Batman revives his underworld alter ego, hustler Matches Malone, to pump Gotham lowlives for information on the Leviathan organisation that serves Talia al-Ghul. Along the way he flirts with chanteuse Lumina Lux, and her need for a knight in shining armour lands Matches in big trouble.
Damian, meanwhile, kicks against Batman’s grounding of Robin by sneaking out in a new costumed identity.
This is a highly satisfying issue from writer Grant Morrison and fellow conspirators. Matches is Batman having a sly smirk at the underworld while gathering information he can’t get from online sources. Lumina is the classic Gotham siren, maybe a bad girl, maybe not. Nightwing is on hand to play Batman and make Matches look good/bad, and better still, annoy ‘little brother’ Damian. And Batcow is revealed to be linked to Hamburgers of Doom,
Plus, we learn how Leviathan has been slowly extending its influence in Gotham, and the plausibly grim logic of it all is far more convincing than the ‘oh, it was just always there’ non-explanation for the Court of Owls over in the Batman title.
The criminals haunting the city bars, such as Small Fry and the Turnip Twins, have me hoping for a Gotham Underworld mini-series starring Matches and femme fatale-ish nitespot singers. And Chris Burnham would be the perfect artist for such a project, given how well he evokes the murky world of small-time hoods.
Mind, such a project would likely mean him taking a break from this book, something that would pain me. For Burnham’s presentation of Batman’s world is perfect – creepy, but not hysterical. He handles straight drama and comedy with equal aplomb, and his compositions sing as sweetly as Lumina Lux. And I can’t wait to see him draw Nightwing’s new cape – when did he get a cape, or is this it? – in action.
Nathan Fairbairn’s colours add to the mood, bringing a late evening feel to proceedings, while Patrick Brosseau’s letters sit well with the artwork, never getting in the way.
Only nine more issues of Morrison and Burnham’s series to go; if it continues to be this great, we have a modern classic on our hands.