Batman and the Monster Men

Author: Matt Wagner
Artist: Matt Wagner
Titan Books
RRP: 8.99, US $14.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 8457 6346 6
ISBN-10: 1 84576 346 7
Available 20 October 2006

It has been one year since the mysterious Batman first appeared to protect the people of Gotham. In that time, he has waged war on the common criminals and members of organised crime who have plagued his city. But the brutal massacre of some of the city's most notorious gangsters reveals that a far more dangerous threat is emerging, one for which the young Bruce Wayne is woefully unprepared - genetically engineered, horribly mutated men who have developed a taste for human flesh...

Batman and the Monster may not be the most original of titles but, at its heart, it's a good old fashioned Batman tale with the added spin off a bit of a love interest (shock, horror) thrown into the mix.

Professor Strange is on the brink of creating something which he thinks will benefit mankind. Of course, like all mad scientists, his perfect vision will result in the death of the human race as we know it. Out will go imperfections, in will come an endless sea of cloned bodies of perfection. But how far will he go in his quest to create the perfect man? When his creations get a taste for human blood will he actively kill innocent humans to keep them alive?

There is almost something naive and innocent about this collection - as though Matt Wagner had never read a Batman story in his life - instead half hearing snippets of tales from his friends - and then went away and reinvented the character. This works wonderfully and really helps to almost reinvent the Batman universe.

I also loved the homage to Frank Miller's classic The Dark Knight Returns - the broadcast interview copies the style and feel of Miller's work by cleverly using a bank of TV screens to reproduce a similar style to Miller's panels.

There is also the odd spot of humour. The most notable inclusion is Alfred's leg pulling about the design of the new batmobile, but I also loved the fact that it is pointed out to Strange that he is really conducting his experiments because he is trying to make up for his own lack of perfection.

As Batman stories go - and I never thought I'd say this - Batman and the Monster Men is one of the most original Batman tales I've read in a long time. Just ignore the silly title.

Darren Rea

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