Review: The Underground

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For most of Battle for the Cowl, readers haven’t been privy to the actual gang warfare between Two-Face, the Penguin, and Black Mask.  In The Underground, The Riddler and Catwoman get a first hand look at what is going on, and for Gotham it isn’t pretty.  It may not even be pretty for those who pick up the issue.

BFTC_UNDG_Cv1.jpgSince going straight, The Riddler has been all about making money by being the master detective – only problem is, most of his major cases were solved with the behind the scenes helping hand of Batman.  With Bruce Wayne out of the picture, Edward ends up scraping for jobs, and a visit from the Penguin spells it out for him; he needs to find out where Black Mask is or else.  The “or else” isn’t something Riddler wants to discover, so he takes the case, but seems to be more interested in finding out who is under the black mask of Black Mask.  He even goes so far as offering up some speculation as to what is going on with the current return of Batman.  The mystery upon mystery is almost overwhelming for the sleuth.
Catwoman, on the other hand, is being overwhelmed in a much different way.  The sudden reappearance of Black Mask has her pretty freaked out, as she never expected to see the villain she knows she killed.  She’s also going slightly batty over Batman’s return, as she just can’t figure out who is under the hood.  In any case, she doesn’t have much time to solve her own mystery, as Jason Todd Batman, kicks her over the side of a bridge where she lands pretty hard on top of a car.

There are a couple of moments where Selina Kyle mentions going crazy over the ordeal of trying to keep Gotham clean by taking down the bad guys.  Whatever happens in this story, I hope DC doesn’t send Selina Kyle down the crazy insane path once again.  It was done to end her second volume, and I didn’t like it then, and trying to pull the same story out of the hat not even 10 years later seems really cheap.

Likewise, I really liked what Paul Dini has done with the Riddler in making him a semi-legit detective.  The stories he appeared in were really interesting from the character development stand point alone, but unfortunately, there have been less than a dozen of those that have appeared.  The issue ends with Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Holly Robinson (not THAT Holly Robinson), and the Riddler hooking up with Catwoman.  To go along with don’t make Catwoman crazy plea, I hope we’re not seeing Riddler slip back into his old ways, as it really does a disservice to a character.  I like the criminal turned detective that still maintains ties with the underground (ding!) to solve his jobs, and I think given even more time, he could be a great source for stories.

I’m troubled by the art a great deal.  There’s nothing wrong with Pablo Raimondi’s style – it’s solid, he understand anatomy, and so on, I just question an editor that would give the go ahead to digging up the Danny DeVito look from the early 90’s, or the pretty boy look for the Riddler.  For that matter, the Riddler’s appearance changes as the issue progresses, from the young One Tree Hill wannabe, to an older 30-something by issue’s end.  I don’t mind that Raimondi attempted to draw Catwoman in the Adam Hughes style of making her look like Audrey Hepburn, but throwing all of these in the mix together, just doesn’t work for me.
I’m still wondering where this gang war is going.  It seems like a big story arc that readers were dropped right in the middle of, without any buildup, at the beginning of Battle for the Cowl.  My guess is, even though there may be a temporary status quo change in the underground (ding!), this gang war will end in a whimper and not a bang – even if it does take three different Batmen (Dick, Jason, Tim), Batgirls (Barbara, Cassandra, Misfit, Stephanie), Catwomen (Selina, Holly Robinson (not THAT Holly Robinson) and the like, to do it.

I wanted this one-shot to be really good, but by issue’s end, it is clear the only thing The Underground did is get readers to Buy More Olvatine.  I did like the attempted hits on Penguin and Two-Face, but the rest of the issue continues to tarnish the Batman family of titles.  I would like to give The Underground a 3 Star Rating, but ultimately it is really deserving of 2 Stars out of 5; it’s worth your time only if you are an OCD completist, or a rapid fanboy that believe anything and everything from DC is gold.  I’ll let you decide which category I belong in.

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