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After four issues that saw the “Night of the Monster Men” arc stay on just the right side of goofy monster mash fun while still feeling grounded, the conclusion of the mini-event is a missed opportunity, with Detective Comics #942 delivering a climax that doesn’t pack much of a punch and lacks narrative clarity to the resolution.
Writers Steve Orlando & James Tynion IV, with artist Andy MacDonald, deliver a finale that is neither thrilling nor satisfying. There are some bright spots, notably in how Nightwing uses clues learned this issue to develop an important strategy to defeat the monsters, but from a writing point of view, that’s really the only positive. The rest of the issue sees the monstrous aspects tip headlong over the line of grounded but goofy into totally unbelievable and silly. I’m not sure if it’s the idea that Batman has equipped Wayne Tower Buildings to transform into giant laser gun equipped super-weapons, or if its the idea of these monsters (who already were right up against what readers typically will accept in a Batman comic produced after 1971) combining into one giant behemoth somehow, but neither of these moments worked for me. They just felt over-the-top in a way that didn’t mesh with Batman. Maybe a less out of left field execution might have worked, but for me, it broke my suspension of disbelief. Batman books can support a degree of the fantastic; Clayface and Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy, for example. But when buildings turn into weapons like something out of Voltron or Transformers to fight 100 story tall monsters, then it feels like the kind of thing better suited to a setting more used to the overtly fantastic.
This wouldn’t have been so out of place had the ultimate confrontation between Batman and the story’s mastermind, Hugo Strange, had the dramatic impact it needed. The climatic battle between Strange and Batman basically consisted of Batman coming into a room and standing there while Strange ranted about things that weren’t especially interesting. The resolution to their “battle” doesn’t really make any sense, either. I don’t want to spoil things, but it basically consists of Batman letting Strange talk until he’s blue in the face. And while I’ve always been a fan of a hyper-capable Batman, I’m not sure how they expect me to buy Batman’s method of defeating Strange. The explanation he gives doesn’t really make sense given how a human being’s body works. And even if you do buy his method, it’s still a pretty undramatic way of stopping a bad guy. I could excuse this if Strange were written as a compelling and brilliant character, sufficiently interesting enough to be impressive as an antagonist. But here he spends the issue spouting analysis that frankly every Bat-fan has already considered and not really doing much else. And he’s defeated so easily that Strange never comes alive as a threat or as a compelling character.
Nightwing’s deduction on how to stop the monsters is neat, but how he uses it to defeat said monsters still doesn’t quite make sense to me either. I mean I get it, but Nightwing makes some pretty bizarre leaps in judgement that I have trouble seeing how he arrived at his hugely dangerous and still kind of baffling course of action.
The art by MacDonald does its best, and there are some nice body moments throughout, but if you;re looking at the art to help you explain some of the story’s shakier choices, you won’t get much help. Take Nightwing’s decisive plan to stop the monsters, which involves some psychobabble to really understand. The art doesn’t help make these unclear aspects any more clearer. I still don’t quite get why what Nightwing does results in a victory.
All in all, Detective Comics #942 was a disappointment to me, as I was looking forward to another Silver Age slugfest with monsters and a definitive battle against a sneering bad guy. Instead we got tedious psychobabble used to set up resolutions that weren’t as clear as they needed to be or as dramatic as we wanted them to be. 4.5/10