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Gotham Underground #1

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2007
By: Chris Murman



Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist: J. Calafiore

Publisher: DC Comics


I’ll eschew the fancy opening and speak plainly with you few readers: This was an enjoyable read for Batman fans, but will be held back severely because you have to be reading a bunch of other crap to understand what the hell is going on.

Very quietly, there is an interesting series of stories linking together that started with Judd Winick and Greg Rucka. Before you toss your tomatoes at me for that statement, the facts are undeniable. During Rucka’s Checkmate, Winick’s Outsiders, and certainly during the crossover between the two earlier this year, we learned something is going down with all the villains in the DCU. One by one, each of them have been disappearing. The rest are now running scared because the jig is up. The Suicide Squad is building an army, and either you volunteer for duty or you are sent the welcoming gift of a whipping. Some of the DCU has a clue (i.e. Checkmate and Batman) and the rest of the good guys haven’t.

What’s transpired is a slate of books dealing with the fallout of these events, and I find it far more interesting than the Hal Jordan and Silver Age worship going on in the headline events of 2007 (“Sinestro Corps War” and “Countdown” for the uninformed):

  • Mr. Terrific and Sasha Bordeaux are leading the charge against Amanda Waller in Checkmate.
  • Batman is back in charge of the Outsiders (Batman and the Outsiders #1 will hit stores very soon). His first task for the new team: to take down the Suicide Squad.
  • The telling of how the new Squad got together, including how Col. Flagg is alive again is being told in Suicide Squad: Raise the Flagg.
  • Villains who want to avoid capture are on the run in Salvation Run.
  • And finally, the rogues of Gotham are forming an underground system of getting everyone out of Dodge in Gotham Underground.

Like any other event that crosses over titles, some are good reads and others I’ll boycott on principle alone. Of course, that makes me as a reader a loser in the end because I don’t get the whole story. The jury is still out as to whether or not this mini will make the cut, but that’s what happens when Batman runs around in his new favorite disguise: Matches Malone.

We last saw Bruce take this role in Outsiders #50 with little fanfare, but has been quite useful over the years to the caped crusader. Malone was first introduced 35 years ago in Batman #242 as a way to infiltrate the criminal underworld of Gotham and gather information. While the alter ego’s origin has been retconned a time or two, the character still commands a certain amount of respect in certain rings. This issue, Bats continues his role of bouncer at Penguin’s club, the Iceberg Lounge. As already stated, word on the street is the club is being used as a way to get criminals out of town under the radar and out of the Suicide Squad’s reach. Of course, Penguin must be making a mint because protection like that has to come at a price.

Before we go any further, I wouldn’t give the book such a rating without having a few bones to pick. I wasn’t too keen on Commissioner Gordon’s handling of the Boy Wonder responding to the Bat-signal. It was a man too pompous and arrogant to be the man that Batman has come to respect over the years. This Gordon belongs in Frank Miller’s All-Star Batman title. Secondly, there is no way someone who hasn’t been reading all the aforementioned titles would know what is going on enough to be interested. Someone trying this issue out would almost certainly be too confused to keep going, but then again the same could be said with any of DC’s titles this year. Why should they stop now if they have waded this far in to the pool?

Also, it doesn’t take a genius to realize this is a Countdown tie-in, yet we have no indication as such on the cover. Of course, why would Didio want to tie this book into one of his biggest flops on his resume and expect it to sell? This story (along with Salvation Run) appears to be one of the key lead-ins to “Final Crisis”. I think what made titles such as Villains United and OMAC Project a success was we knew it was a preamble to “Infinite Crisis”, and at that point we were all pretty fired up about it. If editorial wants to create the same kind of buzz for the coming Flop Event, shouldn’t they start plastering “Final Crisis” on things? Someone passing by this issue on the shelves would think this is yet another mini-series that has to do with Batman, yet no clue as to the ramifications is will most likely have on the coming year of comics. Bad form on DC marketing if you ask me.

Calafiore’s artwork certainly makes this title enticing, I rather enjoyed his take on the rogues I know and love. The cover, while misleading as to the subject matter of the issue (the cape and cowl don’t even appear in this book), is very attractive. His Bane is also one of the best looks I’ve seen in many recent years. I wouldn’t mind seeing his work on the Suicide Squad quite a bit more in the future.

There are a lot of balls in the air on this title, some of which I didn’t even address. It will either keep the book confusing till the end, or add to the suspense and aura of the book. I will give it another issue or two before I drop it, mostly because it’s part of this very interesting story line (and because it’s Batman). I would recommend trying this title out, but only if you’ve been on Checkmate and Outsiders like me.



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