Today, Michael and Ryan M. are discussing Detective Comics 942, originally released October 12th, 2016. As always, this article containers SPOILERS.
Michael: The “Night of the Monster Men” comes to a conclusion in Detective Comics 942. Though I haven’t been the biggest fan of this storyline, I’d argue that its resolution came too fast, too soon. After four issues of monster mayhem and catastrophe, Hugo Strange is defeated and cuffed as quickly as he arrived.
Nightwing, Batwoman, Spoiler and Orphan take on the final (fifth?) monster in an epic smash-em-up while Batman takes on Hugo Strange with a little bit of help from Clayface. Writer Steve Orlando has made mention of “The Wayne Watchtowers” in earlier chapters and we finally get a good look at them. It’s probably no coincidence that Andy MacDonald stages this scene like the part of a Power Rangers episode where they do a Mega-Zord roll call. Each tower lights up with its heroes’ respective logos and arms itself with laser cannons.
You might argue the impossible logistics of Bruce Wayne financing ultraviolet logos and sci-fi weapons but that doesn’t bother me one little bit. The unabashed comic bookiness of Bat-buildings transforming into tower tanks is the kind of ridiculousness that I need in my life. If the Wayne Watchtowers suddenly uprooted themselves and started walking around on legs I would neither be surprised nor disappointed. We are dealing with humans vs. Kaiju here — there’s only so many batarangs our heroes can toss at them before they need to level the playing field a bit.
As far as I know everyone loves our boy Nightwing, so it’s always nice to see him save the day in a big way like he does here. After the team realizes that the Watchtowers’ lasers aren’t doing the job, Nightwing decides to abandon his post and literally dive into the belly of the beast. It’s an epic visual, as Dick free falls into a Sarlaac-level of a toothy chasmy pit.
Of course our hero is not dead and he destroys the monster from within — in a gooey, vomitous fashion. But…why exactly? The story logic is that Dick broke down Hugo Strange’s Batman symbolism and deduced that he’d need to go inside the monster and pierce it with the “anti-therapy lancet” — clunky name, that. None of that is readily available in the text however.
In fact the whole “Grief, Manipulation, Childhood, Fear, Ego” metaphor felt like it came completely out of nowhere for me. Was I just not paying close enough attention? It seems like our heroes did a lot of leaps in logic to arrive at that point. All of this is a little disappointing to me because as I mentioned earlier, we get very little Hugo Strange — the man who has been working behind the scenes for this whole arc, not to mention all of the goings-on of the Batman series. Batman confronts Strange, who is dressed like a nut job Batman — a classic Hugo Strange trope. It’s a great visual and Andy MacDonald emphasized the crazy behind Strange’s eyes, as he believes he destined to be Batman. Strange waxes poetic about how he knows Batman and how Batman isn’t strong enough. Strange has tricked out his bat suit to double as a suicide suit — Batman can’t touch him or he’ll die. So Batman throws a Clayface curveball by having the mud man stifle all of the oxygen out of the room, causing Strangey to pass out. Wouldn’t the suit still work if he’s unconscious though?
Strange fails to beat Batman in the same way that many villains do: he underestimates the Dark Knight. Batman tells Strange “You don’t understand me at all,” which I agree with. Batman is going with that whole “my perceived weaknesses are actually my strengths”, but I say that Strange doesn’t understand Batman because it doesn’t feel earned. The monster metaphors and Hugo’s perception of Batman all feel very unearned to me. I suppose a lot of my complaints about this issue are that seemingly important things aren’t very explicit. It’s not a case of subtlety either, I just don’t feel like the logic that the story assumes is present in any way.
Ugh Ryan I hate to be such a downer — I did like parts of this issue but overall it didn’t do wonders for me. Any thoughts on Strange and his philosophy? Am I missing something here? How about when Strange threw some dead Robins in Batman’s face? And of course, the Justice League only shows up for the cleanup!
Ryan M: Michael, you aren’t a downer, this is a tough issue to embrace. You’re right on about the leaps of logic that don’t satisfy but also aren’t clarified with a closer reading. The issue as a whole feels a bit messy. There are moments that seem to show a knowledge of this sloppiness, such as the monster’s design. It is at once comprised of nightmare elements and almost formless. After Dick destroys it from the inside, it seems to fall into a goopy mess. This makes the monster seem like more of a threat. How do you fight a monster that you can’t get a visual read upon? Obviously, you dive into it’s gaping maw with an Anti-Therapy Lancet. Of course, you use an Anti-Therapy lancet to destroy the monster made by a mad Psychologist! This sense of inane humor works in the issue’s favor.
The strongest example of this goofiness, is Strange sitting on his throne of textbooks.
Not only is it both odd and fitting that Strange has chosen psychology texts as his building materials, the titles of the books provide a sense of silliness. The first title that jumped out is “Crazy People” but there what may be a more specialized edition called “Psychology of Bats and Mens: A Study in Crazy People.” This humor is hard to find in the rest of the issue, but it gives some context to the way Strange interacts with Batman. He is not just a man who is crazy with ego, he is also a kook. Other than the books, my favorite element in Strange’s office is the Bat-brain diagram. It’s so silly to use a silhouette of a the cowl and then label parts of his brain, especially in the context of a psycho-analysis. Oh, how I wish we had a splash page with that diagram laid out fully.
As for Strange’s philosophy, he seems to have allowed his obsession to push him into a place wherein he both celebrates Batman and believes him to be weak. There is a cognitive leap between analyzing a subject, understanding his weaknesses and failures, and then believing that you are the next step in evolution, as Strange contends. Again, the issue doesn’t state Strange’s position in a very clear way. The end of the issue contends that Strange saw Batman’s ego as his weakness, but Strange didn’t appeal to ego. Even when referencing dead Robins, Strange’s position is that Batman is too weak to protect the ones he loves. That doesn’t jibe with either the common meaning of ego or the psychological definition. Strange is a victim of both his own sense of self-importance and his inability to see reality.
While there are some elements to enjoy, this issue is bogged down by plot holes and metaphor that is referenced but not instilled into the text. I did get several chuckles out of “bats and mens” though, so what do I know?
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