Thursday, June 28, 2012

Batman Minus Batman

Batman: Streets of Gotham #1
    I recently finished the Batman: Streets of Gotham series. Scott invited me to check them out while I was researching my pick for villain week, Victor Zsasz. Written by Paul Dini (of Batman: The Animated Series fame, as well as many other notable shows), the series ran for 21 issues from 2009 to 2011. It tells the story of Gotham not from the perspective of Batman, but instead narrated by auxiliary characters, and this is what makes things interesting.

     Batman is everywhere in Batman: Streets of Gotham (it is his town, after all), however you see him flit in and out of stories much in the same way the Streets of Gotham prominent characters typically appear and disappear in other Batman series. Everyone reacts to his presence, and it makes the Bat feel larger than life. Criminals get chills, heroes are a little in awe, but then Batman continues on out of frame while the story continues.

    I was told that Batman: Streets of Gotham was not received well and this is what led to its eventual cancellation. Comic Book Resources apparently pronounced with issue #3: “At this point, I think it's safe to say that “Batman: Streets of Gotham” isn't going to be that different of an approach to a Bat-title than any of the others.” I found that prediction to be a bit inaccurate (probably because it was made too soon into the series). Storylines like The Broker and The Carpenter paint an interesting picture of the structure supporting the chaos created by Gotham’s villains (who knew there was so much to the economy of evil hideouts). The “Leviathan” 2-part storyline involving Huntress and Man-Bat was very creative and has a nice twist at the end (Spoiler alert: you’ll be surprised!). And I especially liked the Two-Face story arc, where Batman is almost completely absent (isn’t two faces enough?).

Most... uncomfortable... train ride... ever.

    Whatever the reason for its demise, Batman: Streets of Gotham takes an interesting approach to looking at the world of Batman. In a way it reminds me of “Garfield Minus Garfield,” wherein the absence of Batman makes the world and the stories seem that much darker (and there’s no Garfield). Gotham feels gritty, calloused, and at times numb. A surreal moment occurs in #13 when one of Two-Face’s henchmen assaults a police officer on a subway train full of people. The passengers, unflinching, are admonished by the henchman for their lack of response: “Place is dark, man. Half of these people don’t even turn their heads at a cop getting’ choked out. Ain’t no hope for this place.” To this Two-face remarks, “These men and women have seen worse… this is Gotham.” (There's a "This is Sparta!" joke in there somewhere.) And herein lies the value of the Batman: Streets of Gotham series, you are experiencing Gotham, and Gotham is an interesting place.

    This isn’t a perfect series. Because it is interacting with events occurring in the Batman universe, sometimes a person is captured, unmasked, or reappears without explanation, leaving the reader confused (unless you are reading other series as well). I also felt, at times, that the writing became a bit of an anchor for certain story arcs, being too wordy for what it was trying to communicate. In the end, however, Batman: Streets of Gotham is a novel foray into the street life of Gotham and shows fun and interesting perspectives of the Batman universe.

~ Jim Tenkins ~


Letter from The Editor:  If you want to jump in and check out Batman: Streets of Gotham, you can purchase the 
first couple of trade paperbacks at Instocktrades.com for under $15.00 a piece.

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