Detective Comics #942: Night Of The Monster Men Part. 6
Story: Steve Orlando & James Tynon IV
Script: Steve Orlando
Artist: Andy MacDonald
Colors: John Rauch
Letters: Marilyn Patrizio
Cover: Yanick Paquette & Nathan Fairborn
Review By: Nate Mondschein (@33andMoonshine)
(Look, I’ve been trying to figure out a worthwhile “Spoiler” v. “SPOILERS” joke for a while now, but it’s late and I’ve got work in the morning, so lets just say “SPOILERS FOR DC #942 AHEAD” and call it a night)
As a longtime Bat-Family devotee, June’s announcement of the Night of the Monster Men crossover filled me with two familiar yet contradictory anxieties: first, that the story would clash with and irreparably alter the DNA of my favorite DC characters in some fundamental (and potentially undesirable) manner; second, that ultimately the series would prove to be little more than an incidental interruption to our regularly scheduled programming, too detached from its included titles to carry any real significance of its own.
To the credit of all creators involved, throughout its six-issue run, Night of the Monster Men has managed to dance past both potential pitfalls. But somewhere along the way, narrative guides King, Tynon, Seely, and Orlando traded the promise of a humanistic take on family dynamics in the wake of tragedy for an all-too-familiar psycho-analysis of Papa Bat and his personal bat demons, and the story suffers for it.
But lets start with what works:
In Detective Comics #942, Orlando throws us cowl-first into the final monstrous showdown, as the Bat family (minus a sorely missed Clayface) swing into an opening two page splash of an off-kilter Gotham at the apex of it’s destruction: Mega-Zord Monster-Hybrid, a hulking mass of jagged spine and puss and swelling has tag-teamed with Hurricane Milton to lay waste to the appropriately named “Church of St. Elijah The Thunderer” and its surrounding edifices. It’s a striking image delivered by the steady hand of Andy MacDonald, who splits the difference between the event’s two other artists, Riley Rossmo and Roge Antonio, delivering a stylized yet grounded take on Gotham’s destruction at the hands of Strange’s creations.
These are the moments in which Night Of The Monster Men has thrived, when extraordinary, insurmountable odds are (for lack of a better word) surmounted by our comparatively ordinary protagonists; an endless series of grotesque David and Goliath parables transposed upon a faux-Manhattan backdrop. Detective Comics #942 is no different, as the story’s climax turns Dick Grayson up full-cirque-du-sole, depending upon his untethered leap into Gotham Own Sarlac Pit AKA gaping maw of the final beast to bring about Team Strange’s ultimate unraveling in a violent fury of Pepto-Bismol vomit.
Orlando and his co-plotters make carful effort to emphasize the fragility of the their cast in these scenarios, linking Nightwing’s apparent consumption to Tim Drakes recent “death,” or noting the impending fatal consequences of Gotham Girl’s continued reliance on her powers. Coming in the wake of such a dramatic tragedy (at least in the minds of the Bat-Family and anyone who hasn’t read the last two pages of DC #940), there is plenty of emotional resonance to be found here, and the opportunity for unusual character motivations to come to the foreground; most notably, Bruce “Maybe I Should Stop Adopting Children” Wayne’s uncharacteristic overprotective streak.
Unfortunately, where this event (and more specifically, this issue) falls short is in its apparent prioritization of form over deeper exploration of these themes: a three-title crossover demands a neatly-wrapped six-issue arc, which turns away from the family-centric subject matter in favor of a head-to-head confrontation with the Big Bad. And while MacDonald’s splash of a Batman-Cosplaying Dr. Strange is legitimately stunning (and also makes a resounding case for the good doctor as Gotham’s Top Hoarder), their subsequent altercation feels rushed, deprived of the attention necessary to afford a genuine sense of gravitas. Pacing becomes unhinged, dialogue breaks down into self-contradictory spurts, and what we’re left with is a visually gripping yet ultimately unfulfilling conclusion.
And yet, at the end of the day, what else can we ask for? Night of the Monster Men gave us exactly what its title promised: a gargantuan, demon-baby-baby-shaped smoke break from the usual Gotham City grind. A months worth of cringe-worthy fun, even if it fell short of a more longer-lasting impact. But with James Tynion IV delivering one of the better Detective Comics run in recent memory, I for one am more than ready to get back to work.
Verdict: What you see is what you get, so if a Kaiju-style showdown in Gotham is up your alley, Detective Comics #942 is definitely worth a read. But don’t let the earliest issues fool you into expecting much else.