Running parallel to the beloved Grant Morrison mega-arc that recently concluded in Batman and Robin #16, Paul Dini’s tenure writing the Dark Knight has been a solid one, despite its being comparatively overlooked. Though it has been mostly a series of standalone stories that have been published over in Detective Comics and here in Streets of Gotham, a number of compelling plot threads have nonetheless been brewing. We’ve seen a revitalization of the villain Hush, an emphasis on the history of Gotham City and the Wayne family, and the renewed spark of romance between Batman and Catwoman, all of which seem primed to culminate in Streets‘ final arc, “House of Hush.”
Given that expectation, however, this is a tale that has been a bit disappointing so far. While none of its individual elements are bad in any sense of the word, neither do they evoke the level of excitement appropriate for a supposed grand finale. Since this book’s inception, Hush’s ongoing masquerade as Bruce Wayne’s body double has loomed large with potential ramifications, yet it’s a factor that is proving to be rather inconsequential to the plot down the stretch.
Instead, a major portion of this issue is dedicated to a flashback detailing an encounter between the Joker and Mr. Marchetti, one of mobster Judson Pierce’s associates. The sequence is certainly well told, with a chilling resolution worthy of the reputation of the Clown Prince of Crime, but its ultimate significance remains unclear. Neither the Joker nor Marchetti have played a major role in Streets of Gotham thus far, and the last minute injection of their shared history comes across as a momentum killer.
On the plus side, the flashback does give Dustin Nguyen the opportunity to serve up his take on the Joker, and it’s certainly one to remember. Without selling out completely to the look of Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the character, Nguyen manages to meld both film and traditional comic book versions into a new rendition that fits Dini’s story perfectly. Equal parts gangster and colorful villain, this is a Joker you wouldn’t want to mess with.
There’s no doubt that readers will ultimately look back fondly upon Dini’s Batman comics work. His creative use of Hush alone is enough to solidify that fact, especially given the character’s uninspired beginnings. Even so, this issue makes it tough to shrug the notion that Streets of Gotham may end up feeling like a missed opportunity when all is said and done.