Man-Bat is back, and I couldn’t be happier. This series has been the most pleasant surprise of the year so far, and I’m still full steam ahead on the hype train. Last issue was a perfect opening to this odyssey to redemption, and the road ahead is shaping up to be a rocky one. Not that a road would even be a problem for a giant bat with wings the size of a car– okay, look, it’s not a perfect metaphor, but bear with me.
Dave Wielgosz is back in full force, and I am convinced he is looking for new ways to hurt me specifically. This issue opens with Kirk and Francine again, this time before it all fell apart, and we get a rather nice view of a moment they shared under the stars in the before times, nebulously referred to in this scene as “then.” Kirk, in the way that he does, starts expressing his dedication to cure his sister’s deafness, expressing frustration that she appears to be upset that he’s trying to help her. That obsessive streak, it appears, has begun to take root, even years before Man-Bat. It also adds a little bit of a gut-punch tacked onto that sonic cannon incident last issue, in which Kirk caused several people to lose their hearing. Ouch.
In the present day, it’s apparent that Kirk feels that punch as well. We find him on the run, out in the boonies somewhere, desperately trying to cure the Man-Bat serum eating him alive. This is a man that hasn’t been through hell, but is still neck deep in brimstone. Wielgosz wants us to know it, too. As Kirk internally monologues, toiling away over what appears to be the hundredth or so bat he’s dissected, a targeting reticle focuses on his head. Who’s taking aim at our not-quite-hero? None other than Deadshot, of course! That’s right, not only has Kirk pissed off the Batman, not only has he garnered the attention of GCPD with his righteous rampage; he’s also put himself right in the sights of Task Force X, and they’re pulling out all the stops. They’re here to steal some kind of… mysterious… science… thing… from Kirk, contained in a metal briefcase a la Pulp Fiction. It’s not really explained, but that’s not important this issue. What is important is the SUPER COOL VILLAIN SMACKDOWN BABY, WOO!
HELL YEAH, MONSTER FIGHT!
Now, as cool as the big fight may be, it does take up a majority of the issue, and veers a little close to the boring side. I can only take so much of powerhouses smacking each other around in a book. Luckily for me, Wielgosz uses it as a backdrop to some very interesting character beats, one of which really stuck out. Man-Bat is addicted to freedom, and he’s willing to do anything to keep it, as he showed us in the back of the police truck last issue. When the Suicide Squad appears on his doorstep, he’s convinced they want to take him away, just like they did to Deadshot, and Croc, and Harley, and he FREAKS out, leading to what might be my favorite panel of the comic:
Wow. Just. Wow. This panel jumped off the page to me, screamed at me like it was Kirk himself screeching in my ear. I think this is one of the best character moments I’ve read recently, and a lot of that has to do with the art. Speaking of:
Kumar and Fajardo have knocked it out of the park again. The continued use of line to define and emphasize Man-Bat’s form works tremendously to the book’s advantage, and makes the fight scenes all the more dynamic, like the combatants really are moving at incredible speeds, hitting with incredible force, and doing incredible damage.
I think I’M going to feel that in the morning.
This pair’s style is unique and suits Man-Bat perfectly. The pencils are just abstract enough to make the creature feel horrifying to watch, and the choice to keep it partially obscured in shadow, even when it’s fully out in daylight, keeps the feeling of terror throughout the book. The colors are just muted enough to give this dreary, almost noir vibe while still being bright enough to pop visually.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t shout out Tom Napolitano’s lettering this issue. You all remember how much I love monster bubbles, and with both Man-Bat and Croc in this issue, I’m swimming in a Scrooge McDuck vault of them. I really got the sense that Napolitano was having fun with this, and I always love to see the letterers go off.
- You enjoyed the last issue and you want more of that sweet sweet tragic hero story.
- Super-powered slugfests are your jam.
- Kirk Langstrom’s inner workings fascinate you.
This issue is full of action, intrigue, and cool monsters. That’s all I needed to buy a book, honestly, and, even if that premise is kind of bland, the internal character stuff here more than makes up for it. Kirk has been on kind of a downward spiral for the past two issues, and things get a lot worse for him here. The B plot, which I didn’t mention for spoiler’s sake, seems like just another scoop on top of the ice cream sundae of trouble that’s being forced down Kirk’s throat. I’m all for putting the hero through strife, and I am very invested in where Kirk ends up at the end of this issue, but it would be nice to see things at least have a chance of getting better soon, especially since this is a 5-issue mini.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.