“I Am Gotham” is in the books and Tom King is taking a much-deserved step back and allowing a fill-in team of Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo to handle the core Bat-title’s opening salvo of “Night of the Monster Men.” The opening scene starts out innocently enough, with a cluster of corpses on gurneys, awaiting whatever is next in their time at the morgue. They are shielded from the arriving storm outside, a hurricane that is manhandling the east coast and just getting started for the night. As the radio advises caution, the bodies begin leaking, spelling trouble for our cast of heroes, currently making plans to ensure the survival of every Gothamite.
Batman, Batwoman, and Nightwing are still shaken by the events of Detective Comics #940. That loss has deeply affected Batman and he is not keen to repeat it for any reason with anyone. His drive has caused alarm among his compatriots who fear he may be, at best, pushing himself too hard, or, at worst, deluding himself. While they call the rest of the crew in, we get a quick glimpse of what Hugo Strange, absent from the past few issues of the title since the mess with Psycho Pirate, is up to. He is, of course, working out. Naked. His assistant informs him that the time has arrived and Strange, somewhat gleefully, acknowledges that Batman’s final night has begun. Simultaneously, the corpses across town begin their mysterious metamorphosis, twisting and expanding, until an eye opens.
While the the corpses have yet to present themselves as a problem to the Bat-family, Batman works on getting all of the players onto the same page, including James Gordon. Gordon reminds Batman that the GCPD shouldn’t be seen working with costumed vigilantes known for working outside the law. Batman has an optimistic view of the positive effects seeing everyone working together will have on the scared citizens. The rest of the team, Clayface, Spoiler, and Orphan arrive and receive their assignments. When all is looking like it’s coming together smoothly, the story kicks off with a literal bang, stopping the Bat-family in their tracks. Across town the mutated corpses have arisen and grown significantly in size, enough for the team to realize the size of the problem long before they see them.
Batman wastes no time and sends the newer heroes off to handle hurricane duty while the more experienced members head to face the problem, which Alfred and Duke Thomas are filling them in on currently. After the tragedy of the past few issues, Batman has one rule – no one dies tonight. Batman and the bat-plane take the monster head on after analysis shows the creature isn’t entirely alive, sacrificing the vehicle in the attack. Further analysis reveals the creature is behaving more like a child than anything else, its movements lacking confidence and direction, which may make it even more dangerous. The creature is eventually brought down by an explosion and sedated by the team.
As the fight occurs, the storm intensifies. Parts of Gotham are evacuated and the Bat-family along with the GCPD are leading citizens to higher ground to escape the flooding. DNA analysis is immediately run on the creature, and Batman is shocked to find it to be a match to one of the recent suicides that plagued Gotham. Batman explains to his team the suicides and the ominous warnings that accompanied them regarding the imminent arrival of the monster men. The timing adds up for Batman and he quickly realizes who the mastermind behind the evening’s events is – Hugo Strange. As this is revealed, another monster has awoken, confirming that the monster men are here.
There are certain things I absolutely love about comics. Great stories, great characters, surprises, etc. These are generally things more associated with the writing aspects of comics, though. That is what I always find myself gravitating towards. This isn’t to say I’m not a fan of art, but as someone who is nowhere near artistically inclined I find art somewhat difficult to comment on. I think it’s all pretty great. On occasion, however, an issue’s art takes over in my mind. This is one such situation. Riley Rossmo’s art is cinematic and beautiful. The entire issue plays out like the opening moments of a horror movie. I can feel the slow pan of the camera to build tension. I can see the smash cuts between scenes to emphasize the drama. Ivan Plascencia’s colors are also on point throughout bring an almost water colored grace to pages that makes the gloom come alive. The writing is decent as well, with Steve Orlando scripting on story by himself and head writer Tom King. It is a worthy opening chapter of a crossover that looks like it will be campy and fun. The visual storytelling is what wins the day for this book and makes me wish this team was handling all the chapters.
If I had one complaint, it would be one that has been consistent across King’s run. The scale of the action is too large for Gotham. Batman has trashed at least three vehicles in a violent and spectacular manner that doesn’t jive well with the character in my head. That seems like a story beat that when used sparingly can be powerful, but seems overdone and has lost any powerful effect. Anyway, the story looks like it’s going to be schlocky movie fun and I can’t wait for more.