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COMIC REVIEW: BATMAN AND THE MAD MONK #1
Author: Robert Reineke
Monday, August 28, 2006

SYNOPSIS FROM DC COMICS:
Join Matt Wagner as he revisits the early career of the young Batman in another adventure inspired by DC's Golden Age in this blood-curdling sequel to BATMAN AND THE MONSTER MEN!

The Dark Knight is learning that there are more twisted faces of evil than those worn by the street criminals and mobsters of Gotham. Now, Batman must counter sinister machinations and new dimensions of wickedness as he confronts the hooded menace of the Mad Monk!

Matt Wagner continues his ďDARK MOON RISINGĒ story of Batmanís first encounters with more than ordinary humans with ďBATMAN AND THE MAD MONK,Ē his updating of DETECTIVE COMICS #31 and #32. Itís very much in the same style as BATMAN AND THE MONSTER MEN and chances are if you liked that mini-series, youíll like this one.

The first issue is primarily setup. With Batman being increasingly flustered by the change from mobsters and corrupt cops, who Wagner shows Batman handling effortlessly, to a new class of villains. At this point, heís dragged into a particularly odd case of an apparent serial killer who rips the throats out of his victims and drains their blood. And heís already hitting a stone wall with rational explanations.

Wagner does well in managing individual subplots as well. Batman is getting professionally closer to Jim Gordon while his private relationship with Julie Madison is starting to show cracks. And Julie Madisonís father is sinking into paranoia and obsession after his encounter with Batman in the last mini-series. And is there something else afoot with him considering one of his doodles consists of an ominous set of eyes?

Matt Wagner doesnít hesitate to update and embroider upon the original story. The Monkís fellow vampire Dala is given a goth-girl update. And the idea that was only hinted at in the original story that the Monk was running an organization is expanded upon. Perfumes play a part in the first issue, and one can already wonder if thatís going to be a recurring motif? The only thing that really isnít included in the first issue is an appearance by the Monk himself, other than his appearance on Wagnerís homage cover.

Artwise, Wagner might be even stronger on this mini-series. His design and layout work on the latter portions of the book is reminiscent of some of his work on GRENDEL (where vampires were recurring villains). His storytelling is flawless, with perhaps a hint of more experimentation in page layout, and thereís a central fight scene thatís well laid out and choreographed. Wagner gives Batman an imposing presence and weight in all of his scenes without having to resort to obvious exaggeration or excessive rendering. Itís a clean style that walks a fine line between cartooning and realism.

Thereís a long ways to go in the story, but Matt Wagner has efficiently setup the story and it appears that there are plenty of twists and turns ahead. Itís perhaps not the most reader friendly first issue, BATMAN AND THE MONSTER MEN is referred to several times and Wagner perhaps skimps on reintroducing characters because of it, but it promises to be an interesting update that fits right in between BATMAN: YEAR ONE and THE LONG HALLOWEEN.

Robert Reineke is a Civil and Environmental Engineer residing in Wisconsin. Heís earned a BS and MS degrees from the University of Wisconsin and has been reading Batman comics since the 1970s.
Heís of the firm belief that there are plenty of Batman comics written before Frank Miller that are worthy of discussion.

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