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The final chapter of “Night of the Monster Men” has arrived, and wouldn’t you know it, now it decides to start getting good.  Seriously?!?  I’ve waded through all this monster goo to make it this far , and it’s nice to finally be rewarded in some small way, but couldn’t we have had more of this sprinkled throughout the entire arc.  It’s like, “Here you go.  Check out this awesome scene.  Oops.  Here’s the end.  Sorry about that.  Hope you enjoyed that because we are done now.”

Hugo Strange!

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He was definitely the best part of this entire comic, and honestly, the best part of this entire story arc.  And not just one line here or there.  It was every single thing Strange did and said.  From the way he acted to the way he looked.  From his role as super mastermind to his psychological banter.  It was all so perfect and wonderful.  And to top it all off, Batman and Strange’s conflict resolution was so much more than just some flashy physical showdown.  It was about wits.  It’s such a huge departure from the rest of the story that it really stood out to me as something special.  Everything up till now had been nothing but action action action.  But Strange’s final trap is anything but physical.  In fact, it directly take the physical out of the equation, forcing Batman to resort to strategy over fists.  It’s so great.

With this in mind, it really made me wonder why Strange would devise a plan that rested almost solely on testing Batman’s physical aptitudes instead of undermining his mental stability along the way as well.  If this arc had included more of this mental harassment parallel to having to deal with the monsters, it would have been burning Batman’s candle from both ends, so to speak.  It also would have provided something more worthwhile for people like me to latch onto instead of just this mindless monster mayhem we’ve been experiencing up till now.  I don’t mind action, but this story had no balance.  A little more of this psychological torment throughout would have gone a long way into making this a truly worthwhile story.  Alas, that was not the case.

Go Voltron Force!

I know that throughout this entire arc I’ve made various jokes in regards to Voltron, but this final issue really takes the cake.

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Activate interlock! Dynotherms connected! Infracells up! Megathrusters are go!

At this point, there is no way that the creative team isn’t intentionally trying to channel a Voltron vibe.  I mean, look at that.  The circular metallic dilating doors.  The cockpits.  But the one that really got me was the panel of Cassandra Cain being lowered down a circular shaft on a cable with a hand-grip bar.  That is 100% from Voltron.  When I flipped the page and saw this series of panels, the theme music literally started playing in my head.  And because of that, I actually kind of loved it.  But not because of it, in and of itself.  But because of the association I was making to something else that I hold to be awesome.  I think the fact that I enjoy Voltron shows that I am not above enjoying mindless monster smashing goodness, and sorry to reiterate this yet once again, but I just don’t think this kind of thing belongs in a contemporary Batman story.

The Justice League…late to the party

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I hate to say I told you so (no I don’t), but this did just deteriorate into another “Gotham City gets destroyed” storyline.  Just look at all the devastation from this one shot.  I see like 10 toppled skyscrapers down that one street alone.  Let’s not even think about all the stuff off panel.  But that’s not even the worst thing to consider from the inclusion of this page.  It’s the fact that the Justice League shows to help with cleanup but wasn’t called in to deal with the actual problem.  And don’t tell me they couldn’t come.  Two months ago Batman called them in Batman #5 and they showed up in mere seconds.  If you don’t want to leave me wondering why they didn’t show up for the main fight, it’s probably a better idea to not even include them at all.

Odds and Ends:

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  • There is so much about this that makes little to no sense.  Since when do Spoiler and Cassandra Cain have personal insignias?  And what are those symbols even supposed to mean?  At first I thought the O was for Orphan, but since it’s in Spoiler colors, I’m now thinking it’s a Zero.  But I don’t know why a zero would represent Spoiler.
  • Are these towers already set up to display these specific insignias?  If so, how did Batman know that those specific individuals would pick those specific towers and already have them outfitted with the correct insignia ahead of time.  If not, that means they are outfitted with giant display screens that can broadcast any image.  So what does that mean?  Did a panel pop up when they sat in the cockpit that asked them to pick a symbol to represent themselves.  It’s like something out of a video game.  And really, it hardly seems necessary when there are more important things to be doing, like defeating monsters.  It’s one of those elements that I’ve complained about before, there merely to look cool.  The only thing I could think was that it was done to identify the towers so that they wouldn’t accidentally shoot each other in a crossfire or something.  But hey.  How about just not shooting the other giant towers with giant quad-lasers mounted to the roofs.
  • How convenient that the monster happens to be situated right in the center of all 4 towers without them doing anything to lead it there….

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  • Is this a shot of Spoiler lifting 400 pounds of steel I-beams?  Did they even think about this before deciding to render the image?  Common sense people….common sense.
Spoiler

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  • Nightwing has balls of solid steel.  He basically lets the monster eat him so that he can inject it with the antitherapy from inside.  But he didn’t know he was going to survive that.  You’re the man Nightwing!
  • During the conversation with Batman, I originally thought the sweating and all the “hgnk” noises Strange was making were to show that he was actually afraid of Batman, not that he was slowly passing out.

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  • I only had one problem with this scene.  They aren’t pumping the oxygen out.  They merely sealed the room so that no more oxygen could get in and CO2 couldn’t escape.  That is a pretty big room.  I looked up some random computations online to determine survival times in a sealed space.  Even in a 10x10x10 space, we are looking at hours before death, not minutes.  That room is much bigger than that.  No way would Strange pass out that quickly in a room of that size.


Interesting Facts:

Since we see Hugo in the Batman suit in this issue, I figured I’d point out a couple of other key moments when he wore the suit.

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  • Detective Comics #472 (1977).  This is the opening page of 472 and marks the first occasion on which Hugo donned the Bat-suit.  It’s part of the story line that has come to be known as Strange Apparitions and is brought to us by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers.  If you’re a Bat-fan and haven’t had an opportunity to read this, I highly recommend tracking it down.  It’s definitely one of the most quintessential Batman runs ever written.

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  • Batman #356 (1983).  I’m including this one, but not as a recommendation, merely as an excuse for a chuckle.  Basically Strange had been fighting with Batman&Robin in a mock up of Wayne Manor and the Batcave.  Once he realized he was no match for the Dynamic Duo, he blows up everything taking himself and Batman&Robin with him.  However, in the very next scene Batman&Robin are back at the real Wayne Manor explaining to Alfred what happened.  Turns out that during Hugo’s monologuing, Batman and Robin just left.  You see, without his glasses Hugo is essentially blind.  It makes the panel above even funnier when you realize that he is yelling at nobody and then blows himself up for nothing.  It’s a pretty ludicrous way to go.

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Great scene.  I love how he talks about being invincible and then almost falls to his death.

Hugo Strange is such a great character.

  • Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #11-15, PREY (1990).  If you want to read a really good Hugo Strange story, I highly highly highly recommend PREY.  It’s just perfect.  (I really need to start doing some retro reviews for the site so that those of you who only buy the contemporary stuff can see that there are hundreds of excellent stories from that past that are dozens of times better than almost everything being currently written.)

Variant Cover:

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I haven’t been including the variant covers up till now, but this one by Rafael Albuquerque really caught my attention and I felt compelled to include it.  The colors, composition, and layout of the piece really make it pop.  Incidentally, does anyone else think that monster looks remotely like Azmodan from the video game Diablo 3?

Recommended if…

  • You’ve been following “Night of the Monster Men” and wanna see how it concludes.
  • You’re a fan of Hugo Strange.  He’s the one bright spot in an otherwise dull story.

Overall:

Hugo Strange finally makes a sizeable appearance in his own story…and it’s phenomenal!  Unfortunately, it’s really the only redeeming feature in this issue, and perhaps the entire arc.  While great, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s tacked onto a bunch of other substandard material.  Basically, a case of too little too late.

SCORE: 6.5 / 10