This article contains spoilers for “Batman” #7 and “Nightwing” #5, on sale now.
The first Bat-title crossover of the Rebirth era begins, harkening back to some of the earliest stories of the Dark Knight. Seeded throughout Tom King and David Finch’s first arc, “Night of the Monster Men” officially begins in “Batman” #7 in a story co-written by King and Steve Orlando and illustrated by Riley Rossmo, and continues in “Nightwing” #5 by Orlando, Tim Seeley and Roge Antonio, also out this week. With the Bat-family’s recent loss, can they cope with disasters both natural and unnatural?
The Monster Men
Hugo Strange and his monster men first fought the Caped Crusader way back in “Batman” #1 – not the one published earlier this year, or the one that kicked off the acclaimed Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo run, but the actual, for-real “Batman” #1 from 1940. Sixty-six years later, Matt Wagner adapted the story into a six-issue miniseries “Batman and the Monster Men,” bringing Strange into Batman’s modern continuity by setting the adventure shortly after Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s “Batman: Year One.” In both iterations, Strange fit the mad scientist archetype, performing genetic experiments on Arkham inmates before being brought low by Batman.
In the current story by Orlando, King and Rossmo, a pair of unusual suicides and two other fatalities sprinkled throughout early issues of “Batman” and other series begin rising from their mortuary slabs, erupting in boils, multiplying in size and transmogrifying into hideous creatures before bursting out to lay siege to Gotham.
Strange, meanwhile, may not be a monster himself, but he is a beast, totally ripped as he pumps iron, in the nude, in his dank basement lair.
Even before Strange’s monsters attack, the Bat-family is in crisis, trying to formulate a plan to evacuate at-risk areas of the city before a massive hurricane barrels down on Gotham, then keep the peace in the safe zone they’ve created in a cave outside of town – all while mourning one of the youngest members of their team, Tim Drake, believed dead after the events of “Detective Comics” #940. (Readers will be aware that Red Robin did not actually perish, but is being held captive by the enigmatic Mr. Oz.)
Basically as soon as Batman has formulated a plan, the titular “Night” kicks off. Dispatching his trusted allies to protect the citizens of Gotham from the hurricane and flooding, the Dark Knight is left to combat the monsters by his lonesome, aided only by Alfred and a voice-activated Batplane and glider.
Throughout the fight, though, it becomes clear how heavily Tim’s “death” is weighing on Batman’s mind. He’s pushing himself harder, or perhaps it’s simply that his mind is rooted not in the usual efficiency of finding the best method to accomplish the task at hand, but rather in not letting his fallen apprentice down.
As the team regroups, though, and Batman puts together the pieces of Strange’s plan, another monster attacks.
Soldiers Functioning as a Unit
The story continues in “Nightwing” #5, where the Bat-team begins to chafe under its leader’s protective leathery wing. Duke Thomas, crimefighter in training, is sick and tired of being stuck in the Batcave while all of the action is out on the streets, and Nightwing bucks orders to stand with Batman and Batwoman to fight the monsters directly before Bruce convinces him that what he needs most from Dick are his detective skills. Batwoman too challenges her commanding officer, questioning his motives for delegating as he has.
As Nightwing investigates the morgue, he discovers there are four bodies missing, not just the two that have already revealed their monstrous transformation. Grayson decides to head to Blackgate prison, former home of the man who would become Monster #3, to stop the rampage already in progress.
Gotham Girl, still reeling from the Psycho Pirate’s mind manipulation and knowing that her powers are slowly killing her, nevertheless springs into action, unable to tolerate being able to “hear people being torn apart at Blackgate.” She is, as she points out, faster than anyone, and will reach the prison ahead of Nightwing.
But how will she fare against Strange’s monstrosities? That’s a question for “Night of the Monster Men” part 3, arriving next week in “Detective Comics” #941.
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