fall all the way in love already.
After a stretch of issues with wildly varying page counts (culminating in issue #18 having only 10 pages of the “main” Batman story and 30 of a Ragman “backup”), we get our first issue of SOG under DC’s new “$2.99 for 20 pages” price plan. While the company’s aggressive ad campaign would lead you to believe they’re lowering prices, that’s hardly the case. With two fewer pages, we’re now paying more per page.
It also forces creative teams to tell more story in fewer pages. Luckily Dini is a master of pacing, effortlessly weaving Hush stuff, a creepy Joker flashback, more Hush plotting, Tommy Elliot masquerading as Bruce Wayne one last time, Bruce and Selina together, a quick flashback where Thomas Wayne and Martha soon-to-be-Wayne Kane interact with Zatanna’s father, and then more Batman/Catwoman bits into what’s only 20 pages but feels like a lot more than that.
And, as always, Dini hits lots of beats recalling some of the best story threads of the “Dini-verse” he’s been building in Gotham City ever since he began his landmark DETECTIVE run. His Hush remains creepy, cool, and deranged, and every character represented here -- and there are a lot of them -- is entirely in character.
With DC abandoning backup stories in addition to the two pages per issue we’re already losing, expect the final two issues of this title to also be 20 pages of the Hush story. Still, given all the page-count inconsistencies in this title lately, you still might be better off waiting for the collected edition. (I’m still frustrated about having had to spend $3.99 for 10 pages of Dini last issue.)
Dustin Nguyen’s stark Joker cover is gorgeously drawn and colored; I especially love the greasy, scraggly hair and the detail in his clothes and cane. The interior work is every bit as good as it always is on this title. I’m really going to miss the Dini/Nguyen team when this book ends at #21 in March. Anyone who says Batman has to be incorporated or time-warped to remain fresh and original should take a look at Dini’s work -- he cranks out solid Batman stories as easily as the rest of us breathe. - John Bierly