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Batman #8 is the fourth chapter in the “Night of the Monster Men” story, an epic horror adventure that is being spun out across several books in the Bat-family line. Writer Steve Orlando is clearly the mastermind of the arc, taking on the scripting duties and working in collaboration with each book’s regular writer, in this case Tom King. So far, the storyline has been a slightly silly but overall enjoyable creature feature, with Orlando and Company complicating the threat of the monsters by dropping the protagonists into greater and greater levels of peril. But this issue feels less slightly effective, as the issue features little in the way of progression (with one exception) and instead focuses on monster-sized fist fights.
I want to say right here and now that I’m in no way against super-heroes battling monsters. To me, one of the great things about super-hero comics is the way they can veer between soap operatic melodrama to kooky sci-fi monster-chiller-horror-theatre without breaking a sweat. Orlando’s story feels contemporary in that the monsters are both written and drawn to be genuinely creepy and horrific, even while he never forgets some of the goofy Silver-Age fun of Batman vs. Behemoths. The issue contains a lot of great fight scenes, with the topper being a Batman/Clayface team-up vs a Monster-ized Gotham Girl.
The issue offers more than visceral thrills, too, as this story has had a continuing thread running through it revolving around a Batman reeling from the recent loss of an ally and exploring how each of his remaining allies chooses to deal with a Batman who perhaps isn’t marshalling his resources as well or as confidently as he otherwise would. This introspection gives it a bit more heft.
But even with all those positives, the issue does feel like a middle part of a longer arc, which means that very little moves the narrative forward, and there’s a certain amount of wheel-spinning going on. Duke Thomas does provide the major develop of the issue, and it’s a significant one, but Batman and his troops spend the issue fighting off Monsters which is pretty much what they’ve been doing for a while now. Things do progress, don’t get me wrong, and this is clearly the set up for the climax of the arc, so I’m not going to harp on the issue too much. But I will say that it feels a little less successful and fun as the previous instalments have been, even as I can see that the climax is coming quick, and things are about to pick up steam.
Batman#8‘s art by Riley Rossmo is really great. The monsters look nicely organic and skip right up to the edge of tumbling into a straight-up horror vibe without tipping over. The action well-laid out and thrilling, with lots of dynamism. And I love how Rossmo draws the Bat-costumes on display. You can see the material pulling and spot stitches and see it falling and stretching and moving in ways that really give some effective verisimilitude. In a genre where the costumes often seem totally unrealistic and unreal, Rossmo nails how to give the reader an imposing costume that nonetheless feels like actuals clothes made of actual material. It’s a little thing, but look at comics drawn by other artists, even super-star artists, and you’ll be surprised how often their costumes don’t behave like things that exist in a real world. I really appreciated how Batman’s suit bunched and wrinkled slightly when he moved, or how a spotlight shining on his face revealed seams on his cowl. Great detail work, and an unsung talent.
In the end, Batman #8 may not be the best chapter of the “Night of the Monster Men” arc, but it keeps the wheels on the wagon and the wagon heading down the road. It sets up the climax to come well, and the story looks to be heading to an interesting and fun conclusion that will solidify further this new era’s Bat-Family as a cohesive unit. 7.5/10