Get it? I feel the Dark Moon Rising!! Creedence puns rule!
Anyhow, the Dark Moon Rising is the name of Matt Wagner's two Batman mini-series, his original, The Monster Men and the current sequel, The Mad Monk.
The basic idea behind the series is an engaging high concept idea, which is "Let us depict that exact moment when Batman realized he was going from fighting mobsters to fighting supervillains." It's an intriguing concept, and Matt Wagner does an excellent job of recreating the mood of this time in Batman's career. Meanwhile, Wagner's artwork continues to be stellar, presenting a highly enjoyable reading experience.
One of the most impressive things about reading the trade collection of the Monster Men is the fact that I actually had to go back and count to see where the chapter breaks were, and yet, when reading the comics in individual issues, I do not recall the cliffhangers not seeming like standard cliffhangers. Yet Wagner manages to meld them together into an impressively cohesive narrative.
His sense of artistic design has always been impressive, and it is not put to waste on much of this title (although, I will admit, the actual "Monster Men," experiments by the evil Hugo Strange, aren't exactly cleverly designed).
Probably Wagner's greatest accomplishment is in getting me to care about Julie Madison and Hugo Strange, two characters I've never much cared for. But here, Julie is handled well, depicting just the type of woman you can see Bruce Wayne falling for. The descent of her father into madness (due to guilt) is gripping.
Hugo Strange, meanwhile, is at the most interesting that I've seen him in quite some time. Perhaps my favorite scene in Monster Men is when Strange is monitoring Batman fighting the creatures. You can taste his envy of Batman, it's so well presented.
Mad Monk, meanwhile, continues the tale of Monster Men, while also continuing the spiral into madness by Julie Madison's father, and her disaffection with Batman.
Mad Monk is post "supervillain," so it's a good deal lighter in shadows than Monster Men, especially the use of Catwoman.
All together, with its strong art, engaging story and interesting characterizations, Matt Wagner has himself a hit with Dark Moon Rising.
I can't wait to see what project he has in store for us next!