Batman: Night Of The Monster Men Review By Deffinition
Batman and The Monster Men by Matt Wagner is an absolute classic. It captures perfectly the tone of a rookie Batman dealing with his first deadly test. I gave the book a 9/10 due to its groundbreaking tone and re-imagining of old tales. Similar to that re-imagining, DC have decided to once again reboot the Hugo Strange Monster Men motif with their series: Rebirth. Beginning Rebirth’s first ever crossover event it has a lot riding on it’s shoulders. Potentially this could sour the taste I have of the source material by Wagner and it could cause the rebooted Rebirth universe to start with a whimper instead of a bang.
Will it live up to the potential it has and deliver Rebirth’s first crossover hit?
Or should this crossover be crossed off the list when discussing great Batman stories (I admit that barely works as a metaphor).
Let’s jump in and find out!
Strange things are happening
We open on the Gotham Morgue, where strange things are happening. Bodies begin to mutate and we see the rise of The Monster Men. Hugo Strange has been waiting for this moment to strike, training his body and mind to take down Gotham.
Instantly I didn’t like him.
Not because of how evil he was, no. It was because when doing weightlifting, he slammed the weights down after his final rep. If you’ve ever been to a gym and you’ve seen that obnoxious dickhead slamming down weights then you’ll know how bad of a person he is. If you slam down the weights then congratulations, you’re a dickhead. Never slam down the weights. Don’t be Hugo Strange. Anyway, because of this I instantly ranked him as the most evil Batman villain ever.
After slamming the weights down he begins his attack on Gotham.
When the Monster Men (and women, sexist DC) begin attacking the city, the heroes band together to take them down. Batmanwoman, Nightwing, Orphan (bit on the nose), Clayface, Batman and Spoiler form a the squad that Gotham deserves.
It’s great to see Clayface on the team, he’s always been one of my favourite villains so to see the change in his characters is really refreshing and a welcome switch up. When he and Batman team together to create a super Bat Suit, the character really cements his place in the Bat Family and it stands as one of the best uses of the character ever.
Unfortunately, we are never able to become that invested in the all of the heroes due to the pacing of the action. Most things wiz past and there is barely a second to take it all in. In trying to fit everything in, the creative team leave a lot out.
The Bat Beacon
In what could be a rather middling fight it’s nice to see Batman introducing new gadgets and techniques in his war on the Monster Men. Using lampposts to showcase the new Bat Beacon (a hologram of Batman on every corner), he is able to reassure the population all whilst providing a distraction to the monsters.
It adds a welcoming element that breaks up the monotony throughout these parts, however, that element alone doesn’t quite elevate the plot to the standard we see normally in a Bat book of this calibre.
Strange Character Choice
Hugo Strange is one of my favourite Batman Villains ever (I’ve forgiven him for the weight slamming debacle earlier). His psychological breakdown of Batman in stories like ‘Prey’ and ‘Strange Apparitions’ really made him a stand out foe. One that Batman had to tackle with brains rather than brawn. So it seems ‘strange’ (excuse the pun) that he has been relegated to merely sending monsters to fight the Caped Crusader.
I would’ve much preferred a battle of the minds, rather than one in the streets of Gotham and because of this, Night Of The Monster Men seems like a poor use of the character.
We get the old ‘Strange dresses up as Batman’ motif but it doesn’t feel as calculated as before and in all honesty after 40 years of it, I wish that they would do something different. The character feels less interesting due to his lack of intelligence and Batman defeats him rather simply. In my opinion, the villain should be testing, always one step ahead but here he doesn’t really have anything on The Dark Knight and is taken out in swift fashion.
Ending the book and teasing the next chapter.
Batman: Night Of The Monster Men is disappointing. Taking several elements from previous storylines it fails to better or match them. Every beat feeling like a retread, every villain feeling like a watered down version of a past incarnation, every moment feeling like a wasted opportunity. It really misses the mark.
I really wanted this book to match its inspirations but it lacks the character development, psychological warfare and even action that those books had. It’s very dull and even at only six issues, seemed to drag.
It’s not terrible, the art is commendable and I’m sure that this would be a great ride if you were a first time reader. However, there’s so much better material out there that this becomes hard to recommend, that’s why it gets a…