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Comic review: Batman: Streets of Gothan No. 21

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The Deal: The latest issue of Streets of Gotham wraps up the long-simmering story line starring the Batman villain (and Bruce Wayne doppelganger) known as Hush.

The Bad: Despite the fact that I actually think Batman is one of the industry's richest and most fleshed-out characters, I've never really been an avid reader of Bat-related comics. And flipping through this month's issue of Streets of Gotham, I'm reminded why: The "Bat universe" is way too dank, dour and depressing. I mean, I understand the idea that Batman is a noir-ish hero, and that he deals with crime on the gritty streets of Gotham — but does everything have to be so damned hopeless? This issue, for example, shows a guy getting his face surgically removed and another dude getting chemically transformed into, I'm sure, one more of the city's bizarre villains. By the book's end, the faceless guy gets admitted into Arkham Asylum — because, you know, that place is so good at reforming the criminally insane. You get my point? Read Bat comics for a few years, and it becomes incredibly clear that Batman's efforts are ultimately worthless. No one will be reformed. Crime will continue to get worse. So what's the point? In comics, it's easy to forget that, while readers like heroes to face incredible odds, ultimately we want to feel like what they are doing matters. Somewhere along the way, the creative folks at DC Comics lost track of the idea that their audience wants to know that, no matter what happens, everything is going to be all right. Batman, however, is just a meat grinder ... and a real downer.

The Good: Beyond the depressing tone, the art (by Dustin Nguyen) shows a real flair for storytelling. And although his work is fairly stylized, he still manages to capture a ton of emotion (and horror) in rather minimalist drawings. On the writing side of things, Paul Dini is definitely a master of his craft — and that shows in his dialogue, which successfully delivers a real sense of dread until the final page.

The Verdict: Batman comics make me want to jump in a hot shower and cry. Could someone please show me the light at the end of the tunnel?!

Reviewed materials provided by Heroes Aren't Hard to Find: www.heroesonline.com.

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