Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Nick Derington (p), Cameron Stewart (i)
The book opens with Slam Bradley minding Gotham's East End, as we see he's busy letting a group of drug dealers that he won't tolerate their selling drugs to children. However when one of them manages to slip away into a nearby alley, Slam discovers that he has a helper, as Batman takes this fleeing drug pusher out. We then see Slam gets invited to a rooftop chat with Batman, as we see the Dark Knight is concerned about Selina leaving Gotham without so much as a good-bye, and would like to know if Slam has been remained in touch with Selina. We then see the conversation takes an ugly turn when Batman suggests that Slam took advantage of Selina's fragile emotional state, and Slam resents this accusation enough to slug Batman in the jaw. However Slam only gets this one shot, and he spends the rest of the fight getting a first hand display of Batman's superior fighting ability. However, the two men eventually come to an understanding, and part ways on good terms. Meanwhile, Selina is busy getting entangled in a spot of trouble, as she pays a late night visit to a truck stop diner, and gets herself & Holly taken hostage by a pair of gunmen who are lying in wait for a mobster bagman. Needless to say when the bagman arrives with his bag of mob profits, Selina takes out both the gunmen & the bagman, and then arranges it so that she's able to make off with a sizeable chunk of the mob money.
The big event in this issue would have to be the throw down between Slam Bradley and Batman, as it's featured on the cover. Now their encounter takes up roughly half the book, but the fight itself only lasts for three pages and change, so it's not exactly a fight for the ages. In fact it's more like a recreation of Paul Newman's boxing match from "Cool Hand Luke", as the only admirable thing one can say about Slam's fighting ability when he's going at it with Batman is that he keeps on coming back for more. Now one has to think that Batman was pulling his punches, as while Slam might be a big, tough lug, one would have to think that Batman had to know a hundred and one ways to bring a quick end to this fight. Than again perhaps he saw it as a way to vent his frustrations that Selina went to Slam for comfort in her time of need, and he deliberately used attacks that would extend the fight for longer that it should've. Still, perhaps I'm simply not giving Slam enough credit as Batman is only human, and in spite of his fighting prowess there are people in the world who can take an extraordinary amount of punishment, and based on what I saw in this issue it would certainly appear Slam can be counted among this group. I can't say I agree with the finish to the fight though, as there's just something fundamentally wrong with Batman laughing. He can be funny, and even make a joke, but to have him laugh out loud simply felt wrong.
The secondary plot if one can call it that considering it features the book's lead character, involves a quick little adventure in which Selina and Holly stumble into the middle of a robbery, and find themselves being held captive by a couple gunmen who are waiting for a bag man for the mob. Now having them randomly encounter this scenario felt a bit contrived, but I guess I could make this case about half the encounters that writers come up with in comics, as these characters do seem be trouble magnets. In any event Ed Brubaker does a fairly solid job of ramping up the tension, as the sudden attack on the waitress does sell us on the idea that these two are capable of backing up their threats, and the book does have Selina & Holly make the observation that these thugs have made no effort to disguise their identity, and as such they have little reason to leave behind living witnesses. Now the final solution did strike me as a little strange as wouldn't the bagman wonder what happened to Dotty, and while his natural inclination would be to assume the men took the money, he did witness enough of the attack on these men that he would at least be suspicious about their ability to run off with the money. Still, I guess the two robbers would make for enough of a red herring that Dotty could get a fairly good head start in her flight from the mob.
The art isn't as tightly structured as I'm come to expect from this book, as there's a few too many empty space backgrounds, and the detailing never really caught my eye. Now the storytelling is still quite strong, from the opening scene where Slam is busy dealing with a trio of drug pushers, to his fight later in the issue with Batman. In fact the latter is especially impressive, as the art doesn't really need the text to detail how the fight is going, as it's pretty clear from the art that Slam is getting his head handed to him. There's also some rather cute panels in this fight as one has to love Batman's expression after he takes Slam's first & only punch of the fight, or Slam's expression when Batman tags him with a pressure point attack. As for the material that details Selina's adventure in the truck stop, I was quite impressed by how effective the art delivered the opening scene, as one look at that panel of the nervous waitress unlocking the door and one can't help but have a instant picture of what is playing out inside. The scene where Selina and Holly take down the gunmen is also pretty solid, as I loved the panel sequence where Selina uses the shotgun to take down the bagman, and Holly's expression in the aftermath of the fight is also rather cute. The cover to this issue is also quite strong, even if it does present Batman as a raving mad man, which doesn't really reflect his behavior inside the book.
Not a terribly deep issue, as it offers up a couple generic plot devices, and simply inserts the various members of this book's cast into place. So we have the character A versus character B as they both share feelings for character C. We also get the hero stumbling across a dastardly plot, and they have to wait for the opportune moment to act. Now Ed Brubaker is a skilled writer, and as such he makes these familiar plot devices entertaining enough that I would recommend this issue for the book's regular readers, but than if you're a regular reader than it's unlikely you would require my recommendation to make you pick up the issue. In then end I did enjoy the fact that Slam Bradley managed to get his head handed to him and still walk away from the encounter undiminished as a character, and the plot involving Selina has a couple moments where I must admit I was curious to see what would happen next. Still, here's hoping next issue's visit to Opal City stirs up the creative juices a little more than this month's effort.
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