Nightwing #6 isn’t quite the same silly fun as the rest of the Night of the Monster Men to this point. Roge Antonio and Chris Sotomayor provide the same kind of cartoonish visuals, but the script by Steve Orlando and Tim Seeley takes a much more serious turn. Now, it isn’t overwhelming in its darkness, especially considering we are talking about a Halloween-themed Batman story of the modern era. Still, there are revelations obviously designed to carry well beyond this specific story.
The book begins with a confrontation between Nightwing in monster form and Batwoman. It doesn’t last long, as Nightwing receives the antidote and reverts to his usual benign self. Nightwing and Spoiler then proceed to piece together clues to the location of Hugo Strange. In the process, Nightwing discovers that the original monster men were manufactured from the bodies of Hugo Strange’s patients, all of whom had a particular psychological profile. The patients had childhood trauma, suffered from grief and fear, and reacted by insulating themselves behind barriers of ego and manipulating the people around them. Sound like anyone? That’s right, the monsters represent Strange’s diagnosis of Batman.
That isn’t anything new. Strange has been obsessed with Batman ever since he was introduced in his guise as a psychiatrist after Crisis on Infinite Earths (he has always been a scientist, and is, in fact, one Batman’s oldest villains, preceding the Joker by several months). This time, however, Batman seems determined to take the bait. Disregarding Grayson’s pled to let him handle Strange, Batman prepares to duel the crazed psychiatrist. Meanwhile the monster men are agglomerating into one titanic creature and the Bat Family has activated the Wayne Watchtowers, a defense system of supposed great destructive capability created when Dick Grayson was still very young and never used.
This is obviously setting up the fallout of the event, and truthfully I had hoped for something better. It is a well-crafted and well-argued piece of writing, but scarcely original. Given the opportunities of REBIRTH one might have hoped for new insight and new directions rather than pop-Freudianism and Bat-cliche to be followed by the fortieth iteration of "tension in the Bat Family." Still, it has to be said, when Hugo Strange wants to send a message, he REALLY sends a message.