How many Batman books is too many Batman books? Depending on who you ask there ain’t no such thing! We try to stay up on what’s going on at DC, but we can’t always dig deep into every issue. The solution? Our weekly round-up of titles coming out of DC Comics. Today, we’re discussing Batman 8, Nightwing 6, Green Arrow 8 and Green Lanterns 8. Also, we’ll be talking about Midnighter and Apollo 1 on Tuesday so come back for that! As always, this article containers SPOILERS.
Drew: Crossover events have to walk a fine line. If the constituent episodes have too much of the identity of their respective series, the coherence of the overall crossover could be lost — if they have too little, the coherence of each series is compromised. It’s a tricky balance, but I think Steve Orlando has cracked it with “Night of the Monster Men,” co-writing each episode with the writers of each respective series. The result is as coherent a though line as we might expect from a single writer, but also manages to capture some of the personality of each of the writers he’s collaborating with. Batman 8 is a perfect example, incrementally advancing Orlando’s narrative, while toying with the themes that have defined Tom King’s run thus far. The result feels like it fits in perfectly as both an issue of Batman and a chapter of “Night of the Monster Men.”
For me, the biggest charm of King’s Batman is the allure of watching plans deployed perfectly. His Batman is always prepared, even when he’s scrambling to come up with a plan. When facing off against a mutated Gotham Girl, Batman reveals a surprise Clayface suit; when things look most dire, Duke Thomas arrives with the cure for the mutations; when Cass and Steph are at their lowest moment, their plan to cook the plant pheromones suddenly works like a charm.
Of course, “Night of the Monster Men” would be cut short if everything worked out, so by the issue’s end, a new monster has emerged, and Batwoman is in mortal peril. The fight is far from over, but this issue is so chockablock full of fist-pumping victories, it’s hard to feel like Batman and his friends aren’t winning. But things will get a bit more complicated as “Night of the Monster Men” continues in Nightwing…
Spencer: In Nightwing 6, Steve Orlando, Tim Seeley, and Roge Antonio’s “Night of the Monster Men” crossover continues to provide the pulpy action and insightful character moments that have made this storyline so darn fun. Orlando has his cast’s voices down: Batwoman proves her leadership chops by successfully coaching the terrified Gotham Girl, Spoiler continues to show compassion even as Red Robin’s death hardens her, and Nightwing, of course, makes a joke and smiles as soon as he recovers from his transformation into a grotesque monster. This creative team knows not only how much fun can be found in their grand action set-pieces, but how much fun it is simply to have all these characters together on the page at the same time.
Even just the way Antonio positions the cast — Bruce and Kate in front, Gotham Girl floating above the rest, Orphan riding to the site on the roof of a car — has a lot to say about each character.
But Orlando also uses this issue to start giving his story a bit more depth. In an intriguing turn, it’s revealed that Hugh Strange wants to become Batman, and that his Monster Men are intended as a damning diagnosis of his problems with the current Batman (Dick being the only one who can piece that puzzle together is another inspired touch). Strange releasing the monsters into Gotham isn’t meant to be random destruction or even just an invitation for Batman — he’s trying to turn the faults of the vigilante Gotham has supported all these years right back on the city. It’s twisted, it’s nuts, and it’s exactly the kind of swerve I was hoping this story would take.
Green Arrow 8
Mark: Reading Green Arrow 8 is like hanging out with your friends who are dating each other and are just a little too free with their public displays of affection. Yes, you like them both and you’re happy that they’re together, but do they really need to be giving each other shoulder massages at the movie theatre?
Because, look, we’re all happy that Black Canary and Green Arrow are back together, but to have almost an entire issue devoted to their sexy times together feels misguided, especially in the context of the preceding events. Last we saw Dinah she was on an exploding ship in the middle of the ocean. Here she shows up on the beach like she’s taking a break from filming a BDSM Baywatch parody and is immediately all, “Wanna bang?”
Artist Otto Schmidt has Dinah directly addressing the reader here, and it strikes me as too much crossing the wires between anime-style fan service and the “give the audience what they want” fan service that Rebirth is leaning into. Oliver immediately assumes she’s a mirage, and I did too, because her entrance here is pure pornographic fantasy.
In general Green Arrow has been a good litmus test for whether or not the Rebirth initiative is going to jive for you, since it’s basically everything anyone has ever liked about Green Arrow turned up to 10, but this issue left me wishing I could dial it back down.
Green Lanterns 8
Patrick: I like The Force Awakens, but if there’s one criticism that rings true for me, it’s the un-understandable size of the threat posed by Starkiller Base. I know I also can’t wrap my head around the destruction of an entire planet in A New Hope, but there’s something about the singular unit that keeps the loss of Alderaan emotionally manageable. But the scope of destruction that Starkiller Base is capable of is simply impossible to internalize. That’s a criticism you can level against a lot of different comics — they all love putting the entire universe in jeopardy — but this also seems like the default operating mode for Green Lantern comics in particular. Billions of years of magic space-cop history is tied up in the creation of ultra-technological weapons that channel the power of emotion to protect the cosmos? Yikes, man, dial it back. Fortunately, writer Sam Humphries is doing just that in Green Lanterns 8.
Actually, that might be misleading. At the heart of this issue, there is a Guardian trying to protect an ancient weapon he forged in the fires of
Mount Doom Oa. So the stakes are high, but, Humphries and artist Ed Benes insist on a delightfully light tone throughout their charmingly grounded story. It’s Halloween! So one of the difficulties finding Guardian Bami is that, y’know, he’s about the same size and shape as a kid in a costume. OH MY GOD THE KIDS IN COSTUMES.
Humphries picks up the emotional threads of the childhood Halloween experience and lets them dictate the direction of this story. It’s so much more personal and meaningful to watch Jessica overcome both her fear and her “over it” attitude to actually get into a fight with her construct powers. And I love seeing Baz’ connection to this town — and his bad-boy past — helping him track down Bami. By the end, I’m just like those kids in the bushes: fuck Hal Jordan, I wanna so what these cool new Lanterns are up to.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?