Tag Archives: Orphan (DC Comics)

A Batman: Night of the Monster Men Review – Hollow Monsters

Batman #7, 2016, cover, Yanick PaquetteTITLE: “Batman: Night of the Monster Men”
AUTHORS: Steve Orlando, Tom King, Tim Seeley, James Tynion IV
PENCILLERS: Riley Rossmo, Roge Antonio, Andy MacDonald
COLLECTS: Batman #79Nightwing #78Detective Comics #941942
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
CUMULATIVE PRICE: $17.94
GRAPHIC NOVEL RELEASE: March 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This “Night of the Monster Men” crossover boasts an extremely talented group of writers and artists, stars Batman and some of his more popular allies, and is even inspired by one of the very first Batman stories. It also began a week after DC “killed” Tim Drake. So there was a lot of potential here for a creative, emotional, thrill ride.

Yeah, none of that happened. “Night of the Monster Men” feels like your wife dragging you to one of your friend’s weddings. It’s an obligation you’re stuck with, so you try to make the best of it. But in the end you’re just happy to get the hell out of there.

Running through BatmanNightwing, and Detective Comics, this story sees Hugo Strange create giant monsters that attack the city. Much of Batman’s surrogate family gets wrapped up in the chaos. But despite all the innocent lives that hang in the balance, Strange’s entire plot is about Batman himself.

Batman #1, Professor Hugo Strange and the Monsters, 1940, Bob Kane and Bill FingerAll this Hugo Strange/Monster Men stuff is inspired by a story from 1940’s Batman #1 entitled “Professor Hugo Strange and the Monsters.” It’s a respectable early outing for the Dark Knight by Bill Finger and Bob Kane in which Strange creates a bunch of big ogres to terrorize the city. Matt Wagner took the same cue for his 2006 miniseries Batman and the Monster Men, which was exponentially better.

“Night of the Monster Men” suffers from a variety of problems. But chief among them is a lack of emotional stakes. That’s an odd problem to have, considering what just happened with Tim, and how many of Batman’s surrogate family members are in this fight. In the first issue, Batman repeatedly emphasizes that no one else is dying. This gives the impression that we’re going to get an overprotective Batman, frantically trying to micromanage the efforts of his partners to keep them from dying. This would be futile, of course. But it would have made a great emotional backdrop. We also had the perfect cast for such a story, with Bruce having recently trusted Batwoman to train this new crop of young heroes. And of course, we’ve got his original partner, Dick Grayson. Hugo Strange’s motive also would have been more poignant.

Instead, we mostly get a story about Batman fighting monsters. Monsters created from cadavers, no less. We can’t even go the route of, “Don’t kill the monsters! They’re people!” Later, two of our heroes are turned into monsters, but they don’t mine this for much emotion either.

Granted, they’re cool looking monsters. “Night of the Monster Men” enlists Riley Rossmo and Andy MacDonald, both of whom excel in the fantasy/horror side of things. We also have they very capable Roge Antonio, who give us a nice blend of horror and naturalism. Instead of going the ogre route, the story mostly opts for a mix of mutant aberrations and giant kaiju type monsters. They’re fun to look at, but they’d be more fun if they were more than mere physical threats to our heroes Batman. There’s little of any depth or substance to them, and what the final issue attempts to pass as such via Strange’s motivation doesn’t connect in a meaningful way. (That monster represented fear? But weren’t we supposed to be afraid of all of them?)

Detective Comics #942, monster two-page spread, 2016So instead of a coherent crossover that ties into and takes advantage of Batman’s fragile emotional state, what we essentially get is a bunch of fluff that they attempt to tie together at the end with some psych mumbo jumbo. It’s all so hollow.

“Night of the Monster Men” also suffers from being a little too long, and a little too crowded. The story struggles to give Spoiler and Orphan something to do in all of this. Like Booster Gold in his Justice League Unlimited episode, they’re mostly relegated to crowd control. There’s a cave sequence (not that cave) involving Spoiler, Orphan, and Harvey Bullock that largely feels like padding. If they’d cut that out, along with the ridiculous scene where our heroes use giant guns and harpoons on top of buildings (conveniently adored with the heroes’ insignias) to stop a monster, they’d probably have been able to trim this down from six issues to four. Five at most.

Nightwing #8 and Detective Comics #942 also make full use of the “Hugo Strange dressed as Batman” trope, as we learn that Strange himself wants to be Batman. A fine motive, though not necessary in this case. “Night of the Monster Men” would have worked fine as Strange’s attempt to spotlight Batman’s inadequacies and force him to hang up the cowl, in the process pouring salt in the wound left by Tim’s departure. Perhaps the urge to use the only piece of classic Batman/Hugo Strange imagery was too intense. Admittedly, at that point I was just happy we were finally getting a scene between two human beings, as opposed to hollow monster battles.

batman-clayface-suit-detective-comicsOn the upside, this story makes fine use of Clayface’s new status as one of Batman’s allies. He plays a practical role at first, spreading himself out to guide people out of the city. He also plays an integral role in the finale. But his highlight here, and one of the highlights in “Monster Men” as a whole, comes in Batman #8. As the Dark Knight is about to face one of the monsters head on, Clayface envelops him, effectively becoming a suit of armor. Does technically this fall under the banner of giant awful Batman robots/armor? Absolutely. But the execution is unique enough that it gets a pass from me.

“Batman and the Monster Men” offers good showings from the artists attached, and a bright spot here or there. But by and large, this was a turn off and a waste. Nightwing and Detective Comics were both on a solid course up to this point, and things were starting to look up for Batman. Hopefully we can get back to our regularly scheduled programming in short order.

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A Detective Comics #941 Review – The Dead Robin Trope

Detective Comics #941, 2016, coverTITLE: Detective Comics #941
AUTHOR: Steve Orlando, James Tynion IV
PENCILLER: Andy MacDonald. Cover by Yanick Paquette.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: September 28, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Thus far, “Night of the Monster Men” has left me uninspired. Certainly not what I was hoping for after what happened with Tim Drake last issue.

The plot of this Batman/Detective Comics/Nightwing crossover is pretty straightforward. Professor Hugo Strange is unleashes a bunch of giant monsters on Gotham City. All the while, a hurricane threatens to hit the city during the attack. Batman, Batwoman, Nightwing, Gotham Girl, and various other members of the surrogate “Bat-Family” are truly in a battle against he elements. But in the wake of Tim’s “death,” the Dark Knight is having trouble allowing others to take the risks necessary to save lives.

Before we get into this issue, or “Night of the Monster Men” as a whole, let’s talk a little bit about what happened to Tim. Rumors of his demise are greatly exaggerated. During the events of Detective Comics #940, he attempted to sacrifice himself in the battle against Jacob Kane and the Colony. But the mysterious Mr. Oz, who we’ve previously seen interact with Superman, captured him. Now everyone, including Batman, believes Tim to be dead. By and large, the whole thing was well done. The art was engaging. The writing was impactful. It was a nice way to put the character on the shelf for refreshment, while also paying tribute to him.

Batman #1, portrait shot, Greg CapulloBut part of me really wishes they hadn’t done it.

I understand there are only so many routes to take with these  superhero characters. At some point, everybody’s going to have a brush with death. But now, all four characters that have been the official canonical Robin have either been killed off, or thought to be dead by almost everyone in their universe. Even Stephanie Brown, who was only Robin for about a month, has “died” and come back. What’s more, most of it has happened in just the last five years.

Let’s look at the timeline…

* 1988: Jason Todd is killed by the Joker in “A Death in the Family.”
* 2004: After a short stint as Robin, Stephanie Brown, a.k.a. the Spoiler, fakes her death.
2013: Damian Wayne is killed in battle by Heretic.
* 2014: With Batman’s help, Dick Grayson fakes his death and joins Spiral.
* 2016: Tim Drake is captured, presumed killed after a fight with the Colony.

The concept of Robin is pretty hard to swallow. It’s always been fun, but if you look at it in a real world context, there’s a definite creep factor to it. This Dead Robin trope ups that creep factor considerably. What we have here is a man continually enlisting aids from these boys, who eventually age out of their role, and all have the same black hair style. And eventually, they all die violently.

Detective Comics #941, 2016, Nightwing, Gotham GirlAm I getting carried away? Maybe. But at the very least, the storytelling in these Bat-books is getting repetitive. I’ll at least credit Tynion and the Detective Comics crew for doing it better than it’s been done in awhile.

“Night of the Monster Men” feels like it’s going to be an examination of the trust Batman puts in his partners, which he’s reconsidering after what happened to Tim. At one point in this issue, Batwoman tells him he’s in a situation he can’t control. Our hero’s response is: “I refuse to accept that scenario.”

What’s happening in Batman’s head is, thus far, the most interesting element in all of this. The trouble is there isn’t much more to latch on to in terms of meat. At least not yet. The monsters look cool enough, but we see they’re somehow created from cadavers. So while they’re obviously very threatening, we’re not invested in them much more than we would be mindless foot soldiers or zombies. Thankfully, that changes at the end of this issue.

This is my first exposure to Andy MacDonald’s work. But he and colorist John Rauch give everything a nice texture, and make solid use of splash pages and larger panels to show off these Godzilla-ish monsters. Our creators also don’t hesitate to use “They’re not alive? Let’s rip ’em to shreds!” logic when it comes to Gotham Girl fighting them.

“Night of the Monster Men” seems like a summer blockbuster that arrived late. Thus far, like many a summer blockbuster, it’s heavy on the action, but low on substance. As we’re halfway through, that doesn’t bode well. We’ve got some really good talent on these books, so I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. But I don’t have high hopes.

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A Detective Comics #934 Review – Rebirth and Redemption

Detective Comics #934, 2016, Eddy BarrowsTITLE: Detective Comics #934
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
PENCILLER: Eddy Barrows
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: June 8, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I dig this issue for no other reason than it rights a wrong that’s been present since 2011. It fixes the Red Robin costume. That thing had been far too ugly for far too long. It was a damn embarassment.

But there’s plenty more to like here. A mysterious force is targeting Gotham’s heroes, some of whom are not prepared for this new threat. Batman comes to Kate Kane, a.k.a. Batwoman, to help train the next generation of heroes. Red Robin, The Spoiler, Orphan, and (of all people) Clayface are chosen to train under The Dark Knight and his new partner. A partner who knows more about Batman than he suspected, and is hungry for more knowledge. Such as what Batman isn’t saying about this new threat to costumed heroes.

This “reborn” Detective Comics has a feel-good vibe to it by virtue of its cast, which consists largely of characters who were screwed over creatively during the New 52. Tim Drake lost so much of his depth and backstory in the reboot, and given that silly costume. I’ve got high hopes that James Tynion IV, an accomplished Batman writer himself, can do some justice for him. And of course, Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain were wiped from continuity and didn’t return until later. With their respective backstories altered, of course. Fans may remember the shakeup in 2013 over DC not allowing Kate Kane to marry. The road to this title has been frustrating. But there’s a nice opportunity for redemption here.

Detective Comics #934, Eddy Barrows, ClayfaceOn the subject of redemption, the addition of Clayface to this team is surprising. He obviously doesn’t qualify as a costumed hero. But it plays to the idea that on some level, Batman really is trying to rehabilitate the villains he fights. The smart bet is this goes bad at some point. But in the meantime, the dynamic Basil Karlo will have with his more virtuous teammates is intriguing.

This issue is also particularly noteworthy for the return of Jean-Paul Valley, the original Azrael, and the man who replaced Bruce Wayne as Batman in the early ’90s Nightfall storyline. How he connects to the Michael Lane version of Azrael (if at all) remains to be seen, and I can only assume Knightfall is no longer canon. But longtime fans may get a kick out of seeing him again, and hopefully not for the last time. As we open the issue, Batman seems to be trying to recruit him. I’d love to see him return as either a part-time ally, or even an enemy.

It’s not often you see Batman playing the good cop. But that’s exactly what we get here, with Batwoman in the bad cop role. She comes off as a hardened drill sergeant, while Batman plays the supportive mentor. It’s a side to him that don’t see quite as regularly. At least not since Batman & Robin ended. What’s more, Batwoman gets put over really well. Especially when she surprises Bruce with the knowledge of his secret.

Eddy Barrows has earned this run on Detective Comics. He’s had memorable runs on both Nightwing and Superman and recently spent some time on Martian Manhunter. He’s good with acting, and emotion, which shows here. From the fear in Azrael’s eyes as Batman closes in, to the intensity and anger from Kate when a mysterious figure appears in her apartment. He’s able to inject sympathy into the otherwordly Clayface as well as any artist I’ve ever seen (shown above). He connects you to the characters well in that sense.  Barrows’ rendering of Batman’s cowl evokes memories of Michael Keaton’s costume from the Tim Burton movies. Inker Eber Ferreira and colorist Adriano Lucas also deserve credit for making the presentation so clean, and beautifully shadowy.

Detective Comics #934, Eddy Barrows, BatmanIt’s Barrows’ body proportioning I’m not certain about. There’s a panel in which The Spoiler is looking down on a crime in progress, and it looks like her legs are separated from her torso. There’s an otherwise beautiful shot of Batwoman swinging through the city in which our heroine looks just a bit too lanky. Barrows also has a weird thing about leg positioning, as we see in a shot of Batman swooping into a building (shown right). It’s a similar bizarre position to the one we saw on his Nightwing #1 cover.

Part of what made DC Universe: Rebirth #1 such a feel-good issue was the combination of story intrigue, and justice finally being done to characters that had gotten a raw deal in recent years (Wally West, Ted Kord, etc.) Detective Comics #934 is similar in that respect. The two issues also weren’t afraid to show us some emotion and humanity. Between Kate’s often volatile nature, the villainous tendencies of Clayface, and the presence of the younger heroes, I suspect there’ll be no shortage of those things going forward. That’s a good thing.

Image 1 from insidepulse.com. Image 2 from comicbookmovie.com.

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