Batman: The Monster Men

    (DC, 2006)
™ and ©2006 DC Comics, Inc.

This moody and atmospheric tale, set early in Batman’s career, pits the Caped Crusader against a host of criminals and monsters. Dr. Hugo Strange, in league with crime boss Sal Maroni, has been performing illegal genetic experiments, turning ordinary humans into towering, mindless monsters. Strange wants to make mankind better, Maroni wants indestructible thugs for his gang. When Batman’s investigation into Maroni’s criminal empire brings him in contact with Strange’s experiments, he is determined to shut down both men. Enter Bruce Wayne’s new girlfriend, Julie Madison, whose father Norman is into Maroni for thousands in gambling debts. Can Batman convict Maroni, shut down Strange, romance Julie, and save Norman? Or will he succumb to the rampaging monsters that surround him at every turn?

Writer/artist Matt Wagner updates and expands this classic Batman tale originally published as “Professor Hugo Strange and the Monsters” in Batman No. 1 in 1940.

— Jerry Smith

From the Comics Buyer’s Guide:

Matt Wagner goes back to the earliest days of Batman to retell, in his signature elegant, slightly retro style, one of his earliest adventures, in which The Dark Knight went from facing gangsters and thugs to dealing with fiendish creations of mad scientist Dr. Hugo Strange.

These have been lean days for Batman fans, the “character” currently appearing in DC comics being all but unrecognizable to those who know him best. But it’s clear that, not only does Matt Wagner “get” the character, he gets him right.

The art is wonderfully moody and the story full of moments likely to surprise today’s readers—as when Batman actually pauses to talk to a crime victim. But what’s most memorable about these issues is that Bruce Wayne is given something to do, looks smashing in a tuxedo, and even sleeps with his girlfriend Julie Madison. (Which is refreshing, since you get the distinct impression today’s Batman has zero interest in women.)

— S. A. Bennett

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