I have always liked Halloween. I think it’s the cheerful irrelevance of the celebration that appeals to me. For all that it began as All Hallows Eve, the festival now has no particular seriousness or self-importance whatsoever. It has avoided the official sentimentality of Thanksgiving, the layered sanctimony of Christmas/Hanukkah, the required romanticism of Valentine’s Day, and the tedious kitsch of the Fourth of July. Halloween is simply a time for silly fun, okay and of profit for costume and candy companies, with little burden of higher messages or meaning. Thus, it is an entirely appropriate season for the first crossover of Rebirth, a project supposedly dedicated to returning fun to the DC Universe, to appear in the Halloween season.
Night of the Monster Men crosses over two issues each of Batman, Nightwing, and Detective Comics. The arc is mainly written by Steve Orlando with help from Tom King of Batman, Tim Seeley of Nightwing, and James Tynion of Detective Comics. The decision to bring in a guest writer for the crossover allows the main writing teams to catch a breather from Rebirth’s grueling semimonthly schedule, and also gives the crossover a unity of style that will make it very easy to collect in trade.
However, what is immediately striking about the first half of the crossover, contained in Batman #7, Nightwing #5, and Detective Comics #941 isn’t the consistency of the scripting, but of the art. That is especially impressive considering that these three issues are not the work of a single artist or art team. Batman #7 features pencils and inks by Riley Rossmo and colors by Ivan Plascencia. Nightwing #5 has art by Roge Antonio and colors by Chris Sotomayor. Detective Comics #941 has art by Andy MacDonald and colors by John Rauch. These creators achieve unity by strict adherence to standards of clarity and simplicity. The books use a very basic layout of a few large panels on each page with strong, sharp lines and basic colors that contrast on a range that stretches from pleasing to garish. The effect is of a 1960s Japanese Kaiju movie remade as an animated feature. Delightful silly Halloween fun, in other words.
The storyline, Batman and his allies versus giant monsters, is also silly fun on a surface level. However, on a slightly deeper level, the crossover weaves into themes that the Batman Office has been exploring since the beginning of Rebirth. It has become apparent that social relationships are extremely important to this initiative, and the Batman Office is emphasizing Batman in the context of his allies. This means especially with regard to the cast of Detective Comics, as they are still dealing with the apparent loss of Tim Drake. However, the crossover also picks up the theme of Gotham Girl from Tom King’s Batman as well as the ongoing plot go Hugo Strange, who created the Monster Men. Strangely, perhaps, Dick Grayson, the most social member of the Bat Family, brings the fewest themes to the table, at least in the first part of the story, although interviews indicate that may change.
The plot of the story has been simplistic so far. Clayface shows some interesting uses of his powers, but Spoiler and Orphan largely stay to the side doing refugee management, while Batman, Nightwing, and, Batwoman engage in continuous battles with the kaiju. Then again, not everything has to be Shakespeare.
Batman #7 B+, Nightwing #5 B, Detective Comics #941 B+
Overall, the crossover is good fun if you approach it without high expectations. It's a Halloween break in the main books for everyone to fight giant monsters. If the writers can work in occasional nods to themes from the main books, so much the better. All in all, a pleasant way to spend the first few weeks of fall in Gotham, if you don't mind dodging the kaiju.