In Brief: While Spoiler and Orphan make slight gains against their monstrous foes, Batman, Batwoman, Nightwing, and Gotham Girl’s situations all go from bad to catastrophically worse.
Summary (Spoilers): Batwoman (Kate Kane) takes stock of the situation as she battles the monsters in Gotham. Spoiler (Stephanie Brown) and Orphan (Cassandra Cain) struggle to maintain calm in the caves above the city, Nightwing (Dick Grayson) follow Gotham Girl (Claire) to Blackgate Prison, under attack from another monster, Duke and Alfred analyze the creatures from the cave, while Clayface continues the agonizing evacuation while disguised as dozens of police officers.
Batman and Batwoman use their bikes to pull a Wedge Antilles maneuver from The Empire Strikes Back, tying up their monster. Spoiler and Orphan are nearly overwhelmed by people in a raging frenzy thanks to a bunch of reddish slime from the cave walls. Communication between the teams is cut off by the caves, and Batman wants to back up his trainees. Batwoman insists that they’ve been trained for this, and trusts them to work, which Batman reluctantly complies with.
Meanwhile, Stephanie manages to buy herself some time with a net gadget, and thinks her way through the problem. With Cassandra’s help, she realizes that using flares to heat up the cave will disrupt the slime’s communication, causing it to lose control of the people.
At Blackgate, Nightwing tries to calm Gotham Girl, still deeply enmeshed in the effects of Psycho Pirate’s attack on her mind. She resists his attempts, and rips apart monster after monster, eventually finding herself face to face with a gigantic monster, which she shreds. Unfortunately, this covers her and Nightwing with debris, and like the people in the cave, they are transformed – but not merely into raging zombies, but into monster men themselves.
In Depth: Though driven by the need to give artists time to catch up and rest, this crossover continues to provide fun character moments for all members involved. Unlike last week’s issue of Nightwing, however, writer Steve Orlando takes the time to make this issue of Detective Comics feel a bit more like the preceding arc by focusing on the unique members of the team, Spoiler and Orphan. By having Kate stand up for their ability in the field due to their training and innate ability, Orlando allows the last seven issues to count for something other than a fun team book – it’s progressed the characters to the next level of heroism. Steph, already clearly a puzzle solver both as the daughter of the Cluemaster and as a hero in her own right from Catwoman, shows that Batwoman’s bootcamp hasn’t just strengthened her combat skills and arsenal of gadgets – her analytical thinking and knowledge of science clearly shows the benefits of serious study, as does Cass’s intuitive leap to help her stop the rage-inducing slime in the caves.
Andy MacDonald provides art for this third leg of six in the story, and while his stuff isn’t quite as unique as Riley Rossmo’s first issue, or as polished as Roge Antonio’s middle issue, he provides a really great blend of appealing character work (especially seen with Orphan and Spoiler’s scenes) and the horror appropriate to the Monster Men of the title. The scenes with Gotham Girl and Nightwing in particular feel almost too violent for the book, even if it’s mutated experiments rather than people. Since MacDonald is most likely the artist who will conclude the series in two weeks with the next issue of Detective, the series looks like it’s in excellent hands with these three artists.
In addition to showing the struggle of the heroes against the Monster Men, Orlando’s writing also does some serious work developing Tynion’s character and thematic issues for upcoming arcs. Clayface’s moment of heroism, where he throws one of his bodies in front of a massive piece of rubble and saving civilians, then has to pull himself back together and reassure the frightened people he’s not a monster too, is really moving. The plight of the people in the caves under Spoiler and Orphans’ care likely sets up the final fight against the Monster Men, and the fallout will probably strongly affect the actions of The Victim Syndicate.
Truly influential Batman crossovers usually present a turning point for one or more of its characters – whether it’s the realization that Batman is isolating himself too much in Bruce Wayne: Murderer?, or the examinations of what it means to be a Batman who truly inspires a city in hell in Knightfall. Night of the Monster Men doesn’t appear to be presenting such an inflection of character – but it does do a very good job of telling a single story while still allowing each of this many characters room to show why they deserve to be on the team.
Pick up/Pass? If you’ve bought all of the Monster Men issues so far, it’s definitely worth continuing. If you’re just collecting Detective, it highlights the team pretty well. A solid “pick up,” though it’s possible “wait for the crossover trade” is also a good choice.
In Conclusion: Though unlikely to be a crossover that really shakes the continuity of the Bat-Family up, Night of the Monster Men continues to respect the current storylines of its three titles with this issue of Detective Comics.