Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen, as the Streets of Gotham roulette wheel continues to spin. Month after month, it’s nearly impossible to predict what your $3.99 will get you in this hodgepodge of a DC title, with even the advance solicitations rarely providing a clue. In issues past, readers have witnessed the page count ratio vary wildly between the main feature and the so-called “backup” tales, with the latter once going so far as to take up all 30 pages.
While that doesn’t quite happen this time around, the regular “House of Hush” arc makes only the briefest of appearances in the latest issue. And unlike before, when the plotting was tailored to shorter installments, the product writer Paul Dini puts out here feels abruptly truncated. The bulk of it is dedicated to the B story concerning a new villain named Bedbug, with the primary plotline involving Hush remaining barely touched upon. This leaves precious little time for Dini’s recurring flashbacks to the untold history of Batman’s mother, which have easily been the strength of this story to date.
When the cliffhanger ending occurs, its only shock value lies in how early it arrives. Given how little the story has advanced by this point, it seems obvious that a standard length chapter was originally intended but then got cut short. As strong as Dini’s previous work with the Hush character was, it is sad to see his latest efforts harmed so greatly by matters of scheduling, even if it is the writer’s own fault for not completing scripts on time.
Thankfully, the secondary feature, Fabian Nicieza’s Ragman, turns out to be a decent read. It may not be the story that most fans will be buying this book for, but neither is it an outright slap in the face like its predecessor, a multi-parter that foolishly tried to thrust Two-Face into a starring role.
From the get go, Nicieza and artist Szymon Kudranski succeed in setting a strong tone. This is a tale in the vein of Gotham’s grittiest, as assured by the dark, dramatic visuals that accompany Ragman’s noir-ish narration. The resultant mood is a welcome distracter from the relative unoriginality of the plot itself, as is Nicieza’s novel take on Ragman’s unique and unusual powers.
Ultimately, however, even a high quality Ragman story is a consolation prize at best. This is a comic with Batman’s name and image on its cover, yet the Dark Knight has become increasingly scarce in its pages. “House of Hush” is a good enough story to warrant seeing this book through to its completion, but DC should be ashamed of the inconsistency with which they are rationing out its portions.