Thursday, July 2, 2015

Justice League: Gods and Monsters - Batman #1 Review

Written by: J.M. DeMatteis and Bruce Timm
Art by: Matthew Dow Smith and Jordie Bellaire
Cover Price: $0.99
Release Date: July 1, 2015

The (Really) Dark Knight

The DC Comics digital sneak attack squad has done it again.  After announcing that there would be a Gods and Monsters Digital First title a while ago, information was put on a lock down and I forgot all about it.  Until I saw a house ad in the back of this week's Injustice comic (review HERE...hint, hint), that is.  I knew that the books would be divided between four separate titles but this ad suggested that they would release once a day for eighteen days.  Hmmm...So, after telling Eric that DC was at it again, I jumped on the Intranets and found...nothing at all.  Well, I did find a bunch of old stories, but nothing new (editor's note: Since then, one story has gone up on Newsarama HERE).  I have long considered myself the unofficial press agent for the Digital First line of books, so I'll do my part by posting the ad and then getting on with my review of Justice League: Gods and Monsters - Batman #1.  Enjoy.

The first thing that is quite obvious as this issue opens is that this is not a bright, happy story.  In fact, it comes off more as a Vertigo title than anything I'd expect from DC Comics...especially nowadays. I'm not saying that's a bad thing and in fact, I really liked the change of pace.  The next thing readers will discover is that this book doesn't star Bruce Wayne.  Nope, the Batman in this book is Kirk Langstrom. I'll admit it right here and now...I am not a fan of Kirk Langstrom one bit.  Actually, I hate the Man-Bat and thankfully, it looks like a different kind of story here.  This book is all Langstrom, so you'd think that would spell disaster for me, but you would be wrong.

J.M. DeMatteis uses this first issue to setup the how and why that Langstrom is in the dark situation we find him in when the book opens.  It's a case of desperate times and when I say desperate, I'm not talking about going deaf.  Unfortunately, the "cure" that Langstrom gives himself has a couple haunting side effects and has basically turned him into an addict of sorts.  It's a great setup and DeMatteis does an excellent job of walking the tightrope between giving us a sympathetic character and a monster.

As far as Batman action in this issue, there isn't much at all.  The book ends with Langstrom fighting with himself and making the choice to become a creature of the night.  It's a different take of "becoming a bat", but with Langstrom involved, it's pretty damn cool.

If J.M. DeMatteis was trying to get me intrigued about Gods and Monsters then mission accomplished.  It was nothing like I imagined and it really has me excited going forward.  This issue is all setup, but that's the price of a #1 issue of a book and a series.  I would not want to hang out with Kirk Langstrom, but I want to watch him from the safety of my desk.

The art of Matthew Dow Smith is rough and gritty and really fits this story.  It came as a shock at first, but once I settled in, I really started to enjoy it.  I'm not sure if every book in this series will follow suit, but I am liking what I see here.

Bits and Pieces: 

Maybe it's because DC Comics likes to hide their digital titles for some reason, but this book surprised me in a couple of ways.  Most of all is that it's a horror comic dressed up in a Justice League costume and I really liked it.  J.M. DeMatteis does a good job of establishing the mood and character of this book and while we only get to see "Batman" in the last panel, I can't wait to see how the story develops.  Matthew Dow Smith's art is dark and gritty and really sets the tone for the book.  I hope this one doesn't go under fans' radars, because it looks like a bloody good time in a time where such titles are hard to find in the DC Comic stable.

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