Writer: Jon Lewis
Artists: Pete Woods (p), Andrew Pepoy (i)
The book opens in Pennsylvania where we see a young brother & sister have a rather unique relationship that appears to actively terrify their adult guardian. We then look in on Tim, who we see is undercover, as he's posing as a young hitchhiker who snags a ride with a trucker, who we quickly learn is a gunrunner, and Tim is looking to follow this trucker back to main gun supplier who has been actively arming Gotham's criminal community. Meanwhile back in Gotham City we see Stephanie is looking to locate the Riddler in a bid to learn more about her late father, and to this end we see her make contact with the Birds of Prey, who she tricks into leading her to the current hiding spot of the puzzle loving villain. However, when Stephanie makes contact with the Riddler we see this villain might know something about Stephanie's father that will send her whole world reeling. We then look in on Tim's father, as we see his recent financial losses have triggered some bizarre behavior, and he makes a rather unusual discovery that presents him with a major life altering decision. The book then looks back in on Tim, as we see his investigation is sidetracked, when the trucker is made aware of an underground wrestling tournament that raises Tim's fake eyebrows.
It's always nice to see Tim involved in a bit of detective work, as he heads out of Gotham City on the trail of a dealer who is selling gun shipments to Gotham's criminal element. Now Jon Lewis has adopted a style where Tim is effectively breaking the fourth wall by addressing the readers, and explaining the various aspects of his investigation, but truth be told this running insight does allow us to move through the story with the exact same information Tim is collecting, so in effect we also get to play detective right along side of him. Now, we don't really get enough information to crack the case wide open, but we do get enough to keep my interest level quite high, and we also see Tim manages to stumble across an interesting sounding side plot involving an underground wrestling circuit that one just knows Robin is going to get caught up in. There's also a secondary plot on the home-front as we see Tim's father has gone a bit loony, but his seeming madness does result in a fairly curious discovery, as it would appear that he's tapped into an mythical force that is probably best left untapped. If nothing else the encounter does leave the man with a fairly big decision that could make a big impact on Tim's world. One also has to love the surly temperament of the ghost he encounters.
There's also a fairly clever subplot involving Stephanie, as one can't help but enjoy the way that she uses the Birds of Prey to locate the Riddler for her without tipping them off to the fact that this is what she is doing. Now next issue might reveal that the Black Canary was able to spot Stephanie tailing her, and when the situation gets out of control Stephanie will find herself being rescued by Dinah. However, even if the Birds of Prey were fooled, the book doesn't require them to look like fools as Stephanie does fashion a fairly convincing story, and since the Birds of Prey wouldn't know why Stephanie would be seeking out the Riddler, I can see why they would be such easy marks. As for the final pages of this issue, I have to say I rather enjoyed the idea that the Riddler is a bit of a ham, as one has to love the fact that when he gets wind of a curious discrepancy in Stephanie's story he gets dressed up in his costume so he can solve the puzzle that's been laid before him. I also have to credit the book for managing to convince me that the Cluemaster had died in spite of the scene in "Suicide Squad" that strongly hinted he was still alive, as up until the second to last panel of this issue, I has just assumed Jon Lewis had decided to ignore that revelation.
Pete Woods continues to deliver some wonderful work in these pages, and much like most artists who have proven themselves to be dependable artists with a highly consistent style, his work does receive nearly the amount of attention it deserves. The art details the story in a clear, easy to follow manner, which is actually quite impressive considering Jon Lewis' plots are a bit more complex than we tend to see in most titles. I also enjoyed the little details that the art puts on the page, from the interior of the truck cab being littered with the various junk food wrappers that this overweight gunrunner has consumed on his trip, to the Riddler's apartment being littered with puzzle books. The art also deserves full marks for its ability of detail the various ideas the writing calls for without being overly apparent in how it expresses these details, as we discover that Stephanie is lying to the Birds of Prey when we pull outside and discover she's in full costume, and then we learn her story is false when we get a look at her cheat sheet. My only quibble with the art would have to be the work on the Black Canary, as her expressions were a bit flat, and don't really reflect the character's personality all that well. The coloring work also give her a rather sickly looking complexion.
I must confess I wasn't overly impressed with Jon Lewis' work on this series, but after last month's impressive effort I have to say that I'm actually starting to really warm up to his work, as this opening chapter does a fairly solid job of balancing its three plots. Now Tim's investigation into a criminal enterprise that is shipping guns into Gotham City is still in its early stages, so except for being rather pleased to see the story has taken him out of Gotham City there's not much to really discuss yet. On the other hand the plot involving Stephanie's search for the Riddler advances forward quite nicely, as not only do we see her employ a rather clever ruse to locate the villain, but also the Riddler's reaction to the news of the Cluemaster's death was rather curious. As for the plot involving Tim's father, I must say that I found the ghost to be a refreshing change from the regular behavior one expects to see from a ghostly visitor.
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