By: Main Story: Paul Dini (writer), Dustin Nguyen (pencils), Derek Fridolfs (inks), John Kalisz (colors) & Steve Wands (letters).  Manhunter back-up: Marc Andreyko (writer), Jeremy Haun (pencils), John Lucas (inks), Nick Filardi (colors) & Sal Cipriano (letters)

The Story: Damien and Abuse face off against Zsasz while the Manhunter looks for her lost kid.

What’s Good: I keep trying to drop this title on the grounds that I don’t need to get so many Bat-books, but it keeps being good enough to buy one more month.  Honestly, its been a better title than Batman has been for the last year.

I loved how we got to see Damien and Abuse settle Zsasz’s hash in this issue.  Dini has been building Zsasz up as the villain for nearly 8 months now, by having him build an arena for homeless kids to knife-fight to the death in.   So, it was good to see him get stopped by a couple of kids.

I’m also enjoying the growth of Damien over the last year into a heroic character, which comes to the forefront here as Damien is willing to sacrifice himself to let the other kid (Abuse) get away.  One of the big quandaries for the Bat-books is that all the Robins have stepped up (Dick, Tim & Damien) and I’m curious to see where they all end up once Bruce Wayne is back.

Dustin Nguyen is an acquired taste, I’ll say.  He probably isn’t my favorite artist just due to stylistic issues, but he does execute very well within his style on this issue.

What’s Not So Good: A few things….  One, why can’t they just kill Zsasz?  I didn’t like Daimen’s corny explanation of how he “pulled up his sword strike” so he didn’t sever Zsasz’s spine.  Well… From the picture, he pretty well disemboweled the guy.  Really, if Nguyen had wanted to, he could have drawn guts flinging all over the place.  And I thought it was a bit of a cop-out to have him mysteriously fall into the water and get washed away by the current where you know he’ll be back.

I also (surprisingly) didn’t dig the Manhunter back-up story.  So far, I’ve enjoyed this story as much as the main story, but somehow I mentally lost the story thread from the last issue and was confused by what was going on.  Back-up stories shouldn’t require rereading past issues (IMO).

Conclusion: Foibles aside, this was a fun issue because they let Damien loose.  Just wish they would have let Damien do a little more to Zsasz.

Grade: B-

-Dean Stell