Batman and the Mad Monk Paperback – Apr 7 2007
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The follow-up to Batman and the Monster Men (2006) is, like its predecessor, set in the first years of the Caped Crusader's crime-fighting career. When Gotham City's police force, led by a young Captain Gordon, find a series of bodies drained of blood, Batman's search for the serial killer leads to a cult led by a charismatic figure clad in a red monk's robe, who has targeted Bruce Wayne's girlfriend as his next victim. The story updates a 1939 original and captures the flavor of thirties pulp magazines. Wagner's bold, economical drawing style and dynamic layouts make it a tale worth retelling. Flagg, Gordon
About the Author
Matt Wagner is one of the most highly regarded creators in the comics business. He is perhaps best known for creating the legendary Grendel titles, many of which he wrote and/or drew. He also provided words and pictures for Batman/Grendel, Mage and Sandman Mystery Theatre. His most recent work is Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman: Trinity. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The Mad Monk picks up where The Monster Men leaves off, the first book in this series. A new villain is introduced, but Batman and the rest of his relationships are developing. It's still early in the dark detective's career and he's having to deal with keeping his identity secret from his girlfriend, and sovling cases with Gordon for the first time. Wagner weaves a simple tale, inspired and reinterpreted from one of Batman's earliest adventures where he encounters a Monk cloaked in red who may or may not be a vampire. Batman is investigating the recent murders while trying to balance out time with his girlfriend Julie, who was introduced in Monster Men. Julie's father Norman returns, as well as crime boss Sal Moroni.
What I'm really enjoying about these books, are how they intertwine story and art elements from both Year One as well as Loeb and Sale's Bat books. It's beginning to bridge the gap and fill in the time between Year One and The Long Halloween in Batman's continuity. It's making Bruce's early years of crime fighting that much more enjoyable to relive for me.
It's hard to say if I enjoyed this more than Monster Men or not. They fit so nicely together that I like to think of them as an ongoing storyline. Julie's character is getting more interesting and less annoying in this book as she deals with being the neglected flame in Bruce's life as well as her father's downward spiral into alcoholism and paranoia. Batman's partnership with Gordon is in full swing by this point, although it's clear that Gordon struggles with his affiliation with a man that dresses like a bat and how that might affect his career and his family. Overall some good solid development all around. The inner monologue and dream sequences contribute greatly.
Not quite as much action in this one as Monster Men, but still some excitement in every chapter. The way the story is told visually is really fluid and helps the flow of each scene. I hope Wagner is in the process of writing another installment, because currently he's creating some of the best recent additions to the Batman canon.
Artistically, Batman and the Mad Monk is every bit as impressive as I expected from Wagner. He has a truly unique style, and it's one that is ideally suited to a dark character like Batman. Consciously or not, Wagner's style brings to mind David Mazzuchelli's Batman: Year One work, which helps establish a feeling of continuity. The dark, dynamic artwork fits the mood of the story to a T.
Unfortunately the story is not as impressive as the artwork. I like the nods to Year One and Batman: The Long Halloween, but the story seems overly simplistic at times, and the rushed, inconclusive ending didn't offer much closure. Was the Mad Monk really a vampire? Was he who Batman thought he was? Did the romance angle really have to end in such a trite and predictable way? As much as I enjoy Wagner's other work, I think he dropped the ball here. The average Batman Animated Series episode accomplishes with ease what Wagner seemed to try so hard for here.
If you're a serious Matt Wagner fan, and/or couldn't get enough of the Batman and the Monster Men characters, by all means check out Batman and the Mad Monk. For my part, I hope Wagner has the Batman bug out of his system and will get back to the Mage story. I need some closure there, big time.
***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS***
Okay there's really not much to say about this one, but I'll do my best. The book has a basic cookie-cutter plot. There is an evil cult in Gotham doing bad things and it's up to Batman to figure out what is going on and stop them, all the while trying to keep his identity secret and not screw up his relationship with his current girlfriend.
In the end his girlfriend is kidnapped and he has to go find her and he arrives just in the nick of time to save her from becoming the next dead body that Gotham P.D. found dumped somewhere.
The story is pretty basic and the artwork leaves a lot to be desired, plus it's pretty low tech compared to the stuff that gadgets that Batman uses today.
***END SPOILERS*** ***END SPOILERS*** ***END SPOILERS***
So the story isn't the greatest, neither is the artwork, but sometimes less is more :-)
My only gripe with this title is just how shallow is: not much character construction, not of Batman, not of Gordon, not of Nicholai Tepes, not of Alfred.
* Great art, specially inking. Batman looks superb
* Many sub-plots going on, that keep things entertaining.
* Solo Batman is great. Keep them coming!!
* Tongue-in-cheek allusion to Robin
* Flat-out lot-to-be-desired story, a bit cheesy at times.
* Another person finds out who Batman is.
* The villain is not such a worthy opponent and the fight scene is fairly short.
It really deserved a 3.5 star rating.
Gordon asks for Batman's assistance with a recent series of murders where the victim's throats were torn out and they were drained of all their blood. His investigations lead to the discovery of a shadowy group known as the Brotherhood who have taken up residence in the decrepit Rallstone Castle, built by a family even more wealthy than the Waynes. The group is led by the charismatic and hypnotic Niccolai Tepes, Tepes also having been the family name of Vlad Dracula. Niccolai and his underlings soon set their sites on Julie Madison and plot to use her to help steal her father's fortune, after which they will make her a blood sacrifice. Niccolai bites, but doesn't drain Julie, keeping her as his thrall until she can get her father to will over his estate. Batman, weakened after a fight with a pack of wolves and nearly crushed between a wall of spikes, will have to face off against the powerful Niccolai in order to save Julie's life.
While this Batman story is set in modern times, Wagner infuses it with a permeable scent of 1930's crime noir, and set against a backdrop of classic Universal Studios horror films. Batman's exploration of Castle Rallstone leads him into deadly traps as steps turn to slippery inclines as well as the aforementioned crushing walls of spikes. It's just like something out of an old movie serial. It's funny, but criminals always use the wall of spikes despite the fact that I don't think I ever saw anyone actually get killed by them. When Batman battles Tepes' wolves, you can almost hear Bela Lugosi proclaiming, "Children of the night...what music they make!"
Wagner's art only serves to take the reader back to the days of beautiful dames and melodramatic villains. In typical, nonchalant villain style, Tepes doesn't even check on the person whose fallen into his trap in the castle, confident that whomever it was, won't be getting out alive. Wagner is also able to show a Batman who is extremely vulnerable (he takes a major butt-kicking in this book) yet also extremely resourceful, relying on his wits as much as his fists. We can only hope that Wagner doing a Batman mini-series will continue to be an annual event.
REVIEWED BY TIM JANSON