So, uh… remember last review, when I said I wanted things to get better for Kirk? I think Dave Wielgosz read that, laughed, and plunged another knife into the heart of the mannequin dressed exactly like me that he keeps by his workstation. Seriously, this guy is committed to Kirk’s suffering. This book is chock-full of punch after punch in the 600-hit combo that is the life of Man-Bat. So, let’s get this over with. I have to go sit in a dark room and contemplate the nature of pain.

The Writing

Dave Wielgosz is back at the helm for this issue, and it seems he may have sailed into a bit of a storm. This installment begins with the therapy session seen last month, picking up directly where we left off. Kirk has a fantasy sequence where he cures deafness, repairs the damage done by the sonic cannon back in the first issue, and is celebrated as a hero by the people of Gotham. Harley interrupts to remind Kirk he’s crazy, and this is where we run into my first big problem with this issue: I don’t like Harley here.

After interrupting Kirk, she proceeds to tell him for, I kid you not, two whole pages exactly how he’s going to fail and exactly what’s going to happen to him. It just feels odd, and drags the narrative down with some weird non-exposition. We know it will be bad if Waller gets Man-Bat, we don’t need a hypothetical play-by-play. Harley concludes her spiel by injecting Kirk with a serum that turns him back into his human form, and then… breaks the fourth wall? It’s not out of character for her per se, she’s done it before, but this just kind of feels like the wrong place to do it.

Seriously, did we need this in this book? It took me out of the moment.

This wacky ha ha hijinks stuff feels even weirder when, on the next page, Harley pulls a 180 and levels with Kirk, delivering an honestly heartwarming speech. She knows what it’s like to want to change after doing bad things. She has faith in Kirk, but warns him that he’s in dangerous waters. After this, that plot gets dropped and we travel all the way to Bludhaven, where Francine Langstrom has been keeping tabs on Man-Bat’s appearances in the news. She’s in the middle of expressing her immense disappointment when- what’s this? Scarecrow?

Wait a second, he looks awesome!

That’s right, Scarecrow’s in this book! I bet you forgot about him. It’s okay to admit it, I did too. But he’s here now, and boy oh boy is he planning… something. I won’t spoil it here, but his master plan is kind of… underwhelming. It’s an interesting step for Crane to take, sure, and not bad in any way, but I feel like the setup in issue one felt like he wanted something a little more unconventional.

While all of this is happening, Kirk heads out on his own for a place to stay. He shows up at the door of his sister, and attempts to reconnect with her while he continues his search for a cure. All of the time spent with his sister culminates in a moment that I just have to put in the spoilers, because I want to gush about it.

Spoiler

This is absolutely fantastic. Kirk’s sister being proud of her deafness, acknowledging it doesn’t make her broken, spitting in the face of Kirk’s misplaced pity hit me so hard. I and several of my very close friends have invisible disabilities, and representation like this was just really nice to see.

The Art

The art in this issue is fine. It’s about on par with the other books, but my biggest complaint is that it’s really plain. I know a lot of it is the fault of the story, there’s not terribly much action in this issue, but there’s none of the exciting linework I’ve gushed about so far. That being said, Sumit Kumar is a great artist. He sets tone masterfully, using just enough detail (or lack thereof) in his backgrounds to keep things surreal. The whole book looks and feels like Kirk has been running on empty for far longer than anyone ever should. Even Kirk himself just looks… tired.

 

I don’t know whether this man needs a nap or a hug first, but he definitely needs both.

Romulo Fajardo Jr. returns as colorist, and he’s amazing as always. I’m a big fan of the way he makes important objects pop off the page, ever so subtly drawing your attention to them. The things that need to pop do pop, but they never clash with the dark, noir-y atmosphere of the book. Masterfully done, for sure.

Tom Napolitano’s lettering is, as always, a highlight of the book for me. You all know I love monster bubbles, and there’s no shortage of them here, but there’s a special little present specifically made just for me towards the beginning of the book.

The bubble wraps around the word!! How cool is that?

Yes, Mr. Napolitano did this specifically to make me, Cam Lipham, insanely happy. Eat your heart out, everyone else.

Recommended If…

  • This series has enraptured you as much as it has me.
  • Good family drama is your thing.
  • You like seeing Scarecrow be actually terrifying, because you, like me, have good taste.

Overall

This is a good entry in the 5-issue arc for Man-Bat. Not great, but good. The story is kind of all over the place. The art, while still amazing, doesn’t have the chance to shine here as much as it did previously. So much happens in this book that none of it really gets the chance to actually happen. It just gets shown to us and ends up kind of feeling like one big smorgasbord of “and then”. It’s a fine book, but I feel it pales in comparison to the previous issues.

Score: 6/10


Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.