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Why the hell does anyone continue living in Gotham City? Every other month, a city-ending apocalypse is visited upon that city. Hardest job in Gotham? Real-estate agent. Detective Comics #941 is the third chapter in the “Night of the Monster Men” storyline, which features yet another all-out assault on Gotham, this time orchestrated by Hugo Strange, involving mutating human beings into gigantic grotesque monsters who rampage across Batman’s home town. To that end, while the story is kind of silly, it’s a kind of silly that is familiar and acceptable to anyone who reads comics on a regular basis. The resulting issue is another solid instalment in a story arc that, while it stretches across several titles, is effectively tense, exciting, and easy to follow even for those who haven’t read the other titles.
As Batman and his allies race all over the city in an attempt to curtail the havoc, stem the loss of life, and protect the citizenry, things continue to spiral out of control. Even with more resources to call upon than ever before, Batman and his team seem outmatched, and the issue succeeds in giving the reader the impression that things could actually be hopeless for the Dark Knight, no easy feat given that Batman is almost certainly going to win. But at what cost?
Detective Comics #941 is written by Steve Orlando and James Tynion IV, with final script by Orlando. Andy MacDonald handles art duties. The whole team delivers a solid chapter to this horror-tinged epic. The stakes genuinely rise in the issue, which is no small thing given that the opening chapters involved a city under siege by rampaging and gross monsters. The story shows the heroes making mostly the right calls, but still not being able to deal with the sheer scope of the chaos that surrounds them. Even when certain characters make decisions that are clearly mistakes, their choices come from reasonable and understandable motivations rather than a sudden drop in IQ points for narrative purposes. Additionally, Orlando and Co. have been very smart about continually using the events of the plot to comment on Batman and the way he interacts with his supporting cast. Coming so soon after a recent loss in his life, we get to see him making decisions while still processing that and how it may be causing him to marshall his forces less effectively. The script manages to make this supporting cast as interesting as Batman’s has been in some time, and everyone involved is genuinely interesting and compelling, with individual points of view and unique character.
The art by Andy MacDonald works really well. There’s particular skill on display in terms of pacing, as reading the issue just flies by. His layouts and his command of dynamic, kinetic movement make the story zip along, which is perfectly in keeping with the way the script flips between characters, moving at a breakneck pace. The monsters on display are effectively bizarre and undeniably icky enough to be actually creepy from a horror point of view. If you’re expecting to see big old Kirbyesque Monster Island stuff, you will not see it here. This is more as if a bunch of creatures from a 1980s Vertigo comic just dropped into a Batman book, and that’s no bad thing.
In the end, Detective Comics #941 is a thrilling and unsettling issue that works. It advances the plot and ups the stake with energy and efficiency, without forgetting to do a little character work, and manages to be surprisingly gory and creepy, though not inappropriately so. If the idea of Gotham City under attack by monsters straight out of John Carpenter’s “The Thing” is kind of silly, at least it’s silly in the best comic book tradition. It’s this simple spooky good Halloween vibe that lets me give the issue an 8.5/10.