With Batman #8, the Night of the Monster Men slows down slightly. Given the nature of the story, that means it goes from complete chaos to simple frenzy. Riley Rossmo and Ivan Plascenscia continue their art style from the first half of the crossover, a kind of adult cartoon that is, appropriately enough, like one of the darker 1960s giant monster films translated into animation. But it’s that part of the movie where the younger members of the audience start squirming in boredom and rolling their eyes. You know the part I mean, the few minutes where even the more seasoned viewers want to sigh and say, “Get your romantic subplot off the screen and let the thirty-foot monsters get back to fighting!”
Now, we don’t quite have a romantic subplot yet, but we have the foreshadowing of one between Duke Thomas, Batman’s new not-Robin, and Claire, also known as Gotham Girl. The centerpiece of the story is the confrontation between Batman and Claire, who has been turned into a kaiju by Hugo Strange’s venom-based monster serum. The battle is appropriately epic, and features an interesting twist on the powers of villain-turned-hero Clayface. But it is Duke who saves the day, arriving in a well-timed moment with the cure he and Alfred have whipped up in the Bat Cave.
Duke, a creation of Scott Snyder, and Claire, the contribution of Tom King, are problematic cases in all truth. It is hard to establish characters in comics, and especially hard when it is so obvious that writers are trying to set up characters quickly. The necessary firm push usually arouses resentment and resentment from the fans of older generations who see their own favorites as being disrespected and pushed aside. Harper Row, Bluebird, is a case in point. Possibly intended to become the new Nightwing in the wake of Forever Evil, her handling was so maladroit that the result was to maneuver her onto the shelf. Luke Fox, the erstwhile Batwing and paramour of Barbara Gordon for a good thirty seconds, is another example.
Besides resistance from the fans, the paradox of the loner Batman presiding over a rapidly burgeoning empire of apprentices has become rather a joke. One wonders if it isn’t getting to the point where DC would be better off abandoning the grim loner trope and fully embracing the idea of Batman as the dark father of heroes.
The remainder of the issue is a series of vignettes in which Batwoman deals with the monsterfied Nightwing and the Spoiker/Orphan duo try to control refugees infected by a mind-control growth. Despite the slow-down the crossover continues to be goofy fun. But it could probably have been shorter. And less of the young character studies and more of the silly monsters.