And in the Manhunter co-feature, the trial takes a turn as Jane Doe has a new suspect on her radar – the ever dangerous Black Mask!
Once again, the summary for STREETS OF GOTHAM
on DCComics.com has nothing to do with what's actually in the issue. Instead of getting more of Paul Dini's Zsasz story that was last heard of in issue 7, we're getting part two of guest writer Mike Benson's fill-in tale about Grayson's and Gordon's investigation of the murdered criminal clients of a saucy Gotham call-girl.
I had a huge list of problems with the previous issue. First of all, Dick was a dick who expressed good riddance to the bad guys who'd been killed. Furthermore, when he went undercover in a seedy Gotham sex club, he made no attempt to disguise himself. As I said in my last review, Matches Malone is nothing like Bruce Wayne, while Dick's disguise is simply to call himself "James." The plot had little energy, and the characterization was all over the place. I'd love to see little things like Dick creating his own aliases, but alas.
Issue #9 is actually a lot better than its predecessor, but that's still not saying a lot. Benson's story structure unfolds in a way that reminded me of some of Dini's early work when he first took over DETECTIVE, which isn't a bad thing at all. But overall, I think it still lacks the necessary finesse to really make it sing. Dick obviously has no issues with blowing his cover by beating up a perp in front of our call-girl suspect, yet he waits until after the perp punches her in the face. One of Dick's defining physical attributes is his speed. If he had no problem hurting the guy in the first place, he shouldn't have allowed the girl to be punched before taking action.
(It reminded me of the "Bat and the Cat" storyline from BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL that bothered me so much when Batman sat back and watched Selina get beaten up so that he could measure the fighting skills of the man who was smacking her around. I'm sorry, but there's no way that Batman would watch Selina be beaten, just as I can't really buy Dick Grayson allowing a woman to be smacked by a very huge man when he's got the speed and the power to stop it before it even happens.)
It happens again later in the story, where Dick sends someone into an undercover situation with a much larger opponent and almost lets the person get killed before he finally intervenes as Batman. Why wait around? Make the drop! Save your friend! Benson also wastes an opportunity for a big reveal by telling us who our mystery undercover person is via thought bubbles. It's not that it's necessarily difficult to figure out who it is, but I think a surprise reveal would have been more dramatically effective.
I did think the mid-issue interrogation scenes were handled pretty well, however. Though better than issue 8, I still had problems with the inconsistent characterization and somewhat stilted storytelling here in #9.
And I don't know what else to say about Dustin Nguyen's art, which I never get tired of looking at. This guy is a master, and I can't get enough of his work.
But, as always, the Manhunter backup continues to rock, as writer Marc Andreyko and artist Jeremy Haun complicate Kate Spencer's lives as a district attorney, a mother, and a costumed vigilante more than ever before. There's action in the streets. There's action in the courtroom. And as it all builds and builds, this story just gets more and more involving. I love it.
I'll give the main story a C, and the Manhunter backup an A. And I'll repeat what I said last issue -- I don't mind buying satellite titles like this as long as they're good, and when Dini writes them, they're good. But weaker fill-in stories like this one are very difficult to justify four bucks for, especially when DC's incorrect solicits still don't even indicate that they're fill-ins. - John Bierly