What do you want out of superhero comics? Personally, I have wanted different things from them at different points in my time as a fan. When I first started reading them, I was anxious for the pulp thrills and genre trappings that define the superhero story (capes, fistfighting, powers). Later coming back to superheroes during college, I wanted a book that indulged in the mythology and symbolism to tell larger than life stories using heroes as a catalyst. And now I find, looking at DC Rebirth, and faced in Batman #7 with Rebirth's first major crossover event, that what I'm looking for has changed once again. I want to be surprised. I want books that take some creative risks and step outside the superhero comfort zone to tell a story with a distinct authorial voice. Rebirth hasn't given many of these books. I credit Tom King with aiming high (but mostly missing) with Batman, and Rucka's Wonder Woman is solid but nothing revolutionary. However, across the other books I've sampled, I'm struck by how rote it all feels. Talented creators are going through the motions, course correcting DC into familiar and comfortable territory. As a result, I'm bored with DC which brings us to "Night of the Monster Men Part 1." Steve Orlando has been tasked with month long crossover of the bat family books in the typical format (story divided with one issue in each participating book). In sequence, Batman is first up (Batman is also, from what I can tell, the book that's been tasked with foreshadowing the event).
Orlando wastes no time setting things up. Batman has assembled his team from Detective comics (do they have a name? The Bat Force Five? Batman and Associates? Seargents Wayne's Lonely Hearts Club Band?) to deal with an oncoming hurricane not realizing that under cover of the storm Hugo Strange is unleashing his monsters. A body in a morgue morphs into a horrible deformed larval monster thing (more humanoid than a kaiju, it looks like a castoff from Pan's Labyrinth in triple scale) and rampages through the city until Batman can take it down. And that's basically the first issue. While there are some weird elements (naked, strangely muscular weight-lifting Hugo Strange is one), it feels like exactly what you'd expect from a Bat Family Crossover.
There's time spent retreading material that readers who might not get all the tie-ins may have missed (Tim is dead, or so we're repeatedly told), a few hastily thrown in thematic stakes are given(Batman is tired of people dying), and every major bat character of the event makes a brief cameo (Duke Thomas even has his requisite scene doing nothing in the cave). We get a few big action setpieces and a clear setup for more mayhem down the line. It's not by any means bad, in fact, it's a pretty solid opening chapter, but it promises to bring absolutely nothing new to the table being the bat characters battling monsters. This feels like a missed opportunity to come out of the gate swinging with an event that felt a little heftier (and took better advantages of the ever-excellent Riley Rossmo art).
I feel like DC fans may read this review and come to the conclusion that my opinion isn't valid because I clearly don't like superheroes. But nothing could be further from the truth. I love superheroes, which is why I think better things can be done with them than this, which amounts to fight scenes, continuity references, and a few interesting horror beats. In a word, Batman #7 it will likely be what someone wants from superhero comics, but it's not quite as substantial as it should be.
[su_box title="Score: 3/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]
Batman #7 Writers: Tom King and Steve Orlando Artist: Riley Rossmo Colorist: Ivan Plascencia Publisher: DC Comics Price: $2.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital