This book is amazing.
First, let's talk about the Manhunter backup. Writer Marc Andreyko and the art team of Georges Jeanty (pencils), Dexter Vines (inks), and Nick Filardi (colorist) have taken a character I know nothing about and gotten me not only interested but also enthusiastic about what's coming up next. The nine pages of "Who the Hell Is Jane Doe?" are as creepy, as cool, and as finely crafted as you could ask for in a story like this; it's certainly a million miles beyond what could have been tossed in as a throwaway backup.
We learn that Jane Doe is more villain than victim by following Manhunter -- aka Gotham City District Attorney Kate Spencer -- on an investigation that takes her inside what's left of Arkham Asylum, where the art team wows us with a tour of its horrible halls that still crawl with the ghosts of escaped inmates. Letterer Sal Cipriano also goes above and beyond the call of duty as we get interjections of Manhunter's real thoughts and deductions spliced in between the words she's actually speaking to her prey. She even has a few reflections on the Batman situation that capably ground this tale firmly in the post-Bruce Gotham City status quo.
Massive amounts of thought and craftsmanship have gone into these pages, and it shows. And if you thought last month's cliffhanger was a little limp, you'll be begging for easier endings after Andreyko and his artists scare you senseless with this one. Absolutely brilliant.
And now, for the 21 pages of story that precede it.
Here's the thing: It's no secret that I wish Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen were creating stories about Bruce Wayne's Batman. And if given the choice, I'm sure they'd still be doing just that.
But the current Batman situation is what it is, and Dini continues to make gourmet omelets out of broken eggs.
In the first issue of this new title, Dick Grayson's Batman and Damian Wayne's Robin joined forces with Jim Gordon and the boys and babes in blue to stop a gruesome terrorist attack by Firefly, who's taken it upon himself to become the "spontaneous" in Gotham's citizenry's combustion.
Things immediately keep getting worse in this issue, as Dick's prisoner and Damian's chess partner, Tommy "Hush" Elliot, escapes. And don't forget that he's given himself Bruce Wayne's face, which is particularly dangerous during a time when the real Bruce Wayne is missing.
We also get another visit from Abuse, a huge, hat-wearing vigilante who popped up for a few pages last issue. Dick doesn't know who he is but Bruce obviously did, and I'm curious to see what part he's got to play in all of this. (So is Dick.)
Meanwhile, Dini continues to do with Firefly what he did for Hush -- turn him into a truly formidable villain by taking us inside the twisted engines that make him tick. There's also a nasty little cameo by someone who had a nasty little cameo in a certain movie that involved Christian Bale and Liam Neeson sword-fighting on a glacier.
The book has thrills. And mystery. And action. And all of it's awesome.
But then Dini pulls a Dini and kicks this sucker into a whole other kind of orbit with Hush's big plan, which is too sick and twisted and spectacularly brilliant to even hint at here.
Let's just say that Dick and Damian are pulled into an entirely different kind of spotlight, and that the reactions of both heroes and villains who keep their eyes on these kinds of things are perfect and priceless.
Throw in plenty of the uniquely gorgeous art of Dustin Nguyen and you've got a winner.
Seriously, folks. Between the 21 pages of main story and the 9-page Manhunter backup, this is one of the absolutely finest cover-to-cover comics I've read since, well, the awesome first issue of DETECTIVE starring Batwoman.
(If you're new to Batman comics and confused by all of this Tommy Elliot stuff, pick up the HEART OF HUSH hardcover from your local comic shop and be prepared to enjoy one of the finest Batman stories you'll ever read in a truly handsome collection.)
I miss Bruce Wayne. I want him back as Batman. But as long as we keep getting stories like we're getting in STREETS OF GOTHAM, I'll be just fine. - John Bierly