Detective Comics #23.4 – Man-Bat #1 review

DetectiveComics23ManBat

It’s highly likely that you’ll spend more time reading this review than you will reading the actual comic because this book is a lightning-quick read. In the spirit of that, I’m going to try my hardest to keep my own review short, but seeing as how I almost always hit a thousand words…

Does it add anything to the Forever Evil plot? No. There’s some mention, but really this could’ve happened on any other week in Gotham City.

Is it an origin story? No! If you want that, read the Detective Comics backup stories.

Why should I read it then? You should read it if you’re at all curious about what the New 52 Man-Bat is like because it’s actually a decent story about this character. You should also read it if you’ve been keeping up with John Layman’s Detective Comics run, which has featured Man-Bat backup stories in the past few issues. Surprisingly, this one-shot picks up almost exactly where John Layman left off with the last backup tale and we actually get some pretty major developments.

So it’s actually a turning point for the character? Yes. And that’s something that we haven’t seen in any of the other villains month books. While the other titles are giving out origin stories or brief set-up for Arkham War, or a current tale that showcases what the bad guy is all about– Man-Bat #1 actually has a bit of an arc for our main character.

What you’ll find in this issue is a Man-Bat more in-tune with the original Neal Adams depiction of the character as more of an anti-hero or a guy who just wanted to do some good but always made a mess of it. He also talks, which is something the Adams’ version of the character did quite often while recent incarnations have been reduced to roars and growls alone. Basically, over the course of this issue  you will see a more heroic Man-Bat try to find a way to defeat his wife, Francine. If you’ve not been keeping up with current Detective comics then what I just said might confuse you. To sum things up: in the New 52, Francine was actually a corporate spy who used Dr. Kirk Lanstrom AKA Man-Bat just so she could get to his formula. Francine eventually got her hands on it and tried to make her own only she used a vampire bat and when you make an already addictive serum with bloodthirsty bat DNA and give it to an evil woman you end up with a monster that needs to be stopped at all costs.

So, as I said, we get an action-packed and quickly paced story about Kirk Langstrom using science to try and concoct a new serum that will make him powerful enough to take down his Were-Bat-Ex-Wife only things escalate much further beyond that and we have to wonder if Kirk is now becoming a monster himself. Will he remain the likeable Neal Adams version of the character for long? It’s all pretty entertaining stuff and it has some of the best artwork of any of the Villains Month books I’ve seen. Scot Eaton draws some pretty ferocious monsters and the colors by Jeromy Cox are perfectly in line with what we’ve seen from the Detective Comics backup so there’s a nice sense of flow from those books to this.

The lowpoint of the issue was definitely when Man-Bat was face-to-face with a common thug who said “What the hell’s this? Batman’s gone… so he left us his pet? Man, get lost!”

I wasn’t sure if writer Frank Tieri had failed to capture how scary an 8ft tall monster would be to an average thug or if artist Scot Eaton had failed to draw the thug’s balls as big as they would have to be to say something like that to an 8ft tall monster.

SHOW SPOILER ▼

Recommended If…

  • You enjoyed Penguin #1, also written by Frank Tieri
  • The Man-Bat backups in Detective Comics have been a joy to read month to month. This is a VERY important chapter in that story
  • You want to see some really cool looking monsters fight. The beasts in this book are all well-drawn by Scot Eaton

Overall

As a fun short story about monsters it’s a success, but it really is over and done with far too quickly even if it has some cool imagery. It’s the readers of John Layman’s Detective Comics that I recommend this to the most. I think Tieri and Eaton did a great job, I just wish there was more of it and that the fight between Man-Bat and Francine had carried more weight.

SCORE: 7/10

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