Two comics for the price of one: that’s the idea. You get a regular full-length comic, and then you get a nine-page original extra story at the back. In this case, you tag a nine-page story of a character with a cult following that has been bitterly disappointed with her cancellation onto a brand-new original monthly that ties in to the other major DCU event of the moment. It’s win-win, right?
Well, it doesn’t have to be, but in this case it definitely is. I was one of the people more interested in the Manhunter backup than the Streets of Gotham story, but I’m glad I had to buy one to get the other. Streets of Gotham may tie into the rest of the Bat-books, but I didn’t feel at all lost reading it. Paul Dini knows his noir, could do it in his sleep, but here he’s having fun giving a bunch of lesser-known (translation: I hadn’t heard of ‘em) Gotham characters a workout.
Dustin Nguyen’s art manages to be cheery and dark in the same book, often in the same panel, but the book’s real charm is in living up to its name. It’s a superhero story, but one that takes place on the street and feels more like a crime drama, bringing a grittier, more realistic feel to the stories. It’s Batman from an outsider’s view, and it’s worth a read.
The street feel leads nicely into the backup feature. Kate Spencer’s been transported to Gotham to act as the new DA, but she hasn’t left her crime-fighting proclivities in LA–though she has left her son, a feature that will no doubt come back in later issues. Nine pages is basically only enough to set up a story, so this one was mostly exposition, but it manages to fill in the gaps with Kate beating a story out of someone rather than with simple conversation.
Manhunter was already a pretty dark book, and things are probably unlikely to lighten up for Kate Spencer in Gotham. The real question will be managing to make the backup features worth the money for readers who aren’t thrilled with the main title, but the creative team on this one (Marc Andreyko and Georges Jeanty) suggests that DC isn’t skimping on the backup book any more than they are on the front.
Together, the two make a nice pair of noir stories to roughen up your pile of superhero books–or to superhero-up your pile of rough books, in my case. In this case, the experiment gets two thumbs up. My only suggestion would be a bigger indication on the front cover that there’s another feature in the back. I wouldn’t have noticed the band across the bottom on the stand, particularly on the stands that some stores have that obscure the bottom half of the cover.