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Author: John Bierly
January 25, 2010
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OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: The rash of child abductions requires decisive action, so Robin goes undercover to learn more about the missing kids. But what can he do when he winds up a prisoner in Zsasz's slaughterhouse? Can even a highly trained warrior escape from the frighteningly evil clutches of Zsasz?

And in the Manhunter co-feature, Kate has to deal with the results of her recent encounter with Two-Face. But is prepared to uncover the mystery surrounding the former D.A.'s death? And can she even trust Two-Face's word?

Guest writer Mike Benson begins issue #8 of STREETS OF GOTHAM with a murder. By page 3, he's got Gordon referring to the corpse as a "meat sculpture" and Dick Grayson writing off the man's death as "not exactly a major loss for mankind."

And that was the point where I almost checked out. Yes, the victim was a safecracker. But when Gotham's filled with nuts like The Joker and Victor Zsasz (whose creepy moment from the end of issue 7 has been pushed aside for two parts of this interrupting new storyline), a safecracker is hardly worthy of such a nasty sentiment. It seems out of character for both Gordon and Dick to speak that way, as if Benson had been saving up that "meat sculpture" line for a long time and put it in the mouth of the first character he wrote for in a morgue, regardless of whether that character would ever actually say something like that in the first place. (In all fairness, some of DC's editors haven't exactly been working overtime lately, and a good editor would have said, "You know what, Mike, this is a great line, but let's save it for someone who isn't Jim Gordon. And while we're at it, let's not have our kinder, gentler new Batman talking trash about a dead guy who's really not so bad in the grand scheme of Gotham.")

A few pages later, when Gordon points out a pattern suggesting a serial killer targeting criminals (and punctuates his hypothesis with aTaxi Driver reference), Dick once again suggests that maybe the killer is doing the world a favor. Unbelievable.

And then, a couple of pages after that, he's trying to sweetly pull an Oprah on a hard-boiled suspect. When he lets the suspect walk, he muses, "Sometimes the lines get blurred. Sometimes the only difference between you and them is the mask and cape." What about the goodness? And the morality? And the honor? Oh, boy.

Some quick investigating sends Dick undercover as a customer in an upscale sex club. One of Bruce Wayne's favorite disguises is Matches Malone, who doesn't look, walk, or talk like Bruce Wayne. Dick's disguise is James, who looks exactly like Dick Grayson but refers to himself as James. Okay.

And it all ends in a cliffhanger that's not remotely exciting.

I'm so sick of Batman books without the real Batman that I can't stand it. But I'm willing to read a satellite title like STREETS OF GOTHAM as long as it's good. And when it's written by Paul Dini, it's good. But when the fill-in writers come in with sloppy stories and poor characterization, I start to get really impatient about where my four bucks is going.

The saving grace is the excellent art by Dustin Nguyen, who comes up with some really interesting looks for the denizens of the fetish club and still draws one of my favorite Batmans of all time, regardless of who's under the cowl.

On the other hand, the Manhunter backup is almost worth the $4 all on its own. Regular penciller Jeremy Haun returns after sitting out issue 7, bringing the art back up to its usual gold standard (and also correcting a continuity mistake in a character's appearance from last issue). The writing by Marc Andreyko allows new Gotham D.A. Kate Spencer to kick ass not only as Manhunter but also in her day job, and Andreyko is one of those writers who understands the power of the little things when it comes to keeping his characters and their dialogue interesting. There's a very interesting turn of events for Two-Face fans, and we also get the return of one of the backup's previous (and best) villains. The ending is awesome.

Nguyen's gorgeous art is the only thing that gets the main story a very merciful D+, while the Manhunter backup earns an extremely solid A.

Indiana native John Bierly started writing for publications when he was 17 and never stopped.
His favorite things in life are family and friends, concerts, burgers, Mountain Dew, and of course...
You can read his blog at JOHNBIERLY.COM.

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