By: Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins, Ryan Parrott (writers), Dustin Nguyen & Derec Donovan (artists), Guy Major (colorist)

The Story: Dammit Tim, I’m a detective, not a historian!

The Review: With DC’s top creators on blistering track to launch their new lineup come fall and maintain a steady release pace afterward, it’s little wonder the current titles all have a rushed, cobbled-together quality about them.  You must have noticed the record number of fill-in writers and artists on everything, even on the three-issue Flashpoint tie-ins.  While some of these fill-in jobs have been acceptable, even praiseworthy, quite a lot more have been anything but.

For a while, Higgins as the executor of Snyder’s story worked out very well.  After it came out that Higgins would work on the upcoming Nightwing, Parrott came in as his backup. Gates of Gotham remained seemingly unaffected; last issue seemed on track for a great conclusion.  But, as in Supergirl #62, the grim effects of the lead creators taking less responsibility for the title sneak up on you, and here you get ambushed by any number of writing missteps.

For one, several principal characters experience dramatic personality changes.  While Nicholas Gates going into a very Gothamesque, homicidal bent makes some sense in light of his brother’s death, Alan Wayne revealing a sinister condescension feels inexplicable and forced, almost laughable.  Too bad his mustache isn’t a bit longer, because he might as well be twirling it as he haughtily tells Nick, “…secrets are influence…and influence is power.  But I don’t expect you to understand that.  After all, you aren’t one of us—and you never will be.”

Just as unconvincing is Dick suddenly getting his act together, despite wallowing in self-doubt for the last couple issues.  He just spontaneously gets his charismatic mojo back, manfully assuring Tim that “Everyone’s made mistakes on this one, but we’ve come this far—and we’re in it together.”  That line also attempts a heartwarming resolution to the animosity between Damian and Cass, one completely undeserved, as neither has experienced anything worthy of the change.

While Higgins gave the earlier portions of this case a credible sophistication in how the Architect chose his targets and how Dick and Co. subsequently tracked him, the logic and complexity of the investigation has fallen apart significantly.  Dick deduces, “That’s why [the Architect] needed Hush.  They stole [the original city plans] from the Herald archives.”  Why would you need two villains to break in and burgle documents usually open for public viewing anyway?

As for what we can expect out of this mini’s conclusion, we need merely turn to Dick’s claim on how he plans to put this nut in his place: “By proving everything he believes is a lie.”  It sounds like we’re in for a lot of revisionist explaining in the midst of a firefight, probably with someone crying, “Nooo!!” at some point.  This really illustrates the crutch of these historical mysteries; the writer merely has to add some new facts to throw the whole thing in a different direction.

Nguyen has enough raw talent to deliver some fine art that’s quite as dynamic as Trevor McCarthy’s and makes great use of Major’s deep, gradient colors.  Donovan, on the other hand, employs a blocky, chunky art which is not only completely at odds with Nguyen’s fine lines, but which too obviously tries to imitate McCarthy’s fluid style—and fails painfully.  These mixed artistic efforts undermine any level of seriousness the script has left.

Conclusion: Whether this is a case of too many cooks, or too few, or simply not the right cook, this series has gone from promising one of the best storylines of the year to most deteriorated.

Grade: C

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Upon reflection, the Architect’s armor sure looks like a knockoff of Steampunk Iron Man, doesn’t it?